Premiere Pro: Exporting and Replacing Audio

Get the best quality audio out of Premiere Pro with this guide, and replace existing audio files one-for-one on the way back in

Even with the steady influx of amazing enhancements to Adobe’s Premiere Pro in recent years, there are still many reasons to step outside of Premiere for certain aspects of the post-production process. Premiere continues to be augmented with more capabilities for motion graphics and audio processing, but no piece of software is the best in all areas. 

Similarly to how a compositor or animator brings visual assets from Premiere into After Effects, audio engineers usually do detailed audio work in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for more precise control. Whether you are sending sound files to an audio engineer working in Pro Tools or Logic or you want to move your session into Audition, it is important to know how to do so efficiently and without quality loss.

How to Export Audio from Premiere Pro

Method 1: Exporting Multiple Audio Files as an AAF

The easiest way to ensure quality preservation and cross-platform compatibility is to package your audio files as an AAF (Advanced Authoring Format). AAF is the successor to OMF, and has more features such as retaining volume automation and not restricting file size. OMF, although being slowly phased out, is still the most compatible file type between all systems and is a good option if you are running into issues or just aren’t sure what the audio engineer prefers. 

The following steps are for AAFs, but the process for exporting an OMF, EDL, or XML in Premiere is nearly identical.

Organize and Clean Your Timeline

Part of a video editor’s responsibility is to maintain an efficient and intelligible workflow with collaborators. Organize your audio into multiple tracks, separating by voiceover, dialogue, music, and sound effects. Delete any extraneous clips from your timeline in order to reduce both file size and sources of confusion. If you want to keep some disabled audio clips in your timeline but don’t want to send them to an audio engineer, consider duplicating your sequence before cleaning it.

Next, set your in and out points that you’ll use for both this export and the video reference file.

Decoding Premiere’s Export Settings

To open the AAF export dialogue window in Premiere click File → Export → AAF. The export window should look like this:

The parameters and their various options can be a little intimidating, but we’re going to break them down for you here and help you optimize your export.

Decide if you want to mixdown a video for reference using the AAF dialog. If enabled, Premiere will export an MXF video file next to the AAF, which could then be loaded into Pro Tools or another DAW. If you’d like to create a differently encoded video on your own, like an H264 MP4, leave this box unchecked.

Enable Breakout to Mono unless your audio engineer requests otherwise.

Enabling Render Audio Effects will permanently bake in any Premiere effects like EQ or Reverb. Usually, engineers will want to do this work themselves and it is best to leave it unchecked.

Sample rate should match your source recordings, which will usually be 48000 Hz.

Bits per sample should also be set to match your source material. If you aren’t sure, selecting 24 will retain quality.

Embed Audio or Separate Audio –– embedding audio allows the AAF to be packaged efficiently into a single file that is ready to share. Separating audio will place the audio files into a separate folder.

Format selection will be between Broadcast Wave (WAV) and AIFF (if you are using Mac OS). WAV files are the industry standard for lossless audio interchange.

Trim Audio or Copy Complete Files –– this selection either trims the audio files to only include the portions used in your timeline or sends the complete source files. This option is a tradeoff between file size and flexibility.

Handle Frames determines how much extra audio to include on either side of a trimmed clip when Trim Audio Files is selected. Increasing the handle size gives an audio mixer more flexibility to work with.

Method 2: How to Export Audio as Stems

In some cases, such as archiving or client asset delivery, exporting audio stems is a more appropriate choice than creating an AAF. Stems are isolated groups of audio that produce the full mix when combined. It is common to separate sound files into dialogue, music, and sound effect stems.

Stems are useful for quickly moving music or a voiceover to a previously finished and mixed video.

Organize and Clean Your Timeline

Similarly to the AAF preparation, you’ll need to group the different audio types onto separate tracks. Remember to set your in and out points and keep them consistent for the duration of this process.

How to Export Stems in Premiere Pro

1. Solo the audio tracks for your first stem. For example, if you want to create a stem with only the music, solo just those tracks. Remember, all music should be grouped together on dedicated tracks from your organization work in Step 1. Soloing can be accomplished by clicking the ‘S’ in either the timeline or the Audio Track Mixer.

2. Click File → Export → Media (Ctrl/Cmd-M).

3. Change the Format to Waveform Audio. This is the best choice for uncompressed audio.

4. Name the stem in a way that clearly explains what it contains. Common practices include appending the following to each respective stem: DIA (dialogue), VO (voiceover), MSX (Music), and SFX (sound effects).

5. Configure the basic audio settings. The settings in the image below are a good starting point for most projects.

Method 3: Edit in Adobe Audition

In some cases, you might want to do audio sweetening yourself but need more precise tools than Premiere’s offering. Luckily, Adobe makes it easy to move your session into Audition and roundtrip it back to Premiere. Audition has powerful noise reduction capabilities and is a more suitable environment than Premiere to apply various audio effects, especially third-party plugins.

To edit a sequence in Audition from Premiere, click Edit → Edit in Adobe Audition → Sequence. Select a destination folder to save new audio files, and accept the default dialog settings.

Audition will open automatically and will have the audio portion of your timeline set up in similar fashion to how it looked in Premiere. A video preview is sent over Adobe’s Dynamic Link, which means you don’t even have to export a reference video.

How to Replace Audio Sources in Premiere Pro

Oftentimes, editors will work on a project using unlicensed music or a temporary voiceover. Once these creative choices get approved or are ready to be finalized, they need to be replaced with the final audio.

Replacing a licensed music track from a stock library is pretty painless, but you’ll want to watch out for the following:

– Ensure that the licensed track is the same length and version as the watermarked version you’ve been working with. Many libraries offer different lengths and versions of a single track.

– Save your project before replacing a file. Ctrl/Cmd-Z doesn’t undo the replacement of a file!

Replacing a voiceover requires a different workflow, unless the new voiceover is just a higher quality version of the same recording. For example, maybe you’ve been working with an MP3 but later received a WAV of the same recording. In this case, the same replacement method outlined above will work.

If you have a new voiceover, it’ll likely have very different timing, so you’ll have to re-edit the new version. If so, try keeping the old voiceover in the timeline for reference – this will serve as a helpful guide to quickly retime a new voiceover to an existing edit.

March 12, 2020
Jason Brandel

Jason Brandel is a freelance video editor, filmmaker, and instructor of The Complete Audio Guide for Video Editors. Editing portfolio & contact info available at jasonbrandel.com.

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