Final Cut Pro X Audio Tips

FCP XFinal Cut Pro X is a powerful video editing tool used by video makers both amateur and professional alike. We’ve used Final Cut Pro X (FCP X for short) extensively to edit the daily vlogs and have found it to be a fairly intuitive and feature-rich editing platform.

If there is one component of any video that absolutely must be done correctly, it’s audio. It’s easy to forgive blurry or shaky video, but overlooking bad audio is another story entirely. Many viewers of online content have videos running in the background of other tasks, making them little more than audio productions. You want to shoot for excellence in every area you can, but the world has a little less leniency towards audio distortion.

So, after having worked with Final Cut Pro X to some extent, I’ve developed an audio workflow that works best for what we do — at least most of the time. Here are some tips I’ve discovered to help make audio sound better in Final Cut Pro X.

Effects

It’s easy to reach down and attempt to simply raise or lower the track volume to improve the levels of your audio. Unfortunately, this rarely improves the way things sound, and you’re still left with harsh peaking and gain distortion. Your audio might be a little louder, but it’ll hardly be “better.”

Instead, consider taking a look at the audio effects included with FCP X. These can be found by clicking on the two overlapping squares along the right side of the editing window. Audio and video effects are kept apart for easy browsing.

Of all these built-in effects, the two I’d recommend starting with are the Logic Compressor and Final Cut Limiter. These two effects work well together, giving your audio a clean, balanced sound without risking the occasional peaks. Once you apply the Compressor effect on your audio track, you can adjust it in the track properties menu under Audio. There are several vocal compressors as well as some instrument effects. Vocal Compressor 1 is great for audio that is decidedly low, while Vocal Compressor 3 provides a balanced tone that sounds natural and less compressed.

Take some time and play around with these options. You can always right-click and remove them from a track if things aren’t working out.

Volume and Pan

Boosting the volume of a track isn’t something that should be done first, though it can help in cases where you’re working with a clip that has already been mastered and processed, but was rendered too low or high. A slight bump in the volume will add no noticeable gain distortion, but a bit too much will fill your track with overdriven, scratchy tones.

Lowering the audio volume is a great way to “duck” it under other tracks. Let’s say you’re doing a voiceover and the original track needs to stay in the background. You can duck it down by 12-20 dB and it might just be enough to give your voice plenty of headroom to be heard clearly. This is especially useful in cases where you’re talking over music.

Audio Enhancements

Borrowed from iMovie, Audio Enhancements are baked right in to the audio properties of any track. This tool analyzes your track for background noise, electronic hiss, and volume. You can use this tool to filter out background noise while boosting your volume and loudness to the desired levels. An equalizer sits on the main properties menu allowing you to do some basic refining.

There are arguably many better tools for doing this in the Effects area, though for quick and dirty edits there are few easier ways to enhance audio and get the track ready for publishing.

I’d recommend using the Auto button as sparingly as possible, though. Final Cut Pro X is great at a lot of things, but guessing how an audio track should sound isn’t one of them.

Third-party Plug-ins

You can find and download a variety of third-party plug-ins for Final Cut Pro X. Visual plug-ins add easy to use effects to the editor which can be easily clicked and dragged to your clip. This is the same with audio effects.

Apple has a list of useful plug-ins for FCP X posted on its site. Not all of them are free, but many of them can be quite useful.

What are your favorite FCP X tips? Share them in the comments section below and let us know.

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • http://twitter.com/Phryyyk Jake Cumberpatch

    Great article Chris. I’ve been a music producer/engineer for some years and have recently moved into video editing (mostly live events for schools and such like) and have been using FCPX and Premiere Pro for the last year or so. I always edit the audio using Logic because that’s my bread and butter and the advice here for beginners is just right; louder isn’t better, clarity is. There was a lot of hate for FCPX when it came out, but I didn’t know any better so I stuck with it. While I find the Adobe workflow more fluent and intuitive, using FCPX and Logic works wonders for me.

  • http://twitter.com/JeremyCupp Jeremy Cupp

    How is the learning curve with FCPX? I have been using premier pro for the past couple months and it has been very difficult to learn compared to the other Adobe cloud products I use daily.

    • http://twitter.com/Phryyyk Jake Cumberpatch

      I find the timeline a lot easier to manage with FCPX and a basic work flow is a lot simpler to control, but a lot of the more advanced options and tools aren’t as accessible as Premiere Pro. Tie in Premiere Pro with After Effects and you’ve got a simple and incredibly versatile kit, capable of producing extremely professional results. While FCPX projects can be work on with After Effects, it isn’t as straightforward to get there.

      • http://twitter.com/JeremyCupp Jeremy Cupp

        Thanks. Cant you edit video with just After Effects? I’ve only used it to make a youtube intro from a tutorial.