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Audio editing in Premiere Pro


One area where Premiere Pro is significantly superior to most other editing applications is audio.  Sony Vegas also has as good audio controls, if not slightly better, but you would expect that from a program that started life as an Audio editing program

Avid Media Composer and Grass Valley EDIUS do not have the same level of control.  These two programs can only edit down to the frame level where as Premiere Pro lets you edit right down to sample level.  Premiere Pro also has a very powerful mixer which lets you take tracks and route them to submix tracks as well as apply effects to an entire track as well as per clip.

Having said this Premiere Pro is a video editing program and you can do better mixing with better control in Adobe's own Audition, now part of the Adobe Production Premium.  There is a dynamic link with Audition CS5.5 so you can send the audio edit from Premiere Pro to Audition as a sequence of clips rather than one big lump meaning that you can do a better multi-track mix.  (for more information see below)

♦     Highly accurate sound mixing - you can adjust sound right down to the sample level, not just per frame as with most other programs.  This also means you can place sound very accurately on the timeline.
♦    Submix tracks allow you to route several tracks into one and then apply effects to this submix track.
♦    Audio is displayed as left and right channels on the timeline - and you can choose to break these out to mono clips, or just use the left or right channel.
♦    You have control over the clip level and the track volume, which can be raised or lowered as desired.  Plus you can write your audio levels as you listen to the audio.
♦    Premiere has a great voice over tool - select an area and then play the video and record a voice over whilst it plays.  The resulting sound file is then placed on a track in the timeline for you to edit.
♦    Premiere Pro draws “Pek” files of the audio when loaded.  These give you an instant redraw of the on-screen wave form as you zoom in and out of the timeline - not more waiting for the screen to redraw like non-pro versions.  It does this in the background while you work.
♦    Support for ASIO sound cards means better and more responsive editing.  The audio scrub is particularly nice.  For surround sound mixing you will need to get the right kind of sound card. 


This little box is very useful and can be applied to one clip or several at once.  Simply select the clips, right click and choose AUDIO GAIN.

The options we then have are:

SET GAIN TO: Take all the clips and apply the same volume adjustment to all of them.

ADJUST GAIN BY: Take all the clips and raise each of them by the same about - either adding or subtracting the value from the setting the clip already has.

NORMALISE MAX PEAK TO: look at all the clips and work out how load you can make each one without distorting.  The quickest way to increase the volume on all the clips on the timeline and each clip will be raised by a different amount depending on how loud they are.

NORMALISE ALL PEAKS TO: look at all the clips and work out how loud you can make the loudest part so that it does not distort, then apply this setting to all the clips.  Net result is all clips are raised by the same amount.

Once you get the hang of the different controls it becomes very easy to equalise the levels of your sound.   This box does not make quiet sections louder and loud sections quieter - it just raises or lowers the entire volume of the clip.  You equalise the levels you would use a compressor, a filter which is available in Premiere and can be applied to an entire track.

Unified audio effects

With older versions of Premiere Pro there were different lists of audio effects for different types of sound file - mono, stereo and 5.1 - which meant you had to choose the right effects based purely on which clip you were using on the timeline.   Well now all the audio effects are in one list! Effects which only apply to stereo clips - like fill left or fill right for example - simply cannot be applied to other types of clips.

Surround Sound support

Adobe Premiere Pro is one of the few programs to support proper 5.1 surround sound editing and mixing.-You can even position your audio in surround sound and fly a clip around the room using the panning controls seen on the audio mixer above.  If you already have a Surround sound clip you simply bring it into the program and it goes onto a surround sound audio track, keeping the mix intact.  If you are only making a stereo edit then Premiere Pro will automatically mix the clip down to stereo.

In addition to CS6 you will need:

  • The SurCode plug-in (approximately 200 and available ONLY direct from SurCode)  You only need this to make Dolby 5.1 audio files to use on a DVD or Blu-ray disc.  You can export surround sound to different files, such as MP4 files, as well as a 6 channel WAV.
  • A decent sound card with ASIO drivers, or hardware like a Matrox MX02 or Black Magic device. 

