March 1, 2016

How to Sync Audio and Video in FCP X

By Ryan M. Pierson In Tips and How To's

Recording quality audio and video doesn’t always mean doing so on the same device.

In a professional production, multiple cameras are frequently used, as well external audio sources that record brilliant sound from various angles.

It’s up to the editor to synchronize all of these clips into one, single story that can be edited, exported, and distributed in one file.

Thanks to modern video editing programs like Final Cut Pro X, this can be incredibly easy to do.

Synchronizing audio and video was once the bane of any video editor’s existence.

In the very early days of cinema, editors relied on lip reading to determine how recorded audio and film matched up. That practice quickly went away with the introduction of the clapperboard, an iconic Hollywood staple.

Today, we use software to do the vast majority of our video editing. Audio and video are recorded digitally, making them far easier to work with than ever before.

With a little wisdom of Hollywood’s early techniques and a modern video editing program like Final Cut Pro, we can make synchronizing multiple audio and video clips a breeze. What once took countless hours in the editing bay can now be done in a matter of seconds.

Synchronizing Audio and Video Clips Automatically in Final Cut Pro X

Today, most small productions use cameras that have their own built-in microphone.

Even DSLRs will have an on-board mic.

These mics, in general, are not very good. They are, however, good reference audio sources that make it easier for you to sync your external audio tracks in FCP X.

For example:

Let’s say you have a single-camera recording and an audio track from a microphone on the talent.

You can spend your day putting both of these tracks on your timeline and move one clip or the other until they look like they sync up, or you can do it automatically using Final Cut Pro’s built-in synchronization tool.

clip sync 1

To use this tool:

  • Locate the clips in the FCP X media library
  • Click and drag your mouse cursor over them so they are all highlighted
  • Right-click and select Synchronize Clips… from the drop-down menu

clip sync 2

Once you have done this, a new compound clip will be generated.

This clip can be dragged and dropped into the timeline directly.

Keep in mind that it will include all of the audio and video tracks in the scene, so you will need to right click it (from your timeline) and select Open in Timeline.

clip sync 3

Doing this will open a separate timeline that includes your audio and video clips, arranged so they are perfectly in sync.

Give them a quick test and mute the audio you don’t want to hear.

This should leave you with a single, perfectly synced clip that you can edit and work with in the main project timeline.

Don’t Have On-camera Mics? Use a Clapperboard!

The clapperboard is a wooden slate with a hinge on it that makes a loud snap when the pieces are slammed together.

On the clapperboard would typically be information about the scene being recorded. The scene number, take count, date, director and camera operator.

This information makes it easy to reference the clip even if all you have is the file.

But it’s the loud sound that makes the clapperboard worthwhile. That sound creates a peak in the waveform that can be very easily noticed by the editor and used to sync clips.

Your cameras will see the point where the clap occurs.

You can then take the audio clips, locate the peak from the loud clap, and sync those points up. There are several techniques to doing this, and usually it comes down to personal preference which one works best for you.

clip sync 5

My personal favorite incorporates using markers. You can add a mark anywhere you’d like on a clip in the timeline by selecting the clip, moving the play bar so it is precisely over the area of the clip you want to mark, and pressing M.

clip sync 4

Locate the moment the clapper closes in the video clips and the spike in the audio clips and place marks on them. From here, it is much easier to line them up exactly using the Select and Position tools.

If you don’t have a clapperboard handy, you can simply have your talent clap their hands or count down from three so you have a consistent, easy to spot area in both the audio and video tracks to work with.

Using these techniques, you should be able to achieve perfect audio/video synchronization with minimal effort.

Helpful?  Is there anything else you’d like to know?

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