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FCP X Voice Over Editing: Long Projects

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Working With Audio course!

I’ve found Final Cut Pro X to be an excellent platform to record and edit voiceover work, especially long form work. By taking advantage of the Magnetic Timeline, Range tool, Compound Clips, and the like, we can make quick, easy work of ADR, narrative, and other such projects. Let us take a look at the step by step workflow to make long form VO much easier to work with.


Step 1 - Recording Set-Up

In FCP X create a new Event (Option-N) and a new Project (Command-N) as necessary. When creating the new Project set it to use the proper default Event you created and set Audio And Render settings are to: Custom, Stereo, 48kHz, Apple ProRes 422.  

With the new Event and Project both open go to the Window menu, click Record Audio. This opens the audio recording floating window. Set the Destination to your chosen Event. Each recording made will be placed into this specified Event, as well as into your open Project. Specify the Input device your mic is connected through. Recite a bit of your script to verify the levels. You do not want your audio living in the red area of the meters, but just below that. If your audio I/O device won’t get loud enough or gets too loud, use the Gain control to wrangle it in. Finally, set the Monitor settings as desired. 

Recording setup



Step 2 - Recording A Single Take

When recording short takes such as 30 second TV or Radio spots, ADR and the like, we can record several individual takes. Be sure the playhead is at the start of the Timeline (Home key) then click the red Record button in the Record Audio floating window. Recording begins. When you’re finished with your take, click the button again or hit the spacebar. The playhead will jump back to the start of the Timeline automatically.  

When you make a mistake, simply pause your speaking, take a breath and begin that sentence over again without stopping your recording session. Go all the way through your script in one long recording.

A tip I want to throw in here (based on my own experience): If you think of something you wanted to say earlier in the recording, pause, add a spoken note to remind you of what it is, say it, then pick up where you left off in the original script, never stop the recording. Editing will be a breeze.


Step 3 - Editing The Single Recording

Drag this one long recording into the Primary Timeline. Delete the Gap Clip that may follow it if necessary. Once in the Primary Storyline, apply a Noise Gate and adjust if needed. If you plan to use this recording set up again save your audio effects as Presets.

In the Timeline Settings menu (switch icon, bottom right) select the icon on the left to show only audio waveforms and set the track height so you can see the waveforms very clearly. Pull the Toolbar at the top of the Timeline window up to give it more height to work in.

From the start of the Timeline start playback. When you find a bad sections use the Range Select tool (R) to select that range, and press Shift-delete to ripple delete that section. If you find a spot with a pop or a click, select that range and use Delete alone to replace it with a Gap Clip so the overall timing of the script isn’t changed. The Range tool lets you work much faster and easier than the Blade (B) tool can.

With the Selection Tool (A) you can drag sections before and after each other, taking full advantage of the magnetic properties of the Storyline. You may need to zoom in and out of the Timeline for these operations, so use the shortcuts of Command and the plus or minus keys just below the function keys of your keyboard.

You can also use the Insert Gap Clip (1) and trimming it to the proper duration by highlighting it, typing Control-D then the desired duration. This will create regions of added silence, if needed.

Finish by selecting all segments of the edit (Command-A) and creating a Compound Clip (Option-G).  

Editing the single recording


Step 4 - Finalizing The Edit

Once finished you have one single Compound Clip to deal with. At this point you can apply the Channel EQ in the Logic section (Command-5) of audio effects. This applies the EQ to the work as a whole, rather than having to EQ each clip individually. You can also now keyframe the audio level to the single Compound Clip to make it work with other video elements, allowing you to work much easier.  

Finalizing the edit


Lagniappe (a.k.a. Bonus)

I’ll let you in on two tricks that have helped me work even faster and easier with VO work using two custom keyboard shortcuts. 

Go to File > Commands > Customize (or Option-Command-K). In this window at the very top left, choose Duplicate from the menu. We are duplicating the default FCP X keyboard layout in order to customize it, and give it an appropriate name. FCP X won’t let you change its factory default layout, thankfully. 

In the very upper right is a search field. Type in the word “audio” there. This will limit our search to only those options containing the word audio. In the bottom left pane scroll down and highlight “Window” to see the Window menu options that have the word audio in them. In the lower center pane you’ll see the options listed. Highlight the Audio Recording option. Then press the 0 key at the top of your keyboard (not the zero on the numeric keypad). 

Click the Save button at the bottom right of the window. Now the zero key is your shortcut for bringing up the Audio Record window in FCP X.

Next clear the search field and click the Z key on the keyboard image. The lower right pane shows the Key Detail, and we see there is nothing assigned for Option-Z. Let's make this “Replace With Gap” to make accessing this function faster while editing our VO work. Since we have one hand on the mouse and one hand on the keyboard, Shift-Delete is difficult to do with one hand. 

Type “replace” in the search field. Highlight the Final Cut Pro Commands in the Command Groups pane on the left.  Highlight “Replace With Gap”, and while holding the Option key, press Z. We just assigned a new keyboard shortcut to this function in addition to the others it already has. One that is easy to do with our left hand alone. Click the Save button, then the Close button.  

Replace with gap


You can now pull up the audio recording controls window with one key, (the 0 key), which will work with laptop, Bluetooth as well as extended keyboards. We can also replace a range with a Gap Clip using Option-Z with just our left hand, while our right is skimming, selecting, etc. Two simple custom shortcuts that are easy to remember and handy to have.


Conclusion

By using the easy editing tools in FCP X, voice recordings can be made and edited very quickly in record time. These flexible tools will give you options to edit your work in some very unique, creative ways. The two customized keyboard shortcuts will also help speed things along easily. Give it a try and I’m sure you’ll be pleased.


Check out our Final Cut Pro: Working With Audio course!

Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.

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