Replace Ambient Noise in Soundtrack Pro

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2005, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

During my recent seminar tour, I had a lot of fun showing how to take advantage of the audio clean-up power in Soundtrack Pro. (In fact, I’ve discovered even more power secrets, which I’ll showcase in my next seminar series.)

Still, here’s a good one to get you started.

Many times, in editing, there’s a problem with the audio, either a gap or a cough, or some other sound than what we want. It would be great if we could get rid of it. However, if we just kill the audio, the dead silence leaves a glaring gap that just seems to scream: “bad edit!!!”

Soundtrack Pro, which is bundled with Final Cut Studio, has a whole suite of audio clean-up utilities. In fact, there’s one called “Replace with Ambient Noise” that’s just perfect for solving this problem.

Here’s how it works.

1. Open Soundtrack Pro. From the Browser tab in the Media windows on the left side of your monitor, navigate to the audio file you want to repair.

2. Double-click the file to open it into a new Audio Project. Soundtrack will ask to create a temporary file. Give it a name and location — I tend to store these files in my FCP Projects folder, if I plan to reuse them, or on my second drive, if they are only temporary.

3. The file opens in the Project window. An Audio Project is always just one clip and only two tracks. Audio Projects are used to edit an audio clip. Multitrack projects are used for music and mixing.

4. Here’s the problem — there’s a HUGE “uhhhh” in the middle of a great speech. (I’ve highlighted it here.) I need to replace it with some innocuous room tone; what Apple calls “ambience.” However, the space just before it is filled with a giant, gasping breath. Sigh… I need to get rid of this, too.

5. However, at the very beginning of this clip, there’s an itty, bitty space of perfect room tone. But it is far, far shorter than the space I need to fill. (It’s highlighted here.) So, here’s what we do.

6. Highlight the room tone/ambience that you want to use, regardless of how long it is; however, longer passages are better than shorter ones. Go to Process > Set Ambient Noise Print. Soundtrack samples the selected noise and stores it in a special clipboard reserved for ambient noise samples.

7. Select the portion of the audio clip you want to replace with the clean ambience. Notice that here, the area to be replaced is far larger than the small sample we just took.

8. Go to Process > Replace with Ambient Noise.

9. Voilá, all the bad sound is replaced by good sound! Soundtrack automatically looped and blended the sample to make is sound seamless.

This very cool technique can save your posterior when you are surrounded by stuttering idiots and you need to make them sound great!

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