Making Basic Audio Adjustments with the Audio Mixer

In most cases, when editors first start working on a movie, their primary focus is on the visuals and the content of the accompanying audio. At this early stage, adjustments are limited to the overall levels of the audio, and not the details of the final mix. The Audio Mixer’s mute and solo buttons, along with the track faders and panning sliders, let you quickly manage the audio tracks and clips in your program so that you can make early decisions about how your audio should fit together while you edit.

Note: Mute and solo buttons are used only for monitoring your audio during playback. They are ignored during Print to Video or Edit to Tape operations, and during export to a movie or audio file.

When Audio Mixer Controls Aren’t Available

There are several instances when the controls of a given track’s track strip aren’t available.

  • If there is no clip on that track at the position of the playhead: The fader on that track’s track strip is set to indicate that there is complete silence at the gap in the track. It is not possible to adjust a given track’s fader if there is no clip at the current position of the playhead.
  • If the clip at the position of the playhead is not enabled: The result is the same as if there were no clip on the track. Because the clip is disabled in the track, the track strip cannot control it. You can enable or disable a clip by choosing Modify > Clip Enable.
  • If that track is locked in the Timeline: The track strip for that track is unavailable, preventing you from making changes to that track. The fader and panning slider continue to animate, however, as audio from that track is still being output.
  • If the entire track is disabled in the Timeline: The track strip for that track is dimmed, preventing you from making changes to the track. Fader and pan automation set for clips in that track remain untouched, however, and are preserved when you reenable that track.

Using the Mute Button to Silence Audio Tracks

Sometimes, while monitoring your sequence audio, you may want to disable the playback of certain audio tracks. For example, if you’re editing a section of dialogue and you want to hear it without music, you can mute the tracks with the music clip without stopping playback.

Muting a track does not remove audio level or pan keyframes; it simply turns off the audio output of that track until you turn it back on. Muting a track also doesn’t delete audio render files associated with clips on that track. A track’s mute status overrides its solo status, so even if a track is soloed, you won’t hear it if it is muted.

Note: Mute buttons cannot be automated.

To mute one or more tracks
Do one of the following:
  • In the Audio Mixer, click the mute button in the track strip for the track you want to silence.

    Figure. Mute button in the Audio Mixer tab.
  • In the Timeline, click the Audio Controls button to display the mute and solo buttons for each track, then click the mute button for the audio track you want to silence.

    Figure. Audio Controls button and mute button in the Timeline.
To disable mute on all tracks at once
  • Control-click the mute button of any track’s track strip in the Audio Mixer, then choose Reset All Mutes from the shortcut menu.

To mute the master output
  • In the Audio Mixer, click the Master mute button.

To mute all tracks at once
  • Option-click any selected mute button.

Using the Solo Button to Listen to Individual Tracks

If your sequence contains several audio tracks and you want to listen to a track in isolation, you can temporarily solo only that track. When you click a track’s solo button to solo a track, all other tracks are automatically muted. However, if other tracks’ solo buttons are selected, these tracks still remain soloed. If you select the solo buttons on multiple tracks, all tracks whose solo buttons are selected play back, and all other audio tracks in your sequence are muted.

Note: Solo buttons cannot be automated.

To solo one or more tracks
Do one of the following:
  • In the Audio Mixer, click the solo button in the track strip for the track you want to solo. All tracks without solo enabled are silenced.

    Figure. Solo button in the Audio Mixer tab.
  • In the Timeline, click the Audio Controls button to display the mute and solo buttons for each track, then click the solo button for the audio track you want to solo. All tracks without solo enabled are silenced.

    Figure. Audio Controls button and solo button in the Timeline.
To disable solo on all tracks at once
  • Control-click the solo button of any track’s track strip in the Audio Mixer, then choose Reset All Solos from the shortcut menu.

Using Faders to Adjust Audio Levels

Final Cut Pro stores audio level information in clips, not in tracks. When you adjust faders in the Audio Mixer, you affect only the clips currently beneath the playhead. This is the same as adjusting a clip’s audio level directly in the Timeline or Viewer.