Once you have made the mix you will need to export it as a 5.1 Dolby digital file to put it onto a DVD or Blu-ray disc.  Premiere cannot do this without adding an extra plug-in which can only be bought direct from the makers, SurCode. At the time of writing this the price for the plug-in is 179.  Premiere Pro will let you try this plug-in 3 times, but you will have to buy it to carry on making Surround sound edits.   You can export surround sound to a Windows media audio file, or an AAC audio file without buying the extra plug-in but neither of these is suitable for a DVD or Blu-ray disc.  Adobe Encore will only encode audio to stereo Dolby digital, so even if you send a 5.1 timeline to Encore it will end up as a stereo timeline, not a 5.1 timeline.

This has been the same since Premiere Pro 1; when Premiere Pro 1 was released we could not make a surround sound mix from any other program.  However now quite a few of the programs can actually output a surround sound mix without buying any extra plug-ins.  Simple programs like Pinnacle Studio and Avid Studio, which cost about 100 will let you put a surround sound mix on a disc, Grass Valley EDIUS will not let you mix surround sound but will let you put it on to a DVD, and export a surround sound file for 5.1 Dolby digital.  These programs tend to use a more "domestic" version of Dolby encoding where as the SurCode plug-in is a "professional" quality plug-in. Sony Vegas lets you both mix and create a 5.1 clip for your DVD, and even comes with a professional quality plug-in. It would be nice if Premiere Pro came with a free "domestic" plug-in to create surround sound mixes but the truth is it does not, so if you want to get a 5.1 mix on a DVD you have to pay the extra.

You also need the right kind of sound card.  Even though most sound cards these days do have surround sound connections and can play 5.1 sound using programs like Windows Media player, Premiere Pro will only play surround sound using a card which has proper ASIO drivers.  ASIO sound cards are not too expensive - some Asus cards are around 40 and a decent Soundblaster card is about 100.  You do not actually need the sound card to create a Surround Sound mix - you can do that on any set up - but you will not be able to hear what it sounds like without the ASIO sound card.   We do not include such a sound card in the system as standard since most people will not edit surround sound so a cheaper card is good enough.  If you want to edit surround sound then please mention this when you are buying a system

The Matrox MX02 range of devices will act like an ASIO sound card so you can listen to a 5.1 mix using these devices.  With the MX02 Mini and LE the surround sound mix will come out of the HDMI socket ONLY - so you need to connect this to a surround sound amplifier with HDMI in.  The MX02 has 6 phonos for sound out as well as HDMI so you can monitor surround sound directly from the MX02 without an HDMI amplifier.

The MX02s will happily work with a normal ASIO sound card instead if you do not have the right kind of amplifier.

Adobe Audition

Adobe Audition is Adobe's high quality sound editing program.  They also  used to produce a program called Soundbooth, but this has been discontinued in favour of Audition.  Audition has all teh same features as Soundbooth, plus a lot more, and does much better quality. 

If you want to take a clip from the Premiere timeline to Audition just select the clip and choose "edit in Audition".  Premiere then makes a copy of the audio and opens the sound program.  There you tweak the clip as needed and when you save the clip it is automatically updated in Premiere. 

Send an entire Audio mix to Audition

As well as just changing a clip you can also choose to send an entire timeline to Audition.  Once again Premiere makes copies of all the clips and then opens the timeline in Audition, but now as a mulit-track mix.  You can now use all Auditions tools to complete a decent sound mix, and when finished choose to send the results back to Premiere Pro either as a series of individual tracks or mixed down version of the mix.  This is added to Premiere on two new timelines replacing the original Premiere Audio.  Audition can also take the video as well as the sound so you can see the picture to which you are editing.

What can Audition do?

They have similar facilities - Soundbooth was designed to let people unfamiliar with audio editing do some very sophisticated effects, where as Audition is an audio tool to rival M-Audio's ProTools.  They can do the following:

♦    Single clip and multi-track audio editing - down to the sample level in both cases.
♦    Noise reduction - sample a noise, like a microphone buzz, for example, and then extract that noise from the entire clip.
♦    Spectral frequency display - show the sound as a range of frequencies (rather than the standard waveform).  Then you can pick out certain noises, lasso them and either reduce or remove them.  A good example would be a shot we filmed with a Seagull in the background.  The high pitched shriek of the seagull appeared as a bright spike which we lassoed and removed, leaving the rest of the sound intact.
♦    Mixing audio with video - you can bring in a piece of video and complete the audio mix as outlined above.
♦    Music creation.  Audition is a traditional "sound looping" program.  You can create loops from anything and the layout the loops on a timeline to make a score.  This does require some musical ability and talent (at least to produce a good score as opposed to a "rubbish" one). 

Click here to read more about Audition.

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