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How To Design Sound For Your Short Film in Premiere Pro 2021

Do you want to leave maximum impact on your viewers with your video/film? Follow our guide below on sound design in Adobe Premiere Pro 2021 which offers easy-to-follow insights that can make you achieve the same. Let’s get started!

Time to add life to your video!

So, unlike visuals, sounds can be taken from different, irrelevant and random sources, it is how you mix them that makes the difference.

You can choose from a wide variety of riveting sounds and effects from Solaris SFXs pack that will enhance the production value of your videos. Besides that follow the tips below for an even better sound design.

Usually, Sound Design = Editing and Mixing of:

  1. Dialogues
  2. Voice-Over
  3. Sound Effects
  4. Foley
  5. Music/Song
  6. Ambience

Not in the said order, so when you design sound for your film/video you can choose the order that works best for you. It is best to keep different types of sound in different layers on timeline for distinction and clarity.

Before we begin
Keep the following sound types within the mentioned volume ranges. To check volume levels, go to the Window menu and select Audio Track Mixer.

Music: -20dB to – 24dB
Vocals and SFX: -10dB to -20dB
Other sounds: -6dB to -24dB

Keep all volume levels below -3dB. Above and at 0dB level, any audio begins to sound distorted.

Ambience – 
Record thirty seconds of uninterrupted ambience before/after your next shoot. Use it as a filler for the gap between two edited clips so that gap doesn’t sound like vacuum. You can also use it throughout your audio in a sound layer underneath. Even though you have to lower the volume to a minimum it is a good practice to record ambience with an omni-directional mic and then later restore your video’s experiential ambience with it.

Now let’s dive into PP and learn how to deal with our audio. It might feel like there is too much to take in at first but do not be intimidated, once you learn it, you work it and then you master it!

Control Volume (with Keyframes)
Go to the Tools Panel select Pen tool. Now go to your audio track, choose a portion, where you want to put a keyframe, click to place a new keyframe. Press V for the regular cursor, now select and move the keyframe up/down to increase/decrease volume of the track. If you want finer increment/decrement, select the keyframe, press Ctrl and then move the keyframe. As you add and move more keyframes, you will begin to observe steep slopes between any two given keyframes. Right click on the starting keyframe, choose bezier, right click again and choose ease out. Then right click on the ending keyframe, choose bezier, right click again and choose ease in.

In the Effects Control panel, you will observe these keyframes’ shape has turned into resembling hourglass and transition has turned from steep slope to curve. The curves allow for smooth shifts in volume. To delete any keyframe, select it and press delete on the keyboard.

After you’ve added keyframes on your track and you wish to bump/lower the volume without disturbing keyframes, then right-click on your track and select audio gain, +ve value will add to the volume and negative value will decrease the volume. You can also open the Audio Track Mixer from the Window Menu, choose the track name you want to work on and adjust its volume. With keyframes you can adjust volume of specific portions of your audio track and with mixers you adjust volume of the entire track. Also remember that “Audio Gain” is an input value, so if you increase gain, you also increase any noise to the original audio. If the noise increases, follow our noise reduction steps below

Reduce Noise –
Although we suggest you deal with noise reduction and removal in Adobe Audition separately, the Adaptive Noise Reduction effect in Adobe Premiere Pro is helpful to an extent.

So select your track and go to the Effects panel, search Adaptive Noise Reduction and drag and apply it on your track. Go to the Effects Controls panel and click on edit and from the presets choose, “Heavy or Light Noise Reduction”, as per your need, check the high quality mode and see how the audio behaves. You can also adjust the parameters as you like, since different clips will have different types of noise but be careful not to overdo any of the parameters since it will distort your audio

Pan –
You can make any sound, feel as if it is moving from left side to right side or vice-versa, on your speakers or earphones, as per the action taking place in the corresponding video. If your audio track is already stereo in nature you can directly follow the process. If it is mono, duplicate it and work on it individually. So, bring your audio track on to the timeline, select it, go to the effects control panel, stretch its view, so you can manage keyframes, now go to panner tab, choose an area where you want to set the starting keyframe and then choose an area where you want to set the ending keyframe. These two keyframes will mark movement of sound RTL or LTR. 

In Panner tab you’ll spot the balance scale, alongside which is a tiny elliptical button to add/remove keyframe. Click on it and a diamond-shaped keyframe will appear at the right half of the Effects Control panel. Select the keyframe, adjust the position of keyframes as per where you want the pan effect to begin or take place. You can spot tiny, block symbols present below keyframes. These blocks will help you adjust the amount of pan you desire. Now, click and drag the blocks up and you’ll notice the value on balance scale reaching -100 , this will make the audio sound close to the left ear/speaker. Click and drag it down towards 100, the audio will sound close to the right ear/speaker. 

