FCP X: A Better Way to Create Audio Transitions

Posted on by Larry

Adding audio and video transitions between two clips is as easy as selecting the edit point and typing Command+T. This applies the default one-second cross-dissolve to the video, with a one-second cross-fade to the audio.

However, things get trickier when you want to apply a video-only, or audio-only, transition. When I was first taught the program, I was shown how to detach the audio from the video, convert it to a connected storyline, then add the transition.

While this works, it has three large problems:
1. It runs the risk of knocking audio out of sync with video.
2. The audio cannot be re-attached to the video, only combined into a compound clip
3. It takes a lot of steps.

However, there’s an easier way and I want to show you what that is.

Two selected clips in the Primary Storyline.

Here are two clips in the Primary storyline, to which I want to apply an audio-only cross-fade. I selected both clips – you can’t just select the edit point, you need to select the clips.

Two expanded clips, with audio at the bottom.

Choose Clip > Expand Audio/Video or type Control+S. This expands the clip so we can see both the audio (bottom) and video (top) portions of the clip. However, the audio and video are still linked; if the clip is moved, both audio and video move together with it in sync.

Dragging the Out to the right.

Drag the Out of the out-going clip to the right. Notice that the two audio clips now overlap, though the video edit has not moved.

Dragging the In left, the clips now overlap.

Drag the In of the in-coming clip to the left until you have the overlap you want.

Two key points:
1. Since each clip is adjusted individually, transitions can be asymmetrical; you can move one side of the edit more than another.
2. Dragging the audio of an expanded clip does not affect the video, or the video edit point.

Drag fade handles to determine duration of the cross-fade.

From the edge of each clip, drag the fade handle to determine the length of the fade on each clip.

Control-click to display fade shape popup menu.

To change the shape of the fade, Control+click the fade handle to display the fade shape popup menu.

Linear is best for fades to/from black.
S-Curve offers an “ease-in/ease-out” to the fade.
+3 dB is best for transitions between audio clips
-3 dB is best when you are trying to avoid a pop at the beginning or ned of the transition.

Use these suggestions as guides, whichever transition sounds best is, obviously, the best choice.

The finished results.

Select the fade shape you want to use – you can apply a different fade shape to each side of the transition – and FCP X displays the results in the shading at the end of each clip. In this example, I’ve added an S-curve to the top clip and a -3 dB curve to the bottom clip. (In real-life, I’m either using the +3 dB or -3 dB curve to most of my edits.)

I really like the speed, and flexibility, this method offers to improving the sound of our audio transitions, without running the risk of clips going out of sync.


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12 Responses to FCP X: A Better Way to Create Audio Transitions

  1. Ron Robinson says:

    Thanks Larry! I’ll be using this tip in just a few minutes! BTW, I’m liking FCP X, especially as I find where things are and navigate around the interface more easily — it works for the web-based teaching modules I’m editing. Thanks for your continued expert input!

  2. Ginsek says:

    Thank you for the tip, although I think it is still requires too many steps compare to FCP 7, where you could select audio only and apply transition with the shortcut the same way you would do for video. Like you say in the first sentence “Adding audio and video transitions between two clips is as easy as selecting the edit point and typing Command+T”. Why can’t we add it the same way for either video or audio depending on which one is selected? I’m sure there is a reason why this is not possible.

  3. Ian Bailey says:

    I can see how it’s more flexible than the legacy FCP method, however it could be better. I’d like to see an audio roll tool that can be toggled to either roll as you’d expect or that creates a crossfade as you drag, similar to the crossfade or truncate overlap options in Soundtrack Pro.

  4. Cam says:

    In Preferences, changing “Apply transitions using” to “full overlap” will cause it to not bump the audio out of sync.

  5. John Matthews says:

    Thanks for the tip Larry, but this is still very convoluted. I do worry about the application of this software in a fast turnaround broadcast situation, where you find yourself firing on many audio transitions across cuts, sometimes only 1 to 2 frames in duration, to quickly smooth things out.

    I can’t ever see a situation where you would simultaneously want a 1 second dissolve on audio and vision, so this a curious default.
    I’ve yet to take the plunge in a big way with FCPX, but one of the things the broadcast boys love about FCP 7 over Avid is its freeform approach to editing. Its very tactile, you just plonk things on the timeline open up gaps close them again. It doesn’t care where your media is (so you take control) you can have umpteen sequences on the go at once, cutting and pasting between, etc. etc. I love it. I’m excited about learning FCPX if its better, but some of the defaults are worrying.

    J

  6. Eric Beels says:

    Thought I would throw this out there:

    http://alex4d.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/fcpx-transition-sound-only/

    It’s a transition by alex4D (has other really great plugins) and it acts and looks like a regular transition, except it ONLY effects the audio! I highly recommend checking it out

  7. Has anyone found a way to set an audio fade shape as a default? I’d rather not use the ramp as the default and it would save a ton of clicking to be able to set one of the others as the default.

  8. Peter says:

    I’m just looking in to transferring from FCP 7 to X. I have a trail version and just wanted to do a simple audio transition over 5 or 10 frames. I’m shocked at how time consuming one transition has been made out to be. It would take me for ever to do 40 audio transitions which would take just under a couple of min in FCP7. Am I missing something here?

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Peter:

      Well, maybe.

      You are correct that there is not a single keyboard shortcut to add an audio dissolve. The trade off is that we have a lot more control and flexibility.

      I agree, it would be nice to have both.

      Larry

  9. Eric says:

    Peter:

    Check out http://alex4d.wordpress.com/fcpx/

    He has tons of free plugins, many of which fill in missing features from FCP7. Yes, one includes an audio only transition.

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