Editing Audio Using Premiere

Before you add your scintillating sound to your project, I want to show you a few audio fundamentals.

Task: Experiment with an Audio File Waveform

To experiment an audio file waveform, follow these steps:

  1. Open Premiere to your workspace. No need to open your project just yet. First you'll take a look at an audio file waveform in the Clip window.

  2. Double-click your Project window and import the sample audio file included with Premiere: Music.aif. If you have some other audio file you'd like to use, that should work fine. Premiere can handle most standard audio types, including AIF, WAV, MP3, AVI, MOV, and Windows Media Audio (WMA). (I'll cover music CD audio a bit later.) You should find Music.aif in the Premiere/Sample Folder directory.

  3. Right-click the clip icon and select Open in Clip Window. This is the audio clip's waveform. It should look like Figure 7.6.

    Figure 7.6. Use the Clip window to view an audio clip's waveform.


  4. Experiment with this waveform for a while. Drag the edit line to the beginning and play. The amplitude of the waveform reflects the volume of the original clip. The fatter the line, the louder the sound. Music.aif has some extreme dynamics that show up as huge changes on the waveform.

  5. I've highlighted a few icons in Figure 7.6. The waveform in the lower-left corner lets you increase the time displayed, just like clicking the "minus sign" in the Timeline window. Click four times to go through all the views and return to the default setting.

  6. You can set in and out-points the same way you did in the Video Clip window by using the "{ " brackets or the edit points in the Slider/Jog bar. Note the extra visual aides on the waveform when you do create new in- or out-points?a green I for in-point and a red O for out-point.

  7. Drag the Music.aif clip (or whatever audio file you decided to use for this exercise) from the Clip window to the Audio 1 track. You also can close the Clip window and drag the original, untrimmed clip from the Project window to the timeline.

  8. Press the =/+ key a couple times to expand the view of the audio clip on the timeline until it fills the screen width. This will ensure you see the waveform when you open it in the next step.

  9. Click the little triangle to the left of the words "Audio 1." I've highlighted it in Figure 7.7. This pops open an expanded view of the audio track.

    Figure 7.7. Use this little triangle to expand the audio track on the timeline.


This view differs from the Clip window. Here you have four viewing options, highlighted in Figure 7.7: waveform, a "keyframe" icon, a red volume-control "rubberband" icon, and a blue audio pan "rubberband" icon. I'll introduce keyframes in Hour 11, "Creating Video Effects." You use the red rubberband to adjust volume and the blue rubberband to pan audio left and right. Click the little red icon in the lower-left part of the Audio 1 track box to switch to the red volume-control rubberband. I highlighted this icon in Figure 7.8.

Figure 7.8. The red icon displays the "volume" rubberband on the audio waveform.



To view the audio waveform in the timeline's audio track, click the Waveform button to the left of the red volume-control rubberband. The narrow waveform display on the Timeline window doesn't take up much real estate, which can make it difficult to note where you may want to grab or make "handles" on the red rubberband. To expand the height of the audio track, right-click in the timeline, select Timeline Window Options, select the largest icon, and then click OK.

When you edit your project, you may want to drop or increase the volume of an entire clip?or several clips. For example, you may want to bring the natural sound down by half while you narrate. To do that you use one of the toolbox audio tools?the Fade Adjustment tool. I've highlighted it in Figure 7.9.

Figure 7.9. Use the Fade Adjustment tool on the red rubberband to change the volume.


Place it on the rubberband and drag the red line higher or lower to decrease or increase the volume for the entire clip. Later, when you add "handles" to the rubberband, you can use the Fade Adjustment tool to change the volume between any two handles.


Whatever changes you make to the rubberband won't change the original clip's volume. It changes only how it plays back in your project. The default setting for the rubberband line is 100%. That is, it plays source audio clips at their original volume unless you tell it to do otherwise.

Task: Fade Up Audio

Frequently you'll want to fade up the audio at the start of your production. Here's how:

  1. You'll note that there are little red boxes (known as handles) marking the beginning and end of the rubberband. Move the Selection tool over the left box at the start of the clip.


