Audio Cleanup and Sound Design During the Offline Edit

Final Cut Pro includes professional features for adjusting, mixing, and filtering audio. However, there are times when it may be faster or easier to make corrections to problematic audio clips with other tools.

Additionally, it can sometimes be difficult to work creatively on the visuals of a project if the audio is incomplete, especially if there’s no music. You can use both Soundtrack Pro and GarageBand to create temporary tracks that you can use to time your edited projects prior to importing the actual music files. For more information, see the following sections:

Sending Specific Clips to Soundtrack Pro for Cleanup

If you discover clips with problematic audio during the editing process, you have the option of sending individual audio items to Soundtrack Pro for audio sweetening. Soundtrack Pro has numerous tools and effects for quickly taking care of problems:

  • Noise-reduction tools, to deemphasize unwanted background noise

  • Ambient noise addition tools, to fill holes in audio clips with sampled background ambience (room tone) to cover up lift edits

  • Equalization-matching tools, to automatically add EQ to one or more clips to match the sonic properties of audio recorded at another location

  • DeEsser effect, for controlling overly sibilant audio

  • Advanced compression and expansion tools, for controlling a clip’s dynamics

The two ways of sending individual clips or groups of clips to Soundtrack Pro are summarized below. For more information, see the Soundtrack Pro documentation. All of these operations can be applied nondestructively, so if you’re unsatisfied with your results later, you can easily change your adjustments or remove them entirely.

  • Send To Soundtrack Pro Audio File Project: You can select one or more audio clips in Final Cut Pro and use the Send To Soundtrack Pro Audio File Project command to create a series of separate Soundtrack Pro audio projects, one for each item that was selected. When you send audio to Soundtrack Pro, you have the option of sending all source media for each selected item, or sending only the portion of audio that appears in the sequence, with handles. The original audio items are automatically connected to the Soundtrack Pro audio files, and any changes you make in Soundtrack Pro appear in your Final Cut Pro sequence.

    For example, after inserting a new clip into an edited documentary sequence, you may discover that its audio has an annoying air conditioner hum that doesn’t match the audio of the other clips in the sequence. You can select the audio from that clip, send it to Soundtrack Pro, and use the noise-reduction tools to minimize the hum. After saving your fix and returning to Final Cut Pro, the audio item is automatically updated with the fixed audio, and you can continue working.

    Incidentally, converting individual audio clips to Soundtrack Pro audio files doesn’t prevent you from later sending all of your sequence’s audio to Soundtrack Pro as a multitrack project when the time comes to do your final mix, as described in Final Sound Editing, Design, and Mixing. In fact, all the operations applied to individual files reappear in the multitrack Soundtrack Pro project that’s created later, and you’ll still have the ability to modify or turn off earlier corrections if you need to.

    For more information, search for “sending clips to Soundtrack Pro” in Final Cut Pro Help.

  • Send To Soundtrack Pro Script: You can also save a series of actions in the File Editor project view as an AppleScript droplet, which can be used from within Final Cut Pro using the Send To Soundtrack Pro Script submenu. All Soundtrack Pro scripts that are saved in the default location (/Users/username/Library/Scripts/Soundtrack Pro Scripts/) appear in this submenu.

    For example, if you have a series of voiceover clips that were all recorded during the same session, and you apply a particular set of de-essing, compression, and equalization operations to improve the voiceover recording, you can use the Save as AppleScript command from within Soundtrack Pro to turn your operations into a script, which will become available from within Final Cut Pro. Going back to your sequence, you can select the other voiceover clips and then choose your script from the Send To Soundtrack Pro Script submenu to process them in the same way.

    For more information, search for “scripting actions” in Soundtrack Pro Help.

Processing Audio Using an External Editor

If you need to make a change to an audio item that you’ve already imported, you can use the Open in Editor command to open any file using the application specified by that file’s creator code. You can also choose the specific application with which to open audio files in the External Editors tab of the System Settings window. See the Final Cut Pro documentation for more information.

Creating Temporary Music in Soundtrack Pro, GarageBand, or Logic Studio

Because editing typically begins long before a composer starts working on the score, editors often rely on temporary (“temp”) music to develop the rhythm of a scene and to make it easier to watch events in an emotional context. Many editors use stock music or music files provided by the director or producer as a reference until the final soundtrack is available. However, if you’re musically inclined, you also have the option of using a music application (two of which you probably already have installed) to create custom temp music that’s specific to your needs.

Using Soundtrack Pro

Soundtrack Pro comes with a library of loops of different musical styles that you can use to assemble a quick multitrack music bed that’s specific to the mood of your scene. Although the Soundtrack Pro interface has been refined over the years to support dialogue cutting and mixing for audio post-production, its roots as a loop-based music editor, along with its audio library search tools, make it well suited for the creation of temp music tracks. You can expand your library of loops for even more variety by buying add-on loop collections from Apple (Jam Packs) and from many third-party vendors.

If you want to work synchronized to picture, you can select the range of clips you want to create music for and then use the Send To Soundtrack Pro Multitrack Project command to send the selected video and audio to Soundtrack Pro together. If you placed scoring markers in the Timeline, these are sent to Soundtrack Pro also. After assembling the loops you want to use as your temp music bed, you can disable the source audio tracks and export the temp tracks as a single AIFF or WAVE file for editing back into your original sequence.

Using GarageBand

GarageBand (which you probably already have on your computer) also comes with a library of loops that are actually shared with Soundtrack Pro, so that all the loops available to one application are also available to the other. GarageBand has a streamlined interface dedicated to music creation using loop editing, MIDI instruments, and live recording.

You can also work synchronized to picture in GarageBand, but you need to export the scene you want to use as a QuickTime movie first. Dragging a QuickTime movie into a GarageBand project window adds the audio and video to the project so you can arrange your loops in time to the picture. When you finish, you can use the Hide Movie Track command to disable the video, and then you can use the Export Song to Disk command to export an audio file that you can edit back into your original Final Cut Pro sequence. (Make sure to turn off Compress in the dialog that appears when you choose the Export Song to Disk command.)

Using Logic Studio

Logic Studio (which also includes Soundtrack Pro) is a suite of applications from Apple dedicated to high-end music production. Although Logic Studio is an extremely powerful music production tool and may be more than you need for the purpose of simple temp track creation, it’s noteworthy because of its enormous library of loops, all of which are compatible with Soundtrack Pro and GarageBand.

Note: Logic Pro also has the ability to send audio to Soundtrack Pro, which is described in Make Sure You Have the Right Setup for Mixing.

Using a Third-Party Audio Application

There are a wide variety of loop- and algorithm-based music creation tools for video. In general, most of these tools can export either AIFF or WAVE files that you can import into Final Cut Pro for use in your edited sequence.