Adobe Premiere Pro: Audio Track Types
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.
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.
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.