    As the Selection tool approaches the rubberband, it turns into a pointing finger. When that finger moves over a handle, it turns gray, indicating you can grab that handle.

  2. Click and drag the left red rubberband handle all the way down. I've highlighted that handle (it's the one with the hand pointing at it) in Figure 7.10. That sets the opening audio level to zero (silence). If you do nothing else, when you play the clip, its volume gradually will increase until it reaches 100% at the end of the clip. But that's not what you want to do here.

    Figure 7.10. By dragging the first rubberband handle down all the way, you set the opening volume to zero. Placing a handle a short way into the clip fades up the volume to 100%.


  3. You want to set a volume control point or handle a second or so into the clip where the volume will reach 100%. Click the red line a little way into the clip. That places a red handle on the rubberband. As I've highlighted in Figure 7.10, drag that handle back up to the center of the waveform to approximately the original 100% volume level.


To return the audio volume-control rubberband exactly to the original 100% volume level (or any other level from 0 to 200%), hold down the Shift key, select that newly created handle, and then move it up or down. As illustrated in Figure 7.11, Premiere will display the exact volume level percentage. When holding down the Shift key, you can drag the red line far above or below its audio waveform track to set the exact percentage.

Figure 7.11. Holding down the Shift key while dragging the red rubberband changes the volume in one-percent increments.


Task: Fade Out Audio

Just as you'll frequently fade up audio to start a project, you'll likely fade it out at the end. Basically it's the same procedure as fading up, except this time I'll show you how to save a step:

  1. Click the red rubberband at a point about a second from the end of your clip. That places another handle there and does not change the volume level.

  2. Move your Selection tool over the red box at the end of the clip. When it turns into a gray pointing finger, grab the box and drag it down as far as you can. This drops the volume to zero at the end and uses the newly created marker as the starting point for the fade.


If you want to delete an audio rubberband handle, grab it without holding down the Shift key, drag it outside the waveform track, and then release the mouse button. Goodbye handle.

Editing Two Audio Clips

Just as you created transitions between video clips, you can make a smooth transition between audio clips. It's called a cross-fade and works just like a video cross-dissolve in that the audio in the first clip fades down as the audio in the next clip increases in volume.

It adds a real nice touch to your project. I recommend using it virtually every time you make some kind of smooth video transition.

You'd think that Premiere video transitions would offer a button to make an audio cross-fade at the same time. But that's not the case. There may be a good reason for this, but I don't know what it is.

Instead you have to do some manual labor. And if you are cross-fading two audio clips that are linked to video, it becomes even more labor intensive.

First, try a cross-fade with two audio-only clips.

Task: Cross-fade Between Two Audio-Only Clips

In a departure from the standard single-track editing model, Premiere forces you to work in something like an A/B editing mode. Again, I don't understand why. That's just the way it is. Regardless, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Delete the clip(s) from the timeline and drag Music.aif back to the Audio 1 track.

  2. Drag another instance of Music.aif to the Audio 2 track.

  3. Open the waveform track for both by clicking the small triangles next to each audio track name so you can see how this works.

  4. Slide the Audio 2 Music.aif clip to the right so its beginning overlaps slightly with the end of the Audio 1 Music.aif. Your timeline should look like the one shown in Figure 7.12.

    Figure 7.12. How your timeline should look before you make your audio cross-fade.


  5. Make the cross-fade by clicking the Cross-fade tool. I've highlighted it in Figure 7.13. It's the first icon in the audio portion of the toolbox. Then click the Music.aif clips on Track 1 and Track 2, in order. Both tracks will flash to indicate that the cross-fade took.

    Figure 7.13. The Audio Cross-fade tool.


As highlighted in Figure 7.14, the volume-level rubberbands now each have handles at the start of the edit. The Audio 1 rubberband will drop to zero, and the Audio 2 rubberband will climb to 100% by the end of the edit.

Figure 7.14. The volume-level rubber bands now have handles.



Once you create a handle, you can drag and drop it left or right along the waveform rubberband line as far as the next handle in either direction. Handles are merely a convenience. They're not stuck at any one location.

