How to Edit Digital Film Audio

Making sure the audio is just right is a necessary part of the DSLR moviemaking process. Unfortunately, sometimes audio capture is inconsistent with each clip. Sometimes the audio levels are slightly higher than optimal; other times, they’re too low.

Mix the film audio

The key to video that sounds just right lies in the audio mix. Mixing the audio involves adjusting the volume levels to maintain proper sound and making sure the other audio channels proportionately match it.

Get the film’s audio levels right

The first thing you should do is open the audio meter by going to Window→Audio Meters.

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Premiere Elements offers several ways to fix it:

  • You can fix it on the timeline. If you look at the audio track, you’ll notice a waveform and yellow line running horizontally across the audio track of each clip. By mousing over the line and grabbing it, you can pull it down to lower the volume or raise it to increase it.

  • Use the audio mixer. Go to Tools→Audio Mixer and adjust each clip using it.

Consider the following when adjusting volume levels:

  • Keep audio levels from peaking. When levels are too high, clipping, a tap-like distortion, can occur. Make sure levels are within range on every track to avoid this problem.

  • Use Gain. Go to Clip→Audio Options→Gain. Change the numerical value. Remember, a level of 0.0 dB is the original volume. Changing the level to a negative number reduces the volume, and changing the level to a positive number increases it.

  • Make key frames. Sometimes the volume level differs on the same clip with one part too loud and others too low. Key frames allow you to isolate a portion of the track to make changes. Raise and lower the volume on them as needed.

    You can do this right on the timeline by putting the CTI over the desired area and clicking the middle “diamond” to the left of the track. Make as many as you need and then raise or lower them appropriately.

Separate the film’s audio tracks

The audio and video tracks are synched together so they don’t separate when you move them, but in some situations, you want them separated. For example, maybe you want to show a clip of a subject talking about the old neighborhood, and discussing, say, the grocery store that sold milk for a dime, and then you would use his audio track under the footage of the busy avenue.

Other times, you may want to use audio from one clip with video from another. In order to do either, you need to separate audio from video.

To do so, go to Clip→ Unlink Audio and Video.

Observe the film’s audio with your eyes through waveforms

Those squiggly lines on the audio track may look like the cardiogram from your last physical, but they are actually a visual representation of the audio levels in the movie clip. Besides looking cool, they come in very handy when making your movie. These waveforms

  • Let you know where the sound begins and ends

  • Give you an idea when audio levels are too low or too high

  • Provide a great guide for making an accurate cut on the clip

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