Avid Media Composer: Working with Audio Tracks and the Audio Mixer
The mixer is an important tool for getting professional-sounding audio, but it can be confusing to people without an audio background. What does panning mean? How do I mute tracks? Why does it matter if I go into the red?
Mixing audio is an essential task to understand, and at its core, the Audio Mixer is what you’re going to be using to do most mixing tasks inside of Media Composer. Whether it be balancing track levels, panning tracks to open the stereo field, or adding effects for flavour and atmosphere, the Audio Mixer will be at the centre of your workflow.
You can find the Audio Mixer in TOOLS >> AUDIO MIXER, or if you’re like me and use it all the time, it’s worth mapping it to your keyboard.
The audio mixer has two main areas for adjusting your audio. You can adjust on the track level, meaning that you can go in and adjust each track in your timeline independently of each other, or you can adjust your Master Bus which will affect the entire timeline.
Let’s take a quick look at the audio mixer itself, and discuss some of the basics of working with it.
The Audio Mixer (AM) is refreshingly easy to use. We’ll assume, for this article, that we’re working with six channels of mono audio. The way the AM works is when you park your time bar over any part of your timeline, whatever audio tracks are there will become active in the AM. Now you can simply adjust the slider to the level you like, and you’re good to go.
If you take a look at the image above, we have two audio channels in our timeline, and can make volume adjustments by adjusting the faders, pan adjustments by adjusting the knobs, or we can group tracks together by clicking on the tape icon at the top of each track. Bear in mind that you can’t rename any audio tracks from the AM. You have to do that from your timeline by right-clicking on a track, and selecting Rename Track.
A useful function within Media Composer is Track Effects. Here in the AM, we can add effects to an entire track which speeds up your overall workflow. It’s quite simple to use – there are five empty buttons above the channel fader and when you click on one of them, the Audio Track Effect Tool will appear.
Now, you can select the tool you want to work with, let’s use Mono Reverb as an example. Keep in mind that we have this option because our track is mono, the type of effects available to you will change slightly based on your track type. Once you add the effect, you’ll see it appear in your AM, and you can now click on it to change its parameters.
You also have the ability to mix with keyframes, also referred to as automation. This is a powerful way to edit but it can also be very time consuming. I’ve been editing and mixing my own audio for 25 years and there’s nothing faster than using the AM, adding edits and fades where I need them, and avoiding automation as much as possible.
I always like to refer to the Master Bus as my “Thank God” tool. I jokingly call it this, as you will always get a client who calls you at the last minute and to say “Can we bring the audio up/down 2dB?” and the last thing you want to do is go back and remix your entire timeline. The Master Bus in the AM will let you tweak the audio of your entire timeline without having to adjust a single clip!