Converting Compressed Audio Files into AIFs

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the October, 2006, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

This technique grew out of a question from Remco Timme, who wrote:

I am working in FCP 5.1 on my iMac G5, I noticed a really annoying “feature” when I added an .AIF soundtrack. The problem is that when there is no video but only the soundtrack in the timeline the sound is really scrubby and terrible to listen to. The track is a 48 Khz stereo AIF file composed by itunes. When I add some video above the soundtrack in the timeline both video and the soundtrack play crystal clear.


It is important to note that I work with HD 1080i50 project settings for my sony HC3 camera. When I do the same trick in a DV-PAL 48Khz project (and the same soundtrack) there is no problem at all. Looks like the HD settings are messing up the soundtrack-only playback.


Am I doing something wrong with the audio track (settings) or is this a well known bug??

Larry replies: Remco, I just tried this on my system and everything worked fine. So, here’s a quick test to see where the problem is. Create a new HDV 1080i/50 sequence and add an audio file that you copied from a CD and not from iTunes. Make sure you don’t have any video in your project. If the audio is clear, it’s an iTunes problem. If the audio is scratchy, its a Final Cut problem.

Remember that iTunes, by default, compresses audio and FCP does not like compressed audio. You need to make sure it is properly converted into an AIF file — and the easiest way to do this is iTunes.

Converting Your Audio

Here are the steps to use iTunes to convert a compressed audio file into AIF. (Note: iTunes has been updated so often recently, these screen shots may not be from the current version. However, the technique works the same for all versions of iTunes since about version 4.)

1. Open iTunes and Control-click on any column header and select Kind. This shows you the compression format of each audio file.

2. Go to iTunes > Preferences

3. Click the Advanced tab.

4. Select the Import Using pop-up menu.

5. Change the pop-up menu to AIF.

6. Select the file/tune you want to convert to AIF in iTunes.

7. Go to the Advanced menu and select Convert Selection to AIF.

8. A duplicate of your tune will appear in the iTunes window. Drag it to your FCP Projects folder — or wherever you store elements for your project — then import it into Final Cut.


Stuart Page, of Brilliant Films, writes:

Larry, you describe how to convert Compressed Audio Files into AIFs.



Isn’t it also necessary in iTunes/Preferences/Advanced/Importing to select Setting/Custom 48.000kHz, 16bit, Stereo? The default AIFF encoder for iTunes is 44.1kHz, and FCP likes 48.0kHz.

Larry replies: Nope. It isn’t necessary, as FCP can easily convert between 48 and 44.1 sample rates in real-time on the same timeline. For my projects, I don’t worry about it and let FCP handle it.


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