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Adjusting Sound: An Overview of Premiere Audio Effects

Premiere's audio landscape improved with the release of version 6.5. Included in it is TC|Essentials, a suite of three professional audio-sweetening tools from TC|Works, a German company.

Those tools effectively replace 11 of Premiere 6.0's 20 audio effects, although Adobe still included them in Premiere 6.5.

I'll take you through the TC|Works products in a few minutes. First, though, a few fundamentals:

  1. Open the Transitions/Effects palette.

  2. Select the Audio tab.

  3. Expand all folders by opening the fly-out menu and selecting that option.

  4. As I did in Figure 10.4, drag a corner of the palette to open it wide enough to see all 24 audio effects icons.

Figure 10.4 Premiere's full set of audio effects.

There are seven categories (eight if you count DirectX, but it merely opens the TC|Works tab). If you're not an audio engineer, some of the terms—Bandpass, Channel, and EQ—may be a bit obtuse.

Here's a quick take on the categories:

Bandpass—These three effects remove specific audio frequencies. However, there's no reason I can think of to use them because the TC|Works TC EQ tool handles the features of all three Bandpass effects. Highpass removes low frequencies (it "passes" high frequencies through), Lowpass removes high frequencies, and the Notch/Hum Filter removes a specific, user-selected frequency. You can use Lowpass, for example, to create sound geared for a subwoofer or use Notch/Hum Filter to remove power-line noise (a narrow 60 Hz tone in the United States).

Channel—Five effects handle one very basic function—adjusting where you hear the signal (left, right, or somewhere in between). Auto Pan lets you automate sound going back and forth from the right channel to the left. You can use the timeline's audio track blue "pan" rubberband to do most of the channel functions as well.

TIP

To access that blue audio pan rubberband, click the small triangle next to Audio 1 to expand the audio track (just as you did when you used the red "volume" rubberband in Hour 7, "Adding Audio"). Click the blue icon to open the blue audio pan rubberband. Dragging the blue line up moves the audio to the left channel, sliding the line down, moves the audio to the right channel. You can add "handles" by clicking the blue line and dragging those handles up or down.

DirectX—Simply accesses the TC|Works effects.

Dynamics—Boost, Compressor, and Noise Gate all adjust volume characteristics. The TC|Works Dynamics filter replicates and refines these functions.

EQ—Equalization. TC|Works also tackles this section's three functions: Bass & Treble, Equalize, and Parametric Equalization. If you have an ounce of audiophile in you, you probably have an equalizer on some stereo equipment. Basically it lets you selectively change the volume for specific frequency ranges.

Effect—This may be Premiere's most enjoyable set of audio effects. I'll have you put them through their paces in a few minutes. Chorus adds one or more voices to a single voice (or instrument) by replicating the original sound at a slightly different frequency ("detuning" it). Do that a couple times and you have, well, a chorus. But it can sound kind of "warbly." Flanger creates a similar effect using a different technique. It inverts the phase of the audio signal at its center frequency. And Multi-Effect takes something close to the Chorus effect and constantly shifts the pitch of the added voice.

Reverb & Delay—The TC|Works Reverb tool smoothly handles most of the functions of these three effects. Echo is what you'd expect—a direct repetition of your audio set for a specific delay. Reverb is like Echo but muffles the repeated and delayed sound to simulate an acoustic environment, such as a large room. TC|Works handles both functions better. Multitap Delay is the only Premiere audio effect in this section that TC|Works does not replicate. It lets you turn on up to four delayed audio "taps." I'll go over this in detail later. As an exercise, I'll suggest you experiment with this fun effect.

TC|Works—This set of three tools—Dynamics, EQ, and Reverb—takes on virtually all the functions of the Premiere Dynamics, EQ, and Reverb & Delay audio effect sections. At first its interface, illustrated in Figure 10.5, is a bit daunting, but you'll come to enjoy its responsiveness and customizability.

Figure 10.5 The TC|Works EQ interface. One of three TC|Works tools that at first may appear complicated but will end up improving your project's audio quality.

Task: Add an Audio Effect to a Clip

I'll save TC|Works for last and first go through the basics of how you add, preview, and layer multiple audio effects. Follow these steps to add an audio effect to a clip:

  1. Add a video/audio or audio-only clip to the timeline.

  2. Drag and drop the Lowpass effect (from the Bandpass Audio Effects folder) on your audio clip.

  3. Open the Effect Controls palette. The Effect Controls palette has two controls and two check boxes. The little f I've highlighted in Figure 10.6 indicates the effect is enabled (or functioning). The bottom of the screen tells you one effect is enabled. Click the f and that number changes to 0.

