Want to add an extra level of polish and professionalism to your edits? How about increasing your efficiency, leaving you more time to craft the story rather than smoothing out audio?

Luckily for us, Premiere (and other popular programs) comes with many basic audio tools and effects. Learning the nuances of these tools helps avoid a lot of guesswork and trial and error. Let’s get started.

 

Know Your Crossfades

The crossfade is the most widely used audio transition of all time—not only for filmmakers, but for music producers, DJ’s, and more. A crossfade works by smoothly raising or lowering the volume of audio clips to which it is applied. While this concept is simple, knowing the different types of crossfades can add a level of polish to your edits. In Premiere, there are three types of fades to choose from.

 

Constant Power

editing audio in premiere - constant power

The Constant Power is the default crossfade in Premiere. This means that when you press the keyboard shortcut for an audio crossfade (CMD+SHIFT+D), a Constant Power fade is applied to your selected cut point. (Replace CMD with CTRL on Windows)

The Constant Power transition applies a smooth, gradual fade between clips. This effect is the most similar to a cross dissolve in the video.

 

Constant Gain

editing audio in premiere - constant gain

Constant Gain is more seldom used because it can sometimes sound abrupt. This fade works by decreasing (or increasing) audio at a constant rate. This is a subtle difference from Constant Power, which smooths the rate at which the volume is automated.

I tend to only use the Constant Gain effect when the other fades aren’t working for some reason. There have been several occasions where a crossfade transition sounded a little off, and changing it to a Constant Gain resolved the issue.

 

Exponential Fade

editing audio in premiere

The exponential fade is an extremely useful and often overlooked transition. This fade works by starting the volume adjustment slowly and then increasing it faster and faster (exponentially) until it is finished.

Because of its exponential curve, this transition can be used for specific purposes. I will often use an Exponential Fade at the end of my edits because it allows for a shorter fade out without sounding too abrupt. This is also useful when trying to fade out quickly after a music hit, lyric, or measure.

Exponential fades are also great at smoothing out cut-up dialogue. Because of its curve, it allows for a smooth transition before, between, and after individual words and syllables.

BONUS TIP: Hold SHIFT while adjusting the length of crossfade to only alter one side at a time.

 

Master the Pen Tool

The pen tool (‘P’ on the keyboard) is a versatile tool within Premiere. In the audio department, the pen tool is used to draw automation by hand. The pen tool, while slower to use than preset effects like crossfades, offers the most precision when manipulating audio levels.

The pen tool seems pretty basic but actually has some hidden features. After creating a keyframe (the little dots along the volume line that can be created with the pen tool), holding COMMAND on Mac or CONTROL on Windows and then pressing the keyframe again changes it from a linear curve to a bezier curve.

Bezier curves allow you to manually adjust the rate at which volume is automated. This is achieved by clicking and dragging on either of the blue dotted handles connected to the keyframe.

 

using pen tool in premiere pro

Using the pen tool for manual adjustments allows for the highest precision audio work, especially useful for smoothing out dialogue levels and ducking music.

 

Use Bracket Keys to Adjust Volume

The bracket keys [ ] are located above the ENTER key on the right side of your keyboard. When an audio keyframe is selected, tapping the left bracket lowers that keyframe, while the right bracket increases the level. Audio keyframes are those points in the image above that control the volume.

Using the brackets while selecting multiple keyframes is especially useful. By affecting more than one keyframe at once, it raises or lowers whatever section you choose. This can be used, for example, to highlight clips from an interviewee who spoke more softly than his counterpart and raise up the volume just by tapping a key on the keyboard.

 

Nudge Frame Shortcut

The Nudge Frame Shortcut is CMD+Left/Right. Using this shortcut will move all selected clips by exactly one frame in your chosen direction. For video, this is a good way to make tiny adjustments while searching for the perfect cut point.

Similarly, for audio, nudging clips by a frame can help to find the perfect audio cut point. I often nudge audio clips when making music cuts and trying to line up the cut seamlessly on a beat.

This method of micro adjustments is great for finding the best sounding transition spot. Even without understanding the techniques behind cutting music, nudging a cut point until it “sounds right” is much easier with this shortcut.

Best of all, the nudge frame tool preserves all video and audio transitions between clips.

BONUS TIP: hold SHIFT while nudging clips to move them by five frames at once instead of one.

 

Audio Time Units

Sometimes when you are nudging clips left or right, searching for that perfect cut point or synchronization, things sound a tiny bit off. You try going one frame to the left, then to the right, but the audio still isn’t perfectly lined up how it should be.

By default, our sequence in Premiere shows us a frame-based timeline. This means that one frame is the smallest unit of time that we can travel. That’s as precise as we can get, meaning sometimes the audio doesn’t get lined up just right.

However, by switching your timeline to “Show Audio Time Units” (see picture below), you can now zoom much further into the waveform. Now you can make more exact adjustments without the previous limitations.

 

premiere pro show audio time units

This is made possible because Premiere will now ignore the timing of the video frames and show you a sample-based timeline. After you make your adjustments here, remember to uncheck “Show Audio Units” to return to normal frame-based editing.

 

—-

 

AUTHOR
Jason Brandel,

Filmmaker/Video Editor

Jason is currently offering the Soundsnap community a 95% discount on his top-rated online course, The Complete Audio Guide for Video Editors, which includes 4.5 hours of in-depth video tutorials. Clicking the link automatically applies your discount.