Cross-fading Audio Clips That Are Linked to Video

Now for some real hands-on work.

Task: Start with a Video-Only Transition

Delete the audio tracks in the timeline. Double-click the Project window, navigate to Premiere/Sample Folder and import zfinal.avi. If you want to use your own clip(s), that's fine. Just make sure it's a video clip with audio?a so-called linked clip. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Drag zfinal.avi to the Video 1 track. Notice two things:

    • Its audio portion jumps automatically to Audio 1.

    • Both clips are green. The green color code means the audio and video are linked and synced. They belong together.

    If you use the Selection tool to drag a video segment endpoint to shorten the clip, the audio portion will drag right along with it.

  2. Drag another instance of zfinal.avi to Video 1, following the first instance.

  3. Shorten that clip by dragging its beginning to the right a couple seconds.

  4. Shorten the first clip by dragging its end to the left a couple seconds.

  5. Slide the second clip to the left (or do a ripple delete by right-clicking the gray space and select Ripple Delete) adjacent to the first clip.

  6. Drag and drop a video (not audio) cross-dissolve transition to the edit point on the Video 1 track. It should look like Figure 7.15.

    Figure 7.15. How your timeline should look after making a video cross-dissolve.


You just created a video-only transition. The audio portion will not transition smoothly between the two clips. Play it to see. The loud zfinal.avi fuzz-tone guitar music cuts abruptly to the acoustic guitar opening of the next clip.


Take the "pan" rubberband for a trial run. It lets you slide monaural and stereo audio clips to the left or right channel. Adobe makes a point of saying you can pan a monaural signal but can only adjust the balance of a stereo signal. Whatever. It sounds more or less the same in both cases. The pan rubberband is the blue icon next to the red volume-control rubberband icon.

If you have a video clip with a car driving through the frame, use the pan rubberband to move the audio with the video. If you have someone talking in your shot and that person is off to one side of the screen, pan the audio to match.

Task: Finish the Cross-Fade

Here's how you make that transition sound as smooth as it looks. To do this you need to unlink the audio and video of the two clips:

  1. To unlink one clip at a time, select the Link/Unlink tool. It's the third audio tool in that part of the toolbox. I've highlighted it in Figure 7.16.

    Figure 7.16. The Link/Unlink tool.


  2. Click the video track for the first zfinal.avi, then click its associated audio track. They'll flash and then the video portion will turn yellow and the audio portion will turn blue, showing they are now unlinked.

  3. Do the same for the second zfinal.avi clip.

  4. Move the second zfinal.avi audio track to the Audio 2 track.

  5. Now create an overlap between the two clips, just as you'd do if you were creating a video transition in A/B editing mode. Use the Selection tool (keyboard shortcut V) to drag the endpoint of the Audio 1 clip farther into the timeline and to extend the start of the Audio 2 clip toward the start of the timeline (don't drag the entire clip?only the end or beginning to lengthen it). Take a look at Figure 7.17 to see what I mean. You have created overlapping audio clips.

    Figure 7.17. How your timeline should look after you've unlinked and overlapped the two audio clips.


  6. Now create the cross-fade the same way you did before by selecting the Cross-fade tool from the audio section of the toolbox and clicking the audio clips on Audio 1 and Audio 2 in succession.

  7. Now listen to your edit (remember, you can't see the video dissolve unless you render it first). Depending on where you positioned the overlapping clips, it may work like a charm. The hard-rock guitar will fade out and the acoustic guitar will gradually fade in.

If the edits do not fit just right, you can play with them by linking the audio and video again, sliding things around, unlinking them, changing the size of the overlap, and sliding the rubberband handles left and right and/or up and down.


You can unlink all linked clips in an entire project with one mouse click. Locate the Toggle Sync Mode icon at the bottom of the timeline. I've highlighted it in Figure 7.18. Note that it has what looks like a number 8 on the left side. That's two chain links. Click that icon and the links go away. Now all audio and video clips are unlinked.

Figure 7.18. The Toggle Sync Mode icon. Use it to link/unlink all clips in a project.


    Part II: Enhancing Your Video