Adobe Premiere Pro: Audio Track Types

Posted: February 16, 2014


One of the newer features in Adobe Premiere Pro CC is how it handles multi-channel audio. In the past, we first needed to specify what type of audio we were editing into each track. Or, editing a stereo audio clip in the the Timeline would result in the two audio channels occupying two separate audio tracks.

With the CC release, things have changed. Let me explain.

ASSIGN AUDIO TYPES IN A NEW PROJECT

Audio types allow you to define which audio can be edited into what tracks. Making editing life even easier is a new default setting called “Standard.” We can access these new choices when we create a new sequence, but they are easy to overlook unless you navigate to the Tracks tab.

The Master drop-down menu sets the audio output format for the entire sequence. By default, this is Stereo. Other choices allow you to select 5.1 surround, Mono, or multi-channel audio output.

NOTE: Once a sequence is created, the Master Track output setting can’t be changed.

Setting the Master track to multi-channel means the sequence will export the final mix as up to 32 separate channels of mono audio. You can specify the number of output channels in the menu to the right. Multichannel is a good choice, for example, when you need stems exported as discrete audio channels.

While the Master track is important, the Track Type menu, associated with each track, is the key to this new system. Audio tracks in Premiere can contain mono, stereo, and 5.1 surround audio.

NOTE: Once a sequence is created, these track settings can’t be changed.

There are two categories here:

  • Track types (the top four options)
  • Submix types (the bottom four options)

Tracks contain audio files. Submixes only contain signals routed to them from tracks or other submixes.

There are four track types:

  • Standard. This allows both mono and stereo audio clips in the same track. However, this format does not allow either surround or adaptive audio in this track. Standard is the default setting for all audio tracks.
  • Mono. This setting allows audio clips with only one audio channel. By default, the pan is set to center on a mono clip.
  • Adaptive. This type of track can contain both mono and stereo tracks, plus you can map source audio to output audio channels in the way that works best for your workflow. This track type is useful for working with audio from cameras that record multiple audio tracks, when working with merged clips, or multicam sequences.
  • 5.1. 5.1 tracks can only contain surround sound clips with six audio channels.

Keep in mind that once a track is created, you can’t change its type; though you can add and delete audio tracks as necessary to support your edit.

While we are in the Track panel, see these Open checkboxes? When these are checked, the audio tracks are expanded to full-height in the Timeline when you open the sequence, or until you change them.

Full height audio tracks look like this, with all controls available.

Collapsed tracks take less room and look like this.

To expand or collapse a track, double-click the gray box to the right of the “S” (Solo) button.

NOTE: By the way, Premiere uses secret indicators to tell you about the track type.

  • An empty gray box to the right of the Solo button means the audio track is Standard; as indicated in track A1.
  • A small speaker icon to the right of the Solo button means the audio track is Mono; as indicated in track A2.
  • A “51″ icon to the right of the Solo button means the audio track is exclusively for 5.1 surround sound; as indicated in track A3.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT

If all you do is shoot, edit, and output stereo files, you don’t need to worry. All of Premiere’s default settings are perfect for you. However, to simplify a complex edit, you may want to group similar clips into the same track. In which case, these settings can help.

NOTE: Also, this system allows Premiere Pro CC to be compatible with earlier version Premiere projects.

In this example, track A1 is a Standard track, into which a stereo clip is edited. Notice that both channels of the stereo clip are displayed in a single track.

Though, when we play the clip, the audio meters show a clear difference in levels between the two channels.

Now, let’s assign that same audio clip to track A2, which is a Mono track. We still see the two audio channels, but, as the audio meters indicate, this stereo clip outputs as a mono track.

This is a fast and easy way to convert a stereo clip to mono, without wasting time transcoding the clip or deleting channels.

Just to show the flexibility of a Standard track type, track A1 has both a mono and stereo clip in it. Both clips will output as stereo, as displayed by the audio meters, however the mono clip, since it has only one track, will output panned center.

EXTRA CREDIT

When you right-click an audio track header, if you select Add Track (at the top), Premiere will add a single Standard track.

However, if you select Add Tracks… (at the bottom), Premiere opens an expanded dialog allowing you to select which Track types you want to create.

SUMMARY

These new track types make working with audio in Premiere Pro CC much easier than it was in earlier versions when we needed to specify the track type before editing a clip into a track.

Understanding what track types are, where they are set and what they do can help you make sense of even the most complex audio project.

