Apple Soundtrack Pro Tutorial

As with video, it’s hard to capture audio perfectly. Fortunately, Apple Soundtrack Pro makes it easy to correct many common problems. In this article, I’ll detail how to remove pops and clicks from your audio file, boost volume via normalization, and remove background noise.

Note that although Final Cut Pro allows you to perform some of these functions on the timeline, I recommend working in Soundtrack Pro because it provides better tools and a superior interface. To send an audio file from Final Cut Pro to Soundtrack Pro, click the audio file on the timeline, right-click, and choose Send To > Soundtrack Pro Audio File Project. Select a name for the file (or accept the default given) and click Save, and Soundtrack Pro will load the project file. Edit the file as detailed below, and once you save it and close the Soundtrack Pro project, Final Cut Pro will automatically update the audio file on the timeline with the edited file.

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Figure 1. Getting from Final Cut Pro to Soundtrack Pro.

If you’d like, you can work along with me by dowloading the Rod_audio.wav file from here.

Let’s jump in.

Removing clicks and pops

Pops and clicks have an annoying habit of appearing in many audio tracks, so it’s no surprise that Soundtrack Pro has an automated function for removing them. Unfortunately, in my tests (and attempted uses), Soundtrack Pro doesn’t identify all artifacts, produces lots of false positives, and doesn’t resolve many of the problems that it does find. Perhaps your luck will be better than mine, so I’ll detail how to use the tool and then move on to the technique that I actually use most of the time.

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Figure 2. Soundtrack Pro’s Clicks and Pops remover.
To access the Clicks and Pops tool, click the Analysis tab in the left pane, check the Clicks and Pops checkbox, and click Analyze. Soundtrack Pro will analyze the file and identify the clicks and pops. You can attempt to fix all the problems found by clicking the Fix All button on the bottom of the left pane, but you should preview before you fix the problem to make sure you don’t erroneously repair a false positive.
To preview, double-click the problem in the pane, and Soundtrack Pro will isolate it in the waveform file. Click Play (or press the Space bar) to listen to the problem, and click the Fix button if you want Soundtrack Pro to attempt to remove the noise. If the results are inadequate, try the following.

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Figure 3. Here I’m selecting an audio segment with no other content, and telling Soundtrack Pro that it’s ambient noise.

Zoom in to the artifact in the .wav file as shown in Figure 3. Then select a portion of the audio file that contains no speech or music, and click Process > Ambient Noise > Set Ambient Noise Print. This tells Soundtrack Pro that the chosen segment is ambient noise. Then, highlight the pop or click, and choose Process > Ambient Noise > Replace with Ambient Noise (see Figure 4). Soundtrack Pro will replace the selected area with the ambient noise.

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Figure 4. Replacing the pop with the ambient noise.

By replacing the artifact with adjacent ambient noise, the fix should be unnoticeable to your listeners. Had you just reduced the volume of the click or muted the area (Process > Insert > Silence), many of your listeners would likely have noticed the dead air.

Of course, this example is a simple one, because the problem is well isolated on the timeline and not located within speech or music. When pops and clicks are located within speech or music, you can still use this technique, but you have to be more precise: zooming in close, choosing small regions very proximate to the problem area, and applying the ambient noise only to the problem area. And previewing carefully, of course.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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