Movie clip sound analysis & replacement exercise demo ‘Apocalypse Now’

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For this demonstration of replacing a video clip soundtrack, we have a 1 minute edited clip from the Vietnam War movie ‘Apocalypse Now’. The audio has been removed.

Our job is to watch the clip, analyze the on-scren action and make notes with ideas for appropriate replacement sound effects (Sound FX), including rough timing.

Here’s the 1 minute clip (no audio):

You can see (and hear) the completed project video at the bottom of this page.

Watch the clip, analyze and make notes
First job was to analyze the clip and make typewritten notes about the on-screen action, and list possible sound FX that could be used and when in the timeline.

To download the sample notes for this project click the link below:

Gather suitable audio files
After deciding on the types of sounds required, search the internet for free sound FX files and collate collected audio files into categorised folders. e.g ‘Helicpoters’, ‘Machine guns’, ‘Explosions, ‘Music’. It’s best to use .wav, .aif, .aiff or .aac files rather than .mp3 files, as .mp3 files are comparatively lower quality as they do not contain very low or very high frequencies, and their sample rates are often too low. Some audio and video editing programs don’t handle the .mp3 CODEC very well. (Compressor DECompressor)

When hunting for free audio files, often .mp3 will be the only download choice. In that case, it’s usually best to use a conversion utility or audio program to convert them from .mp3 to one of the other formats mentioned above before importing and working with them in an audio or video project.

Note that converting an .mp3 to another format will not improve the quality, but may make it easier for your audio or video editing program to work with them, particularly in big projects involving lots of sound FX files and multiple audio tracks.

VERY IMPORTANT: File management – before you start editing!
Make sure to create a hierarchy of project folders first before starting any actual editing, like this:

The working video clip, without the soundtrack, goes into the Source video clips folder

Good file management will make your editing life easier and eliminate the risk of missing files, particularly if you move your project to another computer or drive.

Adobe Audition
Once you have all your assets (required component files) filed properly in appropriate folders, open Adobe Audition.

Adobe Audition – working with video – Importing video and working with video clips

New Multitrack Session
Create a New Multitrack Session using the default settings: in this example it was named ‘Apocalypse helicopters’ and stored in the folders ‘Audition project files/AU Project file’. I had also made another folder inside the Audition project files folder called Export to Premiere XML, where once the audio editing is finished, Audition will export its audio tracks to PremierePro for the final video editing. (XML is one of the kinds of files Audition will generate when exporting to PremierePro).

Import assets
Go to the File Menu and Import the source video file (the clip without the soundtrack) from the Source video clips folder. It will appear in Audition’s Media Browser window.

Import all the sounds FX file assets you have collated from your Sounds folder. The sound file assets will appear in Audition’s Media Browser window.

Get multitracks ready for editing
Select the video file in Audition’s Media Browser window, right mouse click it and select Insert Into Multitrack, selecting the name of the multitrack you created previously. In this case, the Multitrack is called Apocalypse helicopters.

The video clip will appear in the video window, and a Video Reference track will appear at the top of the multitrack editing window.

Rename audio tracks, add extra tracks if needed
It’s now a good idea to rename the default audio tracks. In this example, I renamed tracks 1 – 5 for helicopters, tracks 6 & 7 for explosions, track 8 for machine guns, and so on.

Add more tracks as needed: Menu > tracks > Add Mono Audio Track (unless your sound files are stereo and you need a Stereo Audio Track)

Start editing and composing the new soundscape
It’s now a matter of watching the video and inserting sound files at the appropriate time. Drag the sound files left and right to time them with the visual action.

Adjust volume levels
As you play the video or pull the playhead along the timeline, keep an eye on the VU (volume unit) meter at the bottom of the Audition window. The more audio tracks and files you add, the louder the overall volume will be. We’re aiming to keep the loudest peas volume at or below -6 db. We want to keep the VU meter out of the red (green and orange is OK). Individual track volume levels can be adjusted with the wheel icon on the left of each track, or type a number into the blue field next to the volume wheel.

Audition Multitrack editing environment. click image for larger view

Save your work often!

Prepare to export audio from Audition to PremierePro for final video-audio composite
Once the Audition editing is complete and saved, keep Audition open and hide it (Cmd+H):

Open PremierePro. Create a New Project, name it and save it in the Premiere project file folder you created earlier. Select HDV as the Capture Format. Click OK

(Click here for more details of PremierePro New Project & Sequences Settings)

Import the soundless video clip you used earlier in Audition. PremierePro Menu: File > Import

The video file will appear in PremierPro’s Project window.

Drag the video file from the Project window to the timeline window at the right. It will create a Sequence with a purple timeline, and the video will be visible in the Program panel.

Save your Premiere project: Menu: File > Save (Ctrl+S)

Go back to Audition
You can use the Ctrl+Tab keys to find it.

In Audition, go to Menu: Multitrack > Export to Adobe Premiere Pro

For the location, select the Export to Premiere XML folder you created earlier. Make sure the box Open in Adobe PremierePro is ticked.

Audition will create all the necessary export files, put them into the Export to Premiere XML folder, then bring PremierePro to the front with the following message: Copy Adobe Audition Tracks

Now back in PremierePro: Select Audio 1 as the choice

You should see all the Audition audio tracks listed in the Project window, and each will have its own timeline track in the Sequence window, along with the silent video clip.

PremierePro. Audition tracks imported and placed in the Sequence. Click image for larger view

To adjust the final volume levels, if necessary:
Play the video or pull the Playhead along in the Sequence window. Make sure the audio does not peak above -6 db. If it needs adjusting, do this:

PremierePro Menu: Window > Audio Track Mixer

The Audio mixer will appear, with level control faders for each audio track, plus a Master track fader. Here you can tweak the overall balance of individual tracks and adjust the Master volume levels – keep an eye on the VU meter; don’t trust your ear!

The volume of track 6 (an explosion) is too loud, causing the VU meter to peak at 0 db.
Track 6 fader will have to be reduced (and perhaps the Master fader) to keep all audio
peaks at or under -6 db. Click image for larger view.

Once you have adjusted all the volumes, save your project.

Exporting final video file from Premiere using Adobe Media Encoder

You can export direct from PremierePro, but there are more choices for export CODEC types in Adobe Media Encoder. If you have multiple Sequences in PremierePro that you want to export, it’s easier to Queue them up and send them to Media Encoder. When Media encoder is processing any projects in its Queue, you can keep working in PremierePro, or quit it entirely.

Go to Premiere Menu: File > Export > Media

The Export Settings window opens.
Select H264 as the Format (this can be changed later if necessary in Media Encoder)
Click the name (blue text) – a ‘Save As’ window will open where you can select the destination Exported Final Clip folder you set up originally. By default, the export video file name takes the name of the Premiere Sequence being exported, but you can change it in this step if you wish.

Premiere Export Settings. Click image for larger view

Adobe Media Encoder will open (may take a couple of minutes, so be patient!)

Adobe Media Encoder. Click image for larger view

When Media Encoder has finished, check the output video (should be in the Exported Final Clip folder you set up originally.)

If everything’s OK, you can now go back to PremierePro and Audition (Ctrl+Tab) and close the programs. ‘Save’, if prompted.

Make sure to quit the program properly by selecting Quit from the Adobe Audition menu or Crtl+Q.

Final video with new soundtrack

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PremierePro New Project & Sequences Settings

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