NOTE: Here’s an article I wrote that explains how to separate a stereo audio clip into two dual-channel mono tracks.

Comments
10 Comments to “Adobe Premiere Pro: Audio Track Types”
  1. Brian says:

    I’m pulling my hair out over the fact that in CS5.5 I can’t change stereo into mono once a clip is in the sequence. I have about 25 clips of an interview (Ch 1 shotgun mic, Ch 2 lav) laid into several timelines where I would like to do just that. I merrily went along getting my ins and outs set in the sequence and planned to decide between the channels later. Being a FCP user, I thought this would not be a problem. Imagine my emotions when I found out how Premiere handles this and the thought of doing all of this work over again. Compound that with the fact my interviewee is speaking in his native tongue, Hungarian (top 5 crazy hard language) and my knowledge of that language is pretty small.

    So before I start paying Adobe to be in the cloud, I’d like to make absolutely sure that Premiere CC would solve my problem more easily. Can I open my 5.5 project in CC, create new sequences with mono tracks I need specified under the tracks tab, open the old sequences, and then drop and drag clips from old 5.5 stereo sequences to CC mono sequences?

    Thanks

  2. Jon says:

    Go with Sony Vagas Pro. It is so easy and you will be amazed by the results. I’m using both premiere and Vegas. Premiere mainly for other plugin applications and final creations, editing…i’ll go with Sony!

  3. Chet says:

    Larry, thanks for the informative post.

    My question is in regards to editing in Premiere Pro CC with 5.1 audio. I understand the part about setting up the Master Track as 5.1 and all of the Sequence Audio Tracks to 5.1. I even understand mixing 5.1 tracks in Audition, exporting them out as 5.1 wav files and importing them into PP.

    However, I can’t, for the life of me, get my laptop to output 5.1 for real-time preview.

    - I have my editor hooked up to my surround sound unit via HDMI.
    - In the Windows Audio settings, I can play preview sounds (little bell sounds) that discretely play from each speaker of the 5.1 surround sound system.
    I have even gone into Premiere Pro’s Audio Preferences and made sure that…
    - “5.1 Mixdown Type” is set to “Front + Rear + LFE”.
    - In the “Audio Hardware” preferences, when I click on the “ASIO Settings” button
    - I am selecting the proper Audio Hardware for the HDMI output.
    - The “Map Output for:” drop-down menu only has one option: “Adobe Desktop Audio”
    - I only have the option for 2 output channels. <– This is the one I don't understand.

    Any other thoughts as to why I can't preview 5.1 in real time via HDMI from Premiere Pro?

    • LarryJ says:

      Chet:

      Yup. HDMI assumes that your audio is encoded into an AC3 stream. Which is not what you are doing. You are feeding discrete audio channels, which the internal HDMI does not support.

      Instead, you need to connect an audio interface that provides discrete audio channels. When I was demoing surround sound, I was using a Presonus unit. While the unit I was using is discontinued, here’s something similar that would work:

      http://www.presonus.com/products/FireStudio-Project

      You need a device that supports at least six discrete audio channels out that is compatible with your Mac.

      Larry

      • Chet says:

        Larry,

        Thanks for the response. Not a Mac guy. Using a Windows laptop, but it does have HDMI and Thunderbolt ports.

        I was really worried about this when I purchased the laptop (just got it from UPS on Friday). For video editing, it’s amazing, but Audio, not so much.

        But to address your comment, you said, “HDMI assumes that your audio is encoded into an AC3 stream. Which is not what you are doing. You are feeding discrete audio channels, which the internal HDMI does not support.” Now that I think about it, I am not sure that it jives with my other tests. When I go to my Windows Audio settings and play the 7.1 test tones, each speaker is playing its respective tone. All via HDMI. Even the receiver states “Multichannel 7.1″. This leads me to believe that it’s more of a “Adobe-doesn’t-support-that” kind of a thing.

        Thoughts?

        • LarryJ says:

          Chet:

          No thoughts – I have zero knowledge of how Windows systems work.

          Thanks for telling me about the test tones, though.

          Larry

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  1. [...] this first article Larry describes the different audio track types and how they operate and in the second article he walks through how to modify the audio channels of a clip to get it to [...]

  2. [...] was figuring out how to deal with audio.  I found these two very useful posts from Larry Jordan: Audio Track Types and Separate Audio. [...]



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