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Managing Audio Channels

Most clips include multiple audio channels. This could be two discrete mono tracks recorded in the camera, a stereo track in which the left and right channels are intended to pan in a specific way, or a multitrack clip with many audio channels that actively need to be managed. One common example of this is footage in which audio was recorded on a device separate from the video and the two signals were joined inside Final Cut Pro using the Synchronize Clips function as described in Appendix A.

Regardless of the number of tracks, you can manage which audio channels are active and which are ignored when you play a particular clip.

Furthermore, active channels can be displayed in the Timeline collapsed into a single bar combined with the video, expanded into a separate audio-only bar, or broken apart so that each individual channel can be seen and modified independently.

Enabling and Disabling Channels

You manage audio channels in the Audio Inspector for the selected clip. There, you can skim the individual channels to identify the contents of each channel. You can also enable or disable individual channels, and select the audio format (stereo, surround, and so on). This latter setting instructs Final Cut Pro how to pan the individual channels by default.

  1. In the Timeline, select Shot_05.
  2. In the Audio Inspector, scroll down to view the Channel Configuration section. This clip contains two audio channels, marked as stereo. Because they are a stereo pair, they are represented by a single bar.
  3. From the Channels pop-up menu, choose Dual Mono. The two individual items are broken out into two individual channels.
  4. Skim the two individual tracks to hear the difference between them.

    The first channel contains clear, sharp audio; the second sounds inferior. That’s because channel 1 was recorded with a boom mic pointed directly at the subject’s mouth, and channel 2 was recorded using the built-in camera mic, which was much farther away.

  5. Deselect the checkbox to the left of the second channel to disable it. Now, the clip in the Timeline will play only the higher-quality channel 1 audio.

Breaking Apart Audio Clips

When you have more than one audio channel, you can expose each of the components as separate bars in the Timeline. This allows you to independently keyframe the volume, pan, and effects settings for each channel.

  1. In the Timeline, select Shot_06, and in the Audio Inspector, scroll to see the Channel Configuration section.

    This clip contains four audio channels: two mono channels and a stereo pair. Yet, in the Timeline, the audio is represented by a single bar connected to the video.


    This bar can be expanded, as described earlier in the lesson, or it can be detached to be treated as a separate entity from the video.

  2. With audio selected, choose Clip > Detach Audio, or press Control-Shift-S. The audio is detached from the video and appears as a connected clip, synchronized to the first frame of the video.

    However, the four individual audio channels are still combined and treated as a single entity in the Timeline. This is helpful when adjusting the audio as a single unit, but if you want to change individual channels you need to go one step further.

  3. Choose Clip > Break Apart Clip Items, or press Command-Shift-G. Each channel is broken into its own bar and can be adjusted individually.
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