Controls in the Audio Mixer

The controls in the Audio Mixer are comparable to those of an automated hardware mixing console. Each audio track in the currently selected sequence (or audio track in the Viewer) is represented by a track strip, complete with solo and mute buttons, a stereo panning slider, a level fader, and an audio meter.

The Audio Mixer tab appears in the Tool Bench window and is divided into three areas:

Additional Audio Mixer controls appear above these three main areas:

To open the Audio Mixer
  • Choose Tools > Audio Mixer (or press Option-6).

Track Visibility Area

In this area, you can choose which track strips are shown in the Audio Mixer.

To show the Track Visibility area
  • Click the disclosure triangle in the upper-left corner of the Audio Mixer.

Figure. Audio Mixer tab showing Track Visibility controls and a disclosure triangle that shows or hides the Track Visibility area.

The Track Visibility area includes the following controls:

  • Track Visibility control: Click the Track Visibility control for a track to show or hide that track’s track strip in the Audio Mixer. This doesn’t turn on or turn off the corresponding audio track in your edited sequence, nor does it mute the audio played back from that track.
  • Track name: Corresponds to the audio track name listed in the currently selected sequence in the Timeline. This name also appears at the top of the track strip for each track.

Track Strips Area

In a typical audio mixer, each channel has a corresponding channel strip with level and pan controls. In the Final Cut Pro Audio Mixer, each track in your sequence has a corresponding track strip with mute, solo, pan, and audio level controls. If a track’s Track Visibility control is deselected in the Track Visibility area, its track strip does not appear here. If an audio track is disabled in the Timeline, that track’s track strip controls are dimmed.

Figure. Track Strips area in the Audio Mixer tab.

Tip: The height of the Tool Bench window affects the displayed resolution of the faders in the Audio Mixer. For example, if you compare the length of faders in taller and shorter Tool Bench windows, an identical movement results in a greater level change with the shorter fader, and a smaller level change with the longer fader. This means that you can achieve more subtle control of a clip’s levels, if necessary, by making the Tool Bench window taller.

The Track Strips area includes the following controls:

  • Track name: Corresponds to the audio track in the current sequence (or in the Viewer).
  • Mute button: Click to turn off audio playback for that track. The same mute button is available in the Timeline. Use the mute button to quickly mute or unmute a track while your sequence plays. For example, if you want to briefly compare what your audio mix sounds like with and without the track, you can use the mute button while the sequence plays.

    Muting a track does not delete pan or audio level keyframes, nor does it prevent fader automation. Muting tracks only affects playback; muted tracks are still output during Print to Video and Edit to Tape operations, and during export to audio or movie files.

    Note: To prevent a track from being output or exported, you need to disable the track in the Timeline. For more information, see Working with Tracks in the Timeline.

  • Solo button: Click to mute all tracks that don’t have solo turned on. Use the solo button to listen to a track isolated from the others. For example, if you click the solo button on track A1, all other audio tracks are muted. If you turn on solo on A1 and A2, both A1 and A2 play back, and all other tracks are muted.

    Tip: Option-clicking a track’s solo button soloes all of the tracks. Option-clicking a solo button that is already selected deselects all of the tracks’ solo buttons.

    Soloing tracks only affects playback; soloed tracks are still output during Print to Video and Edit to Tape operations, and during export to audio or movie files.

  • Panning slider: Use to change a clip’s stereo pan. The panning slider in the Audio Mixer works the same way as the Pan sliders in the Viewer’s audio tabs. Changes made to the panning slider can be recorded as keyframes in the clip currently beneath the playhead. Upon playback, the panning slider is automated by the keyframes and animates to display the changing pan values in your program.

    When you adjust the pan of a stereo audio clip from the Audio Mixer, the panning sliders of both tracks on which the stereo pair clip appears are locked together. Any adjustments made to one panning slider affect the other panning slider inversely.

    Below the panning slider is a field that displays the exact pan value assigned to the audio track. To adjust the panning slider numerically, enter a value in this field.

    Note: If a clip is on a track that is assigned to a mono (discrete) output, the panning slider for that track is disabled.

  • Fader: Faders are vertical sliders used to adjust the audio levels of clips at the position of the playhead. Using the fader, you can adjust the audio level of a clip from +12 dB to -∞ dB (silence).

    If the Record Audio Keyframes button is selected, changes made to a fader are recorded as keyframes in the current clip or clips beneath the playhead. Upon playback, faders are automated by keyframes and animate to display the changing levels.

    Each fader has tick marks that indicate the current strength of the signal in decibels (dBFS).

    Below each fader is a field that displays the exact audio level setting of the fader. To adjust the fader numerically, enter a value in this field.

  • Track audio level meter: Each track in the Audio Mixer tab corresponds to a track in your sequence (or in the Viewer) and has an individual meter with a scale from +12 dBFS to –∞ dBFS (silence). A track audio meter shows the levels of the current audio clip item in a track. Use these meters to make sure the average level of each clip is consistent with similar audio material and that peaks are not above 0 dBFS.

    Note: The meters in the Audio Mixer can actually display levels above 0 dBFS because Final Cut Pro mixes audio internally at 32-bit floating-point resolution—much higher than the 16- or 24-bit audio in typical media files. The high mixing resolution provides enormous headroom to prevent clipping when multiple audio tracks are mixed together. However, you should never output a signal that exceeds 0 dBFS on the Master audio meters.