For smooth panning effect, go by the steps mentioned for keyframes’ slope to curves shift, in Control Volume Paragraph.

A single, smooth pan effect will look like this.

Level Your Audio –
Right click on your audio clip and select gain. Set normalize all peaks to -3dB, this way all the high-points in your audio will be levelled to not go beyond -3dB and be distorted. Now to level the low volume parts, go to the Effects panel, search “Dynamics” under Audio Effects, drag and drop it on your audio clip. Go to the Effects Control panel, choose Edit under Dynamics effect, now for our purpose, notice the area in your audio track waveform where volume is really low, say it comes out to be -20dB, check Compressor and in its Threshold, set the same value. Then add 5dB to it, which becomes 15dB, set this value on MakeUp. What this does is any sound within that clip sounding as low as -20dB will be bumped up by 15dB. Now check Limiter and set its Threshold to -3dB that way high volume sounds won’t peak beyond that. This was to give you a gist of how levelling basics work, values in dB may vary as per your needs.

Fade-In and Fade-Out –
To use traditional fading effects quickly go to the Effects panel, search crossfade in Audio Transitions, drag and drop constant power at the end or starting of your audio clip. You will hear your audio smoothly fading in/out. You can apply it between two adjacent clips as well, to hide bumps. Try your hand at the other two crossfade effects and see which suits your senses. In the Effects Control panel you can extend the length of crossfades as well. Fading can also be done by use of keyframes. Set two keyframes at the start of the clip, one for total fade-in and another at a desired distance to reach and maintain the actual clip volume. For fade-out follow the same process. Right click on these keyframes and set the curves to bezier for smooth fading. To crossfade, with more control, without the use of effects, simply stack two audio clips, one on the other, fade-out the first clip that playhead will play and then fade-in the next clip.

When the camera-view gets closer to an object/subject in a shot or vice-versa, up the volume of the corresponding audio. This adds to the emphasis you are trying to achieve in a given shot.

Tips and Tricks

Maximize view of your timeline 
Go to the edit menu, select keyboard shortcuts, below colorful keyboard layout, in the search bar, type “maximize or restore frame under cursor”, now learn this shortcut or change it to any of your preference, hit Ok and move cursor over your audio timeline, and press that shortcut key. You can use this key as a toggle for maximizing or restoring view of any panel. Maximized timeline panel will look like this.

Rename Audio-tracks
Double click on audio-track (near the area where you can spot “M” and “S” icons). This will expand the view of the track. Now right-click on the same area, select ‘customize’, drag and drop the A1 icon onto the space right-next to the sound-recorder icon. This will identify your first track as Audio 1 and then Audio 2, 3 and so on as you further add the sound layers. Collapse expanded view by double-clicking on it. Right-click on track names to rename them with, SFX, Ambience, Music, Foley, etc. for clarity. These names will also appear when you’d work on Audio Clip or Audio Track mixers, making the process much easier.

Precisely Position the Tracks 
To fine tune the position of the track on timeline, select the track, press Z to zoom-in, now press Alt + Left/Right-arrow key to move the clip by 1 frame. To move the clip by 5 frames, press Alt + Shift + Left/Right.

Move to Start/End of a Track
Click to enable  Toggle the track targeting for this track , for all the tracks as displayed below.

Now using up and down arrows keys to move the playhead, you will be able to jump from the start to the end of each clip. This will eliminate the need to drag the playhead with the cursor every time to reach the start/end of the clip.

Set In and Out points –
You can set in and out by pressing I for in-point and O for out-point.These points define the area which the playhead will cover when you hit play/spacebar. You can also choose the loop option in the program monitor panel for the selected portion to play in a loop. To remove in and out points, press CTRL+SHIFT+X or assign this function a new combination of keys in keyboard shortcuts. You can also export the chosen clip area between in and out points, separately.

Mute track Click and select  M  icon present at the right end of the audio timeline. This mutes the particular track while you play other tracks at the same time.

Solo track Click and select  S  icon present at the right end of the audio timeline. This mutes other tracks and plays the particular track which is selected.

The whole purpose to design sound is to complete the experience you want to convey with your videos. Hence the design must be subtle and each element in it should blend seamlessly with other elements. We will be covering more insights, tips and tricks on how to design sounds in Premiere Pro so stay tuned for more!

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