Figure. Audio Mixer tab and Timeline window showing that changes in the Audio Mixer faders affect only the audio clip items below the Timeline playhead.

If an audio track at the position of the playhead does not contain a clip, the fader corresponding to that track is automatically set to –∞ dB (total silence), and you are unable to move the fader slider.

You can change the audio levels of clips in the Timeline while the sequence is playing or while it is paused. If the Record Audio Keyframes option is turned off, adjusting a fader level does not add keyframes but instead adjusts the audio level for the clip’s entire duration. If the clip already has keyframes, the level is adjusted between the previous and subsequent keyframes.

You can also select the Record Audio Keyframes checkbox in the Editing tab of the User Preferences window.

Adjusting Levels in Mono Versus Stereo Clips

Track faders in the Audio Mixer control each audio clip independently unless two clips are a stereo pair.

  • Mono or linked mono clips: Track faders can be adjusted independently. For example, if you’ve captured a clip that has two actors whose dialogue was recorded independently, one on the left channel and one on the right channel, you can control their levels separately.
  • Stereo pair clips: The faders of both audio tracks are locked together and move as one. This is useful for stereo music clips, to ensure that level changes are consistent in both the left and right audio channels.
To change the overall audio level of a clip using a fader
  1. Make sure the clip doesn’t have any audio level keyframes already applied.

  2. Make sure that the Record Audio Keyframes button in the button bar at the top of the Audio Mixer is not selected.

  3. In the Timeline, position the playhead so that it’s directly over the clip whose audio level you want to change.

    Figure. Timeline window showing the playhead positioned over a clip.
  4. In the Audio Mixer, drag the track’s fader up or down to adjust the level.

    While you move the fader, the audio level field indicates the numeric value of the current level. When you release the fader, the audio clip’s audio level overlay in the Timeline changes to reflect the change you’ve made.

    Figure. Track Strips area of the Audio Mixer tab showing a fader adjusted for a track.
    Figure. Timeline window showing that the audio level overlay reflects the adjustments to the track's fader.
To reset a fader to 0 dB
Do one of the following:
  • Control-click the fader, then choose Reset from the shortcut menu.

  • Option-click anywhere in the fader.

To reset all faders in the Audio Mixer to 0 dB
  • Control-click an active track’s fader, then choose Reset All from the shortcut menu.

To change the audio level of a clip numerically
  1. Make sure the clip doesn’t have any audio level keyframes already applied.

  2. Make sure that the Record Audio Keyframes button in the button bar at the top of the Audio Mixer is not selected.

  3. In the Timeline, position the playhead so that it’s directly over the clip whose audio level you want to change.

  4. In the Audio Mixer, enter a new value in the audio level field below the fader you want to modify, then press Return.

    Valid values range from +12 dB to –167 dB. Numbers smaller than –167 dB are automatically changed to –∞ dB, or total silence.

  5. Press Return.

    The fader moves to reflect the new value.

Adjusting the Master Level of Your Sequence

The Master fader raises or lowers the combined output level of all the tracks in your sequence at the same time. However, you should wait to use the Master fader until you have set individual track levels. Once the Master audio meters show acceptable levels throughout your mix, you can use the Master fader to increase or decrease the overall level while retaining the same relative mix. This can be helpful in the following cases:

  • Your audio mix has a good level for output to a particular video deck but is too strong for another deck. In this case, you can easily bring down the overall level with the Master fader.

  • If you are using a lot of audio tracks, the overall mix may be too loud even when the individual track levels are fairly low. If the individual track fader levels are all low, mixing can be inconvenient. To keep the individual track fader levels higher without making the overall mix too hot, you can bring down the Master fader level by several dB.

Important: You should not use the Master fader to adjust the volume setting of your external monitoring speakers. Use the Master fader to make sure your meters show an acceptable level. Use the volume controls on your external monitors to adjust the loudness of your audio while you mix.

The Master fader cannot be automated.