FCP X: Understand Audio Clip Options

Posted on by Larry

A few days ago, Jay sent me a question:

“Do you have a video where you cover the difference between ‘expand audio’ & ‘expand audio components?’ And also ‘detach audio’ and ‘break apart clip items?'”

I checked and I didn’t. So, let me explain these here.

There are four options in the Clip menu:

Let’s look at each of these, starting with the simplest.

EXPAND/COLLAPSE CLIPS


(Footage courtesy: Dr. Vint Cerf)

This is a typical interview edit where the audio and video clips are displayed as a single clip in the timeline. Most times, this is enough to create a rough cut.

But… sometimes we need to edit or trim the audio separately from the video, without losing sync.

The easiest way to do this is to double-click the audio waveform in the timeline. This is called Expand Audio. (You can also choose Clip > Expand audio.)

This separates the audio from the video, but still keeps it in sync. In the screenshot above, I’ve trimmed the audio of the second clip to the right, while roll trimming the video edit to the left.

To collapse the audio clips do one of the following:

Even though the clips are collapsed, you can still see the gap in the audio in the waveform on the right.

ADDITIONAL OPTIONS

While you can add audio fades when the audio is collapsed into the video, this is often easier to do when the clips are expanded.

At the extreme right and left edges of a selected clip, you’ll see two small fade dots. Drag these to add an audio fade to the In or Out of a clip.

Control-click the dot itself – which can be tricky as other menus will often interfere – to change the shape of the curve. The shapes are:

Again, you’ll see the fade shape reflected back into the waveform when the clips are collapsed.

EXPAND AUDIO COMPONENTS

A “component” is an individual channel inside an audio clip. For example, a stereo clip has two channels – left and right – both stored inside the audio clip.

Frequently, when we record interviews, we record the interviewer on channel 1 and the guest on channel 2. If we are lucky, our gear supports more than two channels, so we could  also record a second guest on channel 3 and room tone on channel 4.

Audio components allow us to see each of these channels.

First, you need to tell Final Cut how to interpret the audio. Is it stereo music or individual voices on each channel? Most of the time, for non-music recording, I’m working with a variety of mono clips and channels.

To select the correct setting, select the clip either in the Browser or the Timeline. Then, in the Audio Inspector, select the option that works best for your clips in the pop-up menu for Audio Configuration.

NOTE: Mono clips default to the center of the audio field. You can adjust the pan of an audio clip at any time during the final audio mix in the Audio Inspector.


(Footage courtesy: Hallmark Broadcast Ltd. (www.hallmarkbroadcast.tv))

Once you have more than one audio channel in a clip, audio components come into play. When you expand audio components, you see each channel separately in the Timeline.  To do so, choose  Clip > Expand Audio Components (shortcut: Control + Option + S).

NOTE: You can assign channels in the Browser, but you can’t see them until the clip is edited into the Timeline. You can also preview channel audio by skimming them in the Audio Inspector.

Working with individual channels allows you to adjust levels independently for each channel, as well as trim and add fades for each channel – all without losing sync.

To close all the components into a single clip, but still retain all your changes, select Collapse Audio Components. Unlike collapsed audio, collapsed audio components don’t show trimming or fade settings within the clip.

DETACH AUDIO

This is a dangerous option! Unlike expanding audio or components, detaching audio breaks the sync connection between audio and video. This allows you to remove unneeded audio or video, but there’s no way to resync a clip, except for Undo.

Worse, from my point of view, if you move an audio clip – even by accident – there are no indicators that show how far out of sync the two clips are. And there’s no easy way to move audio back into sync with the video except for playing both clips and getting the lip sync to look “right.”

NOTE: You can use compound clips to “link” the audio and video together, but that isn’t the same as resync’ing. And, again, there’s no indicator that shows audio is out of sync.

My recommendation is to avoid using detach audio when all you want to do is make the audio silent. Instead, keep the audio linked and drag the volume all the way down. That way, you have the audio in sync if you ever need it in the future.

BREAK APART CLIP ITEMS

Although this is next to the audio options, this isn’t an audio setting. Instead, it’s designed for compound clips.

NOTE: A compound clip is a collection of audio, video and/or still elements stored in a single clip. FCP 7 called it a “nest.” Avid calls this a “sub-sequence.”

For example, here’s an edit with multiple clips. (The colors occur when assigning Roles to the clips.)

Select the clips you want to group, then use File > New > Compound Clip to group them into a single compound clip. (Shortcut: Option + G)

Then, use Clip > Break Apart Clip Items to deconstruct the selected compound clip back into its original elements. (Shortcut: Shift + Cmd + G)

SUMMARY

Each of these settings allows us greater control over the elements in our project. I use expand clips in every edit, while I rarely use compound clips. Plus, the flexibility and control that audio components provide make editing and adjusting multichannel audio recording simple.


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4 Responses to FCP X: Understand Audio Clip Options

  1. There is a simple way to resynch a clip when you have detached the audio. Select the detached video, click reveal in browser and do a replace edit with the browser selection

    • Larry says:

      Barry:

      Great tip! A fast way to reveal a timeline clip in the Browser is to put the playhead in the timeline clip, select it, then type Shift + F.

      Thanks,

      Larry

  2. Bill Goetz says:

    Jay, Thanks for asking about how to make full use of these audio options. And Larry, thank you for the wonderfully informative tutorial. I have often wondered how these options worked and suspected that if I knew, that knowledge would make editing easier and save time. Much appreciated!!!

  3. dhasfcpeditor says:

    its very useful for me , I have this doubt, now am clear, thank u for Larry and Jay

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