Video Production

Premiere Pro: Working with Sound Effects

Make a huge impact with these tips for working with sound effects in Premiere. Learn the tools and skills to change audio speed, pitch, add effects and more

Adding sound design to videos is one of the most powerful creative tools in post-production. It is an amazing way to create realism, shock an audience, or heighten the emotion of a scene. There are many sound effects libraries online where you can license individual sounds and even some libraries that offer free effects. There are also sound design packs for purchase that come with hundreds of ready-to-go effects.

Sync Effects with Video

The most important part of adding sound effects to a video is making sure they synchronize realistically with the video. Use the audio waveform to identify the impact moment of the effect, and then line up that moment with the visual impact moment. For example, take a look at the waveform below for a ‘punch’ sound effect. The impact is visible in the middle of the clip. Line up that part of the waveform with when the punch occurs in the scene.

Adjust Speed or Pitch

Right-click on an audio clip, and click Speed/Duration. Here, you can adjust the speed of the clip or play it in reverse. Toggling off Maintain Audio Pitch allows the effect to get deeper in pitch when the speed decreases, and higher in pitch when the speed increases.

For faster adjustments, select the Rate Stretch tool by using the keyboard shortcut R. With this tool enabled, grab the end of an audio clip and adjust the speed visually.

Dedicated pitch-shifting effects are available in the effects panel.

Stacking Multiple Effects

Professional sound designers often use many effects at once to create a single sound. For example, imagine all the different elements of a car explosion: there’s the initial impact, glass shattering, fire, debris hitting the ground, metal being torn apart, etc. To achieve a realistic and impactful sound design, multiple sound effects will have to be layered and mixed together.

Adding Audio Effects

Tools like reverb, delay, distortion, and EQ are important for making sound effects sound like they really belong in your scene. Premiere comes with an array of audio tools that can be found in the effects panel and applied either to individual clips or to entire tracks at once via the Audio Track Mixer. 

A newer feature in Premiere is the Essential Sound Panel, which is a more user-friendly way to process sound clips quickly for those who might be unfamiliar with the nuanced effect settings. This panel can be found by clicking Window → Essential Sound.

Navigate the Essential Sound Panel by first highlighting audio clips in your timeline and selecting the appropriate audio type in the panel. Depending on your selection, Premiere will then offer presets and effects sliders that make it easy to experiment until you get the sound you desire.

March 09, 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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