    Figure. Audio Mixer tab showing the acceptable range for the individual track audio meters and the Master audio meters.

Master Area

Using the controls in the Master area, you can mute, downmix, and adjust the audio levels of all audio tracks at once. The controls in the Master area cannot be automated, but the current state of all controls in the Master area is stored in each clip in your project.

To show or hide the Master area
  • Click the disclosure triangle in the upper-right corner of the Audio Mixer tab.

Figure. Controls in the Master area of the Audio Mixer tab.

The Master area includes the following controls:

  • Master mute button: Click this button to mute the entire sequence output. Like the individual track mute buttons, the Master mute button only affects playback, not output during Print to Video and Edit to Tape operations, or during export to audio or movie files.
  • Downmix control: When this control is selected, all output channels are mixed down to a single stereo pair of outputs. This is useful if you need to monitor a multichannel mix in stereo. With Downmix selected, all audio outputs in your sequence are mixed down to stereo during playback, output to tape, or export to audio or movie files. For more information about downmixing, see Downmixing Multiple Audio Channels to a Stereo Mix.
  • Master fader: A Master fader controls the level of an output bus or hardware output after the individual track faders are applied. It has no effect on the audio level overlays of clips in your sequence. Unlike individual track faders, the Master fader cannot be automated.

    The Master fader affects output levels during playback, output to tape, or export to a movie file.

  • Master audio meters: There is a Master audio meter for each output channel specified in the current sequence’s Audio Outputs tab (in the Sequence Settings window). For example, if your sequence has an audio preset that has six output channels, there are six Master audio meters in the Audio Mixer. Each meter has a scale from +12 dBFS to -∞ dBFS (silence). Because the Master audio meters show the final level that will be output to your audio interface, you should make sure that no level goes above 0 dBFS.

    Each Master audio meter is fed by all the tracks in the current sequence that are assigned to a particular output channel. For example, if tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 are all assigned to audio output channel 1, Master audio meter 1 displays the combination of all those tracks’ audio levels mixed together.

    Even though 0 dBFS is the highest audio level that you can output from Final Cut Pro, an additional +12 dB appears at the top of the scale of the Master audio meters. This “clipping area” allows you to see how far you’re clipping over 0 dBFS, so you know how much you need to lower the level of your mix to avoid distortion.

    Tip: You can also use the track audio meters and Master audio meters for individual clips in the Viewer. Each clip retains both individual track levels and master levels. Master levels for a clip can only be adjusted in the Audio Mixer, not in the Viewer itself.

  • Clipping indicators: At the top of each meter is a clipping indicator that lights up when that output channel reaches 0 dBFS. Once the clipping indicator lights up, it remains lit until playback is stopped and restarted. Since audio clipping usually causes noticeable digital audio distortion, this indicator lets you know which audio output clipped even after you have stopped playback. This way, you can go back to the clips on that track to reduce their levels.

    Note: Unlike hardware audio meters that light up only when an audio signal is playing, the Final Cut Pro audio meters display and hold the current level whenever the playhead in the Viewer, Timeline, or Canvas appears over an audio clip, whether playing or paused.

View Buttons

The View buttons allow you to organize the Audio Mixer into different subsets (or “banks”) of visible track strips. For example, you might choose to create two separate views to mix your sequence—one for viewing only music tracks and another for viewing dialogue tracks. This is especially useful when mixing a sequence that has more audio tracks than will fit in the Audio Mixer tab at once. Each sequence in a project stores four views.

Figure. View buttons in the Audio Mixer tab.

For more information on how to use the View buttons, see Using Audio Mixer Views.

Record Audio Keyframes Option

When Record Audio Keyframes is selected, new keyframes are created whenever an audio control is moved. Audio controls that can be used to create keyframes during playback include the faders and panning sliders in the Audio Mixer, the Level and Pan sliders in the audio tabs of the Viewer, and the faders and controls on a connected audio control surface.

Figure. Record Audio Keyframes button in the Audio Mixer tab.

The Record Audio Keyframes option must be selected to record real-time level and pan automation during playback. If the Record Audio Keyframes option is not selected, changes to the level and panning sliders only affect the overall levels of clips that have no keyframes, or modify whatever keyframes already exist without creating new ones.

To add keyframes whenever you move an audio fader or panning slider
Do one of the following:
  • Click the Record Audio Keyframes button in the button bar at the top of the Audio Mixer (in the Tool Bench window).

  • Select the Record Audio Keyframes checkbox in the Editing tab of the User Preferences window.

  • Press Command-Shift-K.

    The Record Audio Keyframes button and the checkbox in the User Preferences window are the same control; they are just located in two different places for convenience.

    Important: If the Record Audio Keyframes button is missing from the Audio Mixer button bar, you can drag it to the button bar from the Button List. For more information about using the Button List, see Customizing the Interface.

Source Pop-Up Menu

You use this pop-up menu to choose whether Canvas or Viewer audio levels are controlled by the Audio Mixer. If you want the Audio Mixer to automatically switch between the Canvas and Viewer depending on which window is active, choose Auto.

Figure. Source pop-up menu in the Audio Mixer tab.