  4. Click the other, empty check box. The little stopwatch I've highlighted in Figure 10.6 indicates that keyframing is enabled. I'll cover keyframing in Hour 11 (see the following note). Uncheck Keyframing.

  5. You can change the two Lowpass controls from within the Effect Controls palette, but clicking Setup opens the Lowpass Filter Settings dialog box, which lets you preview the audio as you make changes. So, click Setup.

  6. Click the Preview Sound check box and then experiment with the Lowpass Filter settings. This filter cuts out higher frequencies but lets you mix the original full-frequency clip with the altered lower-frequency version. Under the Mix setting, Dry means you'll hear only the original clip, and Effect means you'll hear only the Lowpass version. Any frequency above the cutoff frequency will not play in the "Effect" portion of this clip.

  7. Find settings that work for you and click OK. Note that the new setting values show up in the Effect Controls palette.

Figure 10.6 The Lowpass Filter with the enabling "f" and keyframing stopwatch highlighted.

NOTE

Keyframing is similar to adding handles to the red "volume" rubberband. To get a brief idea of what's to come, leave the keyframing stopwatch "on" in the Effect Controls palette and expand the audio track with the selected audio clip. As I've highlighted in Figure 10.7, to the left of the red rubberband icon you'll see a gray/white diamond. Click it and a blue/white line replaces the red rubberband line. You'll use this line to change an audio or video effect's value within the clip. Not all effects offer keyframing. Now, uncheck the stopwatch icon to disable keyframing.

Figure 10.7 The keyframing icon. Note that Premiere identifies the current audio effect in the expanded audio track.

Task: Add Multiple Audio Effects to a Clip

You can add multiple audio (and video) effects to the same clip. Here's how:

  1. Keep Lowpass enabled and drag Auto Pan to the same audio clip or to that clip's Effect Controls palette. As shown in Figure 10.8, this adds Auto Pan below Lowpass in the palette.

  2. Click Setup. That opens the Auto Pan Settings dialog box.

  3. Click the Preview Sound check box and listen. Your Lowpass-adjusted clip will now zip back and forth between your right and left speakers. Experiment with the settings. Depth adjusts how "wide" the pans will be, and Rate specifies how quickly the pans will take place. If the idea of motion sickness appeals to you, set the Rate relatively high. Whew.

  4. Click OK to close the Auto Pan Settings dialog box. Note that your new settings appear in the Effect Controls palette.

Figure 10.8 Each additional effect that you add to a clip shows up in the Effect Controls palette.

NOTE

For a little fun, add both a Highpass and Lowpass filter to a clip. Set each to full Effect Mix, meaning don't play any of the original full-frequency clip, and set high and low cutoff frequencies to the same value in the middle of the audio spectrum—5,000 Hz or so. The result should be silence.

The palette works on a first-come, first-served basis. If you click Setup in the Palette's top effect (in this case, Lowpass) and select Preview Sound, you will hear only the Lowpass effect. If you select Setup for the effect below Lowpass in the Effect Controls palette (in this case, Auto Pan), you'll hear the combined result of the two effects—and so on down the line. Each subsequent effect adds itself to those above it.

To isolate just the Auto Pan effect, disable Lowpass by clicking (turning off) its little f icon. Now if you preview Auto Pan, you'll hear only that specific effect.

To remove an effect from the palette, select it by clicking its name. Then click the wastebasket icon at the bottom of the palette (pressing the Delete key also will remove the clips from the timeline).

TIP

If you want to change the order of the effects in the Effect Controls palette, just drag an effect up or down until a horizontal line appears. Then drop that effect in the new location.

Generally there is no need to render audio effects on the timeline to hear them (see the following caution). Simply place your edit line on your clip and press the spacebar or the play button in the Program Monitor window to listen to your audio effect in real-time.

CAUTION

Depending on your computer's processor power and overall system performance, you may hear pops and clicks while playing back audio with more than one effect or from more than one track. In this case, you will need to render or use Premiere's new Real-time Preview feature to hear the combined audio effects.

If you hear those pops and clicks, you should change the audio rendering settings to more accurately reflect your system's power. Select Project, Project Settings, Audio. Then reduce the number of audio tracks and audio effects so Premiere won't try to play back too many audio tracks and effects on the fly. I've highlighted those numbers in Figure 10.9.

Figure 10.9 Use the Audio Project Settings dialog box to reduce the number of audio tracks and effects (filters) to minimize audio popping and clicking when listening to multiple audio effects.

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