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Gain Adjust: Absolute vs Relative Audio In Final Cut Pro

Let's take a look at Gain Adjust and the difference between absolute and relative audio changes in your timeline By Kevin McAuliffe

Nothing drives an editor crazier than when they have gotten to the end of a project, and the producer/director says "Can you bring the on-camera dialog up 5db across the board?" Most editors, at this point, would run screaming out of the edit suite, as it always takes forever to go clip by clip to raise the audio universally, especially if you have adjusted that specific track to varying levels throughout your entire show. Well, believe it or not, there is no need to pull any of your hair out, as this is an extremely easy thing to fix, so let's take a look at Gain Adjust and the difference between absolute and relative audio changes in your timeline.

Once you have finished your piece, and you want to raise the level of your audio, select all the audio that you want to adjust the volume on, then navigate your way to MODIFY>LEVELS (or CMD+OPT+L). Once you let go of the mouse, you are greeted by this screen.


You now have two parameters you can adjust. First, how much you want to raise or lower your audio, and which method you would like to use, absolute or relative. For our first example, we'll say that you want to set your audio on your selected clips to -5db. You are first going to drag your slider bar to -5db (or punch in -5 in the input window), and you are going to use "Absolute" to change the value. That means that no matter what you have your audio set to, whether it's 0db or -15db, every clip that you have selected will be changed to -5b.

Now, let's say that you have mixed your entire show, and the director has decided that he/she wants all your on-camera dialog brought down by 5db, but you have mixed everything, and almost every clip has a different audio level. No problem. You are going to call up the "Gain Adjust" window again, you are going to adjust the slider, or just input -5db, and instead of "Absolute", you are going to change it to "Relative". Now what Final Cut Pro is going to do is change the value of each selected clip relative to what it is currently set at. Think of it this way, what FCP is going to do is subtract 5db from whatever the value is of each selected clip. If the value of the first clip was 0db and the value of the second clip is +2db, then they will now become -5db and -3db respectively.

This is a great feature to keep in your back pocket, as I have clients asking all the time for universal changes to the audio, and I can give it to them quickly and easily.


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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com


Related Keywords:NLE, video editing, audio editing, audio tools, gain adjust

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