Converting Audio Files For Final Cut Pro

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the November, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]

This next tutorial came from a question that Derrick C. asked us on Facebook, but it has a longer answer:

Why doesn’t MP3 audio play nicely with Final Cut Pro? What audio formats do?

The answer is because Final Cut Pro was invented to support only uncompressed audio files. There are only three audio formats that Final Cut supports: AIF (and AIFF), WAV (and Broadcast WAV), and SDII. All compressed formats (like MP3 and AAC) need to be converted into an uncompressed format before you can edit them.

You can do this conversion in Soundtrack Pro, QuickTime, Compressor, or lots of different audio applications. Here’s an old article that explains how to do this in earlier versions of QuickTime.

In this technique, I’ll show you how to do this more easily in Compressor. Apple’s Compressor allows us to easily convert a file from compressed to uncompressed. Here’s how.

1. Open Compressor.



2. Drag the audio file you want to convert into the gray box with the downward pointing arrow.



3. Click the Settings tab (lower left) to select it. It is generally selected by default.


4. In the search box, type AIF and press Enter. There are four existing presets to convert your audio file. For video, the best choice is AIFF 48:16.



5. Grab the AIFF 48:16 setting and drag it into the Task Bar (top window) and drop it on the file you just imported. (Not in the drop box with the audio file, just anywhere in the Task Bar.)


Once you start compression, by default, it will store your audio file at the same location as the source file. While this works, I long ago developed an improved workflow.


6. Click the Destination tab to select it. (It’s just to the right of the Settings tab.)



7. Click the Plus key to create a new destination for all your compressed files.



8. Then, on your second drive create a new folder called Compressed Files. (Locating this folder on your second drive is not required, but I find it helpful to always store my media on a drive other than the boot drive.)


9. Click OK to accept that location.



A new destination, called “Compressed Files” now appears in the Custom folder.



Drag that new destination up to the Task Bar and drop it on top of the existing destination.


So, the steps to compress a file are to:

Press Submit (the first time) to send the file into compression.

Press Submit a second time to tell your computer it’s time to get started.

This is fast, with high-quality, and you already have all the software you need to convert your audio.

What makes this REALLY efficient, though, is to automate this entire process by creating a droplet. Then, you can just drop any audio files that you need to convert directly on the droplet and everything is automatic.

Here’s an article that explains how to create a droplet to automate your compression.

UPDATE – DEC. 20, 2010

Mike Jankowski writes:

Larry, as usual your newsletter is wonderful and chock full of fantastic advice. Thank you… and take some time off for the holidays!


But that audio conversion-via-Compressor bit…ugh! maybe it’s simpler if you set up a droplet and drag the file on it (don’t know, haven’t tried); but step back and look at how long it took you to explain that process.


Here’s how I do it with QT7:

1) open mp3, aac, etc, in Quicktime (usually by CNTRL clicking and “Open with”)
2) hit Apple-E (export), select AIF or WAV if it isn’t already selected.
3) save the file to the same place as the original
4) when it’s done, drag it to where it ought to live.

A WHOLE lot more simpler, no? Not batchable, no, but then I usually run into compressed files one at a time, so who needs a batch?


Not that I don’t like Compressor, it’s just too klugey for a simple transcode like this.

Larry replies: Thanks, Mike, for this technique.

Your system is perfectly fine – as long as you are converting a single file. The batch processing that droplets provide is worth the extra few steps to setup.

And, as with most things in life, it always takes a lot of steps to explain a simple thing.

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