Final Cut Studio Tutorial | Cut Lines: Editing a Multiclip with Multitrack Sound
Hello FCP editors! This is the final installment of our inaugural 2006 run of Cut Lines. I started this column with the basics and have been broadening our foundation ever since. You should be well-schooled in the fundamentals by now. In 2007, we'll take it to the next level—you can look forward to advanced compositing, coloring, and other more advanced editing tricks in FCP!
This month, we're going to take our Soundtrack Pro (STP) tutorial from last month's a step further by exploring how to use STP to enhance audio from multiple sources when editing Multiclip projects in Final Cut Pro.
The Multiclip/Multitrack Project
I recently completed a multicamera edit that required me to sweeten a soundtrack drawn from multiple sources. Since you can't really do this too cleanly with only the Multiclip feature in FCP, I used STP to help out. Please note that this is a holistic, nondestructive edit method, which is preferred in the Apple Pro Apps workflow. Also, keep in mind that STP is a major audio editing application, and we don't have the space in this tutorial to cover all its functions. The two-part series that concludes this month is only a first step in getting you up and running with it. There is more you'll need to learn to unleash its full awesome power. My hope is that when you get a glimpse of what it can do, you'll get hooked and take the time to learn more about it.
Before we get going, let me clarify that the Multiclip sequence feature is not the same as a regular Multiclip edit, and it is not the tool we want to use for this process. When using Multiclip sequences, all cameras must have synchronized timecode. (Most wedding and event videographers I know do not use broadcast equipment that syncs to a single timecode generator.) Multiclip sequences demand other things of your footage and project, but I don't have space to go into that here. Suffice to say that, although it does have its uses, I don't see it as a practical wedding or event editing tool. But if there's sufficient interest in it—keep those cards and letters coming!—I may cover it in a future column.
Step 1: Preparing the Sequence
Basically, we're going to do a Multiclip edit as usual, then we'll add more audio tracks, take it into STP as a multitrack project, balance and sweeten the sound, and finally bring it back into FCP. I assume you know the basics of how to do a Multiclip edit (See FCP5 User Manual, Vol. 2, p. 253), so I'll cover only the setup, roundtrip process, and some tips for working in STP.
Let's set up our situation here. I am working on a documentary about Louisiana Indians. I have to combine a mix of camera sound (which consists of two mono channels—two wireless mics from two sources), a stereo music track, and a mono Voice Over (VO) track. After I do my Multiclip edit, I right-click (Cmd+click if you use a one-button mouse) anywhere on the Multiclip and select Collapse Multiclip from the pop-up menu. All the sound in the Multiclip came from Camera 1. Cameras 2 and 3 were B-roll with no sound associated with the clips. The sound from Camera 1 occupies Tracks A1 and A2.
I'll place my music track on audio Tracks A3 and A4, and the VO on A5. This gives us five audio tracks: one stereo-linked and three mono tracks (left). At this point, let's not worry about the actual mix or sound levels—just make sure that the sound is synched with the video. Save the project (it's wise to save often, and to use Autosave Vault).
Now, I'll go to the Browser, highlight our Sequence, right click and choose Send To > Soundtrack Pro Multitrack Project. A dialog box will appear asking me to give this file a name, followed by "sent" in parentheses (i.e., "(sent)"). This shows us that this is a file from FCP, edited nondestructively in one of the other Pro Apps. I also keep the "Open in STP Multitrack Editor" and "Include Background Video" options checked. This tells FCP that we want to export this as an STP Multitrack file and are ready to edit it immediately. It also tells STP to include the video portion so we can see what's going on while we edit the audio portion. Remember where you put this file! I create a "Sent" folder in my main project folder for these types of files, to help with asset organization on my hard drive.
Working in Soundtrack Pro
Once the Sequence is prepared, you'll be in STP with your project open and ready for editing. I'll run through a few of STP's tools quickly here to help you get started. First of all, notice that each track has its own volume and pan settings. You can create Envelopes of these by clicking the disclosure triangle next to each track's name (left). You can double-click on the rubber band lines to create a keyframe. Highlight a keyframe and hit the delete key to delete it. You can also drag them to change their value and placement. And you can right-click each for more options.
To apply a filter to a clip, simply double-click it. It will then ask if you want to do a nondestructive edit (this creates a new file), or edit the original file. If you have ever needed to go back to the original version of a file before, you know the value of nondestructive editing. So tell STP to make a new file.
