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Controlling Audio Effects in Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X comes with a whole bunch of really useful and easy to apply sound effects/filters such as those that transform your audio so it sounds like it is in a cathedral or small room or underwater, or even on the other end of a telephone. They're all a lot of fun, and provide great solutions for all kinds of situations. 

In this article we are going to look at controlling these effects, when and where to apply them, and where and how to remove them to create a more realistic effect. 

I have an edit that involves 2 teams of safety officers talking about a job over a two way radio. For this edit to be effective I need to apply the Walkie Talkie effect to the audio, but only when the shot shows one of the officers listening to the other over the radio, not when they are on camera talking into the radio. So heres how I’d do it. 

Step 1 - Separate the Audio from the Video

Select all the clips in the timeline and choose Clip > Detach Audio or press Control- Shift-S

separated audio

The audio is removed from the clip and becomes a series of connected audio clips. This makes the process that bit easier to work with later. 

Step 2 - Create some L and J cuts

Using the Select Tool start to expand clips so that the audio from one shot overlaps the audio from the other. 

L cuts

The magnetic timeline will adjust clip positions to compensate.

Step 3 - Avoid Overlaps

As these 2 people are having a conversation it's important that they don’t end up talking over each other. 

Tidy L cuts

Use the Select Tool to trim the overlapped clips down so that they no longer overlap. 

Tip: This is not always necessary, depending on the audio contained in the overlap.

Step 4 - Start to split the audio clips

Skim through the edit until the shot shows the first person listening to the walkie talkie as the other person talks on the other end. 

Blade cut 1

Make sure the audio clip is selected and press Command-B to split the audio clip at the skimmer position.

Step 5 - Continue splitting the audio clips

Skim further through the edit until the next scene where the footage shows one person listening to whats coming over the walkie talkie. Press Command-B to split the clip there as well. 

Bladed edit

Keep going like this until the audio is chopped up into sections where either people are listening to the walkie talkie, or else they are talking into it on camera. 

Step 6 - Find the Sound Effect

Open the Effects Browser or press Command-5 and type in the search field “Walkie Talkie” or whatever effect you are searching for. 

walkie talkie search

The sound effect will appear in the browser. 

Step 7 - Apply the Effect

Drag the effect over the first of the Audio sections that represents where one character is listening to the other over the walkie talkie. 

effect dragged

Then drop the effect when the audio clip turns white to apply the effect. Press ? to play just that clip back and hear the effect. It works right?! 

TIP: you can always enhance the effect further by tweaking the default settings in the inspector window, press Command-4 to access the inspector. 

Step 8 - Apply the effect to the rest

Select the next audio clip where one character is listening to their radio. Keep Command pressed and continue to select all the other audio clips that are listening clips. 

multiple selections

In the Effects Browser double-click the Walkie Talkie effect to apply it to each of the selected audio clips at the same time. Simple.

Step 9 - Compound Clips

The Audio Edit is a little chopped up, and might be easier to work with, long term if we start to consolidate some of the clips as compound clips.

Select groups for compounds

Select clips that relate to each shot, that would normally be single audio clips connected to each video clip. Choose File > New Compound Clip or press Option-G to turn them into a compound clip. 

TIP: Double-clicking on a compound clip will open the audio clips in a new timeline where the effect parameters and the timings of the cuts can still be modified. 

Step 10 - Finish Compounding

Continue compounding all the different audio sections. 

Compound Clips a Plenty

The edit will be much neater and tidier, ready for the next stage in your edit, whatever that might be. 

There is another method that can be applied that involves using Keyframes in the timeline, but that's for another article! 

David Smith

David Smith | Articles by this author

David Smith is Scotland's most qualified Apple and Adobe certified trainer. Having completed his education at Edinburgh College of Art's BAFTA winning Film School, David moved straight into TV production, first as a Vision Mixer then quickly becoming, at the age of just 24, a director of live TV studio productions. In 2001 he moved into Higher Education where he became a lecturer in TV Production, specializing in post-production and live studio production. During this time, and working with the support of the BBC, Channel 4 and independent production companies, David was instrumental in the design, development and implementation of industry-approved vocational courses across Scotland's Colleges. In 2006, after working closely with Apple Computers to create a unique multimedia studio for education at the Music and Media Centre in Perth, David became Scotland's first Apple-Certified Trainer for Pro Apps. This led on to David forming the first Apple Authorized Training Centre for Education, north of Manchester. In 2008 David made the move to full time training and joined the ranks at Academy Class, Ltd. where he continues to train industry professionals as a certified trainer across the Adobe Creative Suite and Apple Pro Apps range.


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