Using Waveform Displays to Help You Edit Audio

As you work in Final Cut Pro, waveform displays can be very useful for navigating through parts of your audio and seeing at a glance how the levels in a track indicate things like the words and pauses in dialogue and the beats in a piece of music.

Waveforms are displayed in the audio tabs of the Viewer.

Figure. Viewer window showing waveforms for a stereo pair of audio items.

You can also view waveforms in the Timeline, but you need to explicitly turn them on (see Displaying Waveforms in the Timeline).

Figure. Timeline window showing waveforms in the audio tracks.

Viewing waveforms should not take precedence over listening to audio tracks during playback. When you’re making editorial decisions, the waveform display is no substitute for your own ear.

For example, even though a particular frame of a waveform may look like a good place to cut into a drumbeat or a spoken word, the only way you’ll know for sure is to play through the clip and listen carefully. Setting your edit points even a few frames too early or too late can make a big difference, and it’s time-consuming to zoom in to and out of a waveform display repeatedly to see a high level of detail.

Use the J, K, and L keys to shuttle through your clips, and learn to listen for the edit points you want. Once you have set In and Out points, you can use the Play In to Out (Shift-Backslash) and Play to Out (Shift-P) commands to preview your edits. As you do this, you’ll find yourself trimming one or two frames at a time and then setting new edit points, repeating the process until you’ve found the perfect audio editing points.