This will then open the file in a new window. See the new tab at the top left of the Timeline window? Just like in FCP, you can have multiple sound and multitrack files open at once. In this Waveform Editor window, you can apply filters and effects, and do most of the sound sweetening and fixing you'll need (left). Refer to last month's Cut Lines, which explained how to do sound removal, as an example of how to apply and customize filters in STP.
Mixing sound levels in STP is easy, and the program gives you several ways to do it. You can set keyframes as described earlier, or simply change the volume and pan slider positions to apply changes to the whole track. Another option is to mix "live." To do a live mix, click the Mixer icon in the upper right of the Timeline window, or use the Cmd+2 keyboard shortcut. Once the Mixer is open, you can resize it and move it as you wish (left).
To begin recording your live mix, look in the top left section of the Mixer. There you'll find a drop-down menu with selections that include Read, Latch, and Touch. Select Latch, then hit the space bar to play and use the sliders to mix as you wish. You may also want to use the drop-down menu at the top right of the Mixer window to show the Transport controls, if they are not already showing. Once you've got your track mixed to your satisfaction, you can close the Mixer window and go tweak your Envelope keyframes. You can also go back and re-mix over a previous mix without having to delete all those keyframes.
Helpful Tips for STP
There is so much more to STP—unfortunately, there simply isn't enough space in a magazine column to cover everything I wish I could. It's a fully functional professional mixing and sweetening application for film and video sound with a complex and enormous array of features. I strongly suggest that you check out Peachpit Press's Apple Pro Training Series: Soundtrack Pro to learn the application more thoroughly. But given the space that we have, I'll offer a few hints to help you get started.
Play start/stop can be controlled by the space bar, just like in FCP. The return key will bring the playhead back to the beginning of the timeline. If the song is not playing, Return+Shift will bring the playhead to the start of the Timeline and begin playing. You can alter the timeline to show the music's native beats per minute (BPM) timing or the video's SMPTE timecode by clicking the corresponding buttons at the top of the timeline window (metronome/clock icon). This won't change the overall duration of the timeline (or the length of any clips therein), only how it is displayed.
You can zoom in and out of the Timeline window with the up and down arrow keys on your keyboard. Move single measures of time with the left and right arrow keys. Shift+Z will do a "fit to window" of your timeline, just like in FCP.
You'll also notice that when you apply filters in the Waveform Editor, they stack up in the left side of that window. Treat this just like filters in FCP. You can check and uncheck them to turn them on and off. You can drag them into different orders to get different effects, or you can highlight them and delete each if you wish. You can even make stereo files mono, and mono files stereo with one click in the Waveform Editor (Process > Convert to . . .).
Going Back to FCP
Once you have your mixing and sweetening done, save the project you're working on in STP. The application will ask you to review all the changes you made to the clips. This is an independent STP Multitrack project that you can come back to and do further work on at any time.
Going back into FCP, you'll need to export from your STP project and then import that into FCP. Notice that last month, our individual clip automatically updated in FCP. Not this time. The reason is that there are so many output choices from STP that it would get confusing. From STP you can export via one master file or separate track files; you can also export directly to Compressor, or choose specific out buses. When I export from STP, I always make an "STP" folder in my project folder for file management purposes. Then I import that folder into FCP once I've done all my Multitrack sound work in STP.
At this point we need to make a decision: Do we simply want to export this multitrack project as a single AIFF sound file, or do we want to save out all our edited tracks as separate AIFFs with the final mix exported as an additional file? If the final mix is all you want to use in FCP, then go to File > Export > Export Mix. This gives you a single AIFF file that you can import and use in FCP. If you are editing this for someone else, or if someone else is doing your sound for you, you may want to select the Export All Mixer Objects option. This will export each track as an individual AIFF file, plus an AIFF file that combines all the tracks as you mixed them in STP. This way, you have more flexibility when you import them into FCP. For this project, I only want the final-mix AIFF.
Back in FCP, I'll take our STP-generated AIFF file of our final mix and place it on an unused audio track in my Sequence. In this case, that means tracks A6 and A7. I'll then turn off all other audio tracks except my final mix track from STP (left). The timing will match up, and it will be in the format of my Sequence, ready to go. It's as simple as that.
Happy holidays to those celebrating during this season. And until next year, happy editing, y'all!