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managing audio layers fcpx

Yes you read the title right, layers. Some editors love the FCPX magnetic timeline, other editors aren't that keen and have found alternative workarounds. Isazaly Mohd Isa uses a special way to lay out his audio which helps organise clips.

Isazaly very kindly sent us this method on how he arranges the audio when he's editing long form work in Final Cut Pro X. It might not be to everybody's liking and we are sure it will spark off a good debate, but it works well for him.

My name is Isazaly (my name is pronounced as ‘ee-sa-za-lee’ or just zalee for short!) and I'm an Apple Certified Trainer based in Malaysia and Singapore. In the SuperMag 2010 Issue No. 4, I wrote an article on how to professionally manage your audio layers for final mixing in FCP7. (You can still download it here: SuperMag 2010 - Issue #4) I have received a lot of positive response and appreciation from that article and now in 2013, I’m back yet again, this time on FCPX.

A quick flashback. In FCP7, I described how to organise your audio from something like this:

(Click for larger images)

tracks fcp7 unorganised small

....into something more manageable with a more professional workflow. Especially good when you’re doing your final mixing directly on the timeline. Yes, some of us editors do that over in this this part of the world, we're editor cum audio mixer cum motion graphic artist cum colourist!

tracks fcp7 small 

Onto the present...

In FCPX, video and audio tracks are long GONE, but not forever. As much as I am liking loving FCPX now, I still want a ‘visually appealing’ timeline, like FCP7, for sentimental value!

You can still manage your audio layers ‘visually’, with what I shall call this “Z Virtual TraX” system. You will not only get a better workflow, especially when utilizing ‘Roles’ to export audio stems for audio post, but you will also be able to clearly see precisely ALL audio tracks at a glance.

This was an ad-hoc solution that I found (based on my last article) that has helped me to manage a project which was my very FIRST longform production cut on FCPX. It was for a local cable station here in Kuala Lumpur.

I’ve created a 3-hour SILENCE (.mp3) via ‘Audacity’ or you can use any audio software that can generate ‘Silence’. If you’re a lazy editor, here’s a link to my “Z Virtual TraX” clip. It is actually an MP3 audio track with NO SOUND, just pure silence for 3 hours. The term “silence is golden” perfectly matches this scenario!

All you need now is to import this track, select range (in and out points) on the timeline to determine the length you need, usually this will be my FINAL duration of the project. Then connect it (shortcut key ‘q’) to your timeline and change the “Z Virtual TraX” in the ‘Inspector > Info’ and label them as such - Ambience, Sound Effects, Voice Over/Narrations & Music respectively. All you need now is to move UP or DOWN each of the respective audio clips into its own region.


(Hint: Hold down SHIFT + Click then drag clips UP or DOWN vertically without misaligning your audio clips that are already in place, but in the wrong ‘region’.)

As you can probably figure out by now, the rest of it is pretty simple, especially if you have read my last article and understood the workflow, which has been around since celluloid days.


track layers

fcpx appearance


But wait a minute, where have those “connectors” in the audio clips disappeared to? You will probably wonder, what is the use of the “Show Connections” in the Clip Appearance? Are those not redundant?

For me, yes. If you have that setting toggled on your “Z Virtual TraX” will look like this! 



Have fun using “Z Virtual TraX” on Final Cut Pro X!

UPDATE 24th June

Based on reader's comments and feedbacks, you can also use a "CUSTOM" generator or "Alex 4D Adjustment Layer" to use as a separator and rename them accordingly for your audio layers. About hardware performance issues, I am no expert, but please share them in the feedback is you have the answer.
managing audio layers update
Thanks for all the feedbacks and response, making FCP.co lively and making FCPX rock again!


Isazaly Mohd Isa
Apple Certified Trainer


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