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Preparing Audio for Post in Final Cut Pro

Keeping your location audio in the digital domain

by Josh Rosen

Audio editors and mixers in film and broadcast post have established simple processes for working with sound from Avid systems. This involves some basic (albeit irritating) conversions from Avid to Pro Tools via Avid's Open Media Framework Interchange (OMFI) format. Once in the Pro Tools realm, we're free to work with the tools of our trade.

As directors and editors migrate to digital video, and often to Apple's Final Cut Pro systems, sound editors are left trying to figure out how to keep up. Unfortunately, Final Cut Pro doesn't yet support OMFI, so here are a few tips to help your DV production audio make the conversion to Pro Tools: Follow the Leader.

Always insert Academy (or homemade "fake-cademy") leader at the head of every sequence. (If you can't find it, just digitize from someone else's reel.) This is usually a count from eight down to two in single seconds, with two seconds of black before the picture starts. Its primary purpose is to provide a visual reference for your two-pop, which should be on all your tracks. Used as each track's universal sync reference, the two-pop is a one-frame, 1 kHz sine wave beep tone placed exactly on the number "two" in the leader (two seconds before picture start).

Handles with care
Editing using "handles" (the little pieces of audio before the beginning of an edited region and after its end) is the single most important step for retaining truly usable location sound in the move from Final Cut Pro to Pro Tools. When you cut two clips together, the audio at the edit point is butted up, one clip to the other. In order to create a dissolve (crossfade), your edit system uses these hidden handles, which it knows are in the source file. No handles = no crossfades = a "pop" at nearly every edit point.

To create handles, you must use extra audio tracks so you can "checkerboard" your audio. Checkerboarding consists of putting every odd audio edit on tracks 1/2 and every even edit on tracks 3/4, for example. This way, their starts and ends can be extended without overlapping. Next, lock the video track(s) and extend the beginning of each audio region two to three seconds earlier and the end two to three seconds later. You can use the audio level breakpoints to prevent the new handles from playing. Just remember to remove the audio level changes before mixing down or the homemade handles will be lost.


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