Adjusting Audio Levels in the Timeline

Changing audio levels directly in the Timeline is fast and is especially useful when you need to mix the levels of clips relative to other clips playing at the same time. For example, if you want to raise and lower the volume of a music clip to correspond with a voiceover recording, you can see how the narrator’s dialogue lines up with the music clips if you turn on audio waveforms in the Timeline. That way, you can easily see exactly where you need to set your keyframes to achieve the levels you want.

To use all the commands and tools described in this section, you need to turn on clip overlays in the Timeline to display the audio level and pan overlays. Displaying audio waveforms is also useful for audio mixing in the Timeline.

To display clip overlays in the Timeline
  1. Open a sequence in the Timeline, then choose Sequence > Settings.

  2. Click the Timeline Options tab, then select the Show Keyframe Overlays checkbox.

You can also select the Clip Overlays control in the Timeline.

To display audio waveforms in the Timeline
  1. Open a sequence in the Timeline, then choose Sequence > Settings.

  2. Click the Timeline Options tab, then select the Show Audio Waveforms checkbox.

    To avoid opening the Sequence Settings window, you can also press Command-Option-W while the Timeline is active.

To adjust the audio level of a single clip with no keyframes
  1. Click the Clip Overlays control at the bottom of the Timeline to display overlays.

  2. Drag the audio level overlay up or down to adjust the audio level. The overlay is a pink line if the clip is not selected, and a green line if it is.

    The pointer changes to an Adjust Line Segment pointer when it’s directly over the audio level overlay, and a box displays the change in levels as you drag.

    Figure. Timeline window showing the audio level overlay being dragged to change the audio level.
To add a keyframe to the audio level overlay of a clip in the Timeline
  1. Do one of the following:

    • Select the Pen tool in the Tool palette (or press the P key).

    • If you’re using the Selection tool, hold down the Option key.

  2. Move the Pen tool to the point in your sequence where you want to set a keyframe, then click the overlay to set the keyframe.

    Figure. Timeline window showing an audio track with a keyframe added to the audio level overlay with the Pen tool.
To adjust keyframes in the Timeline
  • Place the Selection tool directly over a keyframe, so that it turns into a crosshair pointer. You can now adjust a single keyframe by dragging it up or down to change its level, or from side to side to move it forward and backward in time.

    Figure. Timeline window showing a keyframe being dragged to change its level.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Changing Audio Keyframes

Final Cut Pro provides commands for changing the gain of audio keyframes. These commands are not assigned as menu items. You can assign these commands to keys on the keyboard using the standard procedures for customizing your keyboard layout. These commands are also available as buttons that you can place in your button bar. The commands increase or decrease the audio level of a keyframe or keyframe segment under the playhead position in the Timeline or the Viewer. The commands are:

  • Gain (Adjust) -1dB

  • Gain (Adjust) -3dB

  • Gain (Adjust) +1dB

  • Gain (Adjust) +3dB

Placing these buttons in the button bar provides a convenient method for adjusting keyframes precisely.

Note: When adjusting a keyframe with the Gain Adjust commands, you can position the playhead on a keyframe to change its level, or position the playhead between two keyframes to change the audio level of the segment between the keyframes. When using the Pen tool to add keyframes, you can create highly accurate keyframes located between frame boundaries. At some zoom levels, when keyframes appear closely spaced, it can appear that the playhead is on an audio keyframe when it is actually between keyframes. In this case, the Gain Adjust commands move the segment of the overlay between the keyframes, instead of just the single keyframe that the playhead appears to be on. Change the zoom level of the Timeline or Viewer to better see the location of the playhead on keyframes.

To adjust a section of a clip’s overlay in the middle of four keyframes
  • Drag just that section up or down, as if you were dragging the entire overlay.

    Figure. Timeline window showing a section of the audio level overlay being dragged to change the audio level.
To delete audio level keyframes in the Timeline
Do one of the following:
  • Control-click the keyframe you want to delete, then choose Clear from the shortcut menu.

  • Select the Delete Point tool in the Tool palette (or press the P key twice). Place the Delete Point tool on the keyframe you want to delete, then click to delete the keyframe.

  • With the Selection tool selected, hold down the Option key, then move the pointer to the keyframe you want to delete. When the pointer turns into the Delete Point tool, click to delete the keyframe.

To select a range of keyframes to modify
  • Use the Range Selection tool to select a group of keyframes. You can now move, delete, or change the level of just those keyframes.

To adjust the audio level of a group of clips simultaneously
  1. In the Timeline, select a group of audio clips whose levels you want to adjust.

  2. Choose Modify > Levels.

  3. Use the slider to adjust the audio level and choose Relative or Absolute from the pop-up menu, then click OK.

    Figure. Gain Adjust dialog showing items in the Make Changes pop-up menu.
    • Relative: Adjusts each track’s audio level relative to the current level.
    • Absolute: Changes all selected tracks to the value indicated in the number field next to the slider.

Changing Audio Levels While a Sequence Is Playing

You can use keyboard shortcuts to change the audio levels of clips in a sequence while it’s playing. Your changes affect the clip on the lowest-numbered audio track with Auto Select turned on. The level of the clip at the current playhead position is adjusted. Use the following shortcuts:

  • To raise the level by 1 dB: Press Control–Equal Sign (=).
  • To raise the level by 3 dB: Press Control–Right Bracket (]).
  • To lower the level by 3 dB: Press Control–Left Bracket ([).
  • To lower the level by 1 dB: Press Control–Hyphen (-).

When you use the shortcut, you hear a brief pause, and then playback resumes almost immediately.