As a video editor, I tend to stay within the relative safety of Premiere Pro when it comes to audio post, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Premiere Pro can easily handle a lot of common audio work that used to require a fully-fledged audio workstation. And that’s great for video editors, because now we have more options than ever to make our videos sound great without leaving Premiere.
(And it’s not just Premiere Pro, either. You can find some great audio tools hidden inside Final Cut Pro, too.)
Which begs the question, “Do video editors really need Adobe Audition?”
The answer, of course, depends entirely on what you’re trying to achieve. For some of us, Premiere Pro’s Essential Sound panel might be more than enough to get our projects over the line.
But there are still audio tools in Audition that are better than those in Premiere Pro. And you don’t need to be an audio expert to use them.
Round-tripping in Audition
Before we get started, it’s probably worth checking Premiere Pro’s Audio settings (Edit->Preferences->Audio) to see what’s happening when you use the Edit Clip in Audition option.
When you choose Edit Clip in Audition, Premiere Pro replaces the original audio with a copy of the selected files, which are then opened in Audition’s Waveform editor.
The process uses Adobe’s Dynamic Link to keep things connected, so any changes you make to extracted audio files in Audition will be reflected in your Premiere project timeline when you hit Save.
Also, the connection and sync between the audio and video elements of the clip is preserved.
These days, the default behavior is to save the extracted file alongside the original file. But Premiere Pro used to save the copy in a scratch disk location instead, which tended to break things if you moved the original project to a new location and left the extracted file behind.
So just make sure that your current installation hasn’t inherited a previous version’s behavior by selecting the Next to original media files option.
Tip: It’s also worth noting that the clip’s original audio can easily be restored if things go south and you need to backtrack. Just right-click on the extracted file in the Premiere Pro sequence and choose Restore Unrendered.
The alternative route
But if you prefer a more controlled, manual approach (I do), there is another way.
You can also isolate the audio you want to work on in Audition using the Work Area bar (soloing the tracks you want to keep, or muting any unwanted tracks) and then export it from Premiere Pro as an uncompressed audio file so it can be imported into Audition.
While it adds a step, this approach lets you choose the export format, filename, and location for the replacement audio.
Perhaps more importantly, you can now choose to add this exported file to a different track alongside the original audio in Premiere Pro (which you can silence by moving it to a muted track, or by unlinking the audio and toggling the Enable switch in the right-click menu).
Not only that, but it also lets you merge multiple clips into a single audio file—like a dialogue stem—which is useful when you need to perform global operations like noise reduction on a series of clips.
It’s still mostly a round-trip process; the changes you make to the exported file in Audition will be updated on the Premiere timeline when you save it. Plus you now have the added benefit of the original media to compare the new version against, albeit at the cost of a more cluttered sequence. (You can always set up some Premiere Pro shortcuts to keep things a bit tidier.)
Edit clip or edit sequence?
You might also be aware that Audition allows you to import Premiere Pro project (.pproj) files directly.
If you’ve imported a layered Photoshop file into Premiere, you’ll find this process familiar; Audition queries the contents of the project and then lets you select the sequence you want to import, which is then opened in the Multitrack editor.
The key difference between sending a clip from Premiere Pro to Audition and importing a sequence is that the latter doesn’t use Dynamic Link.
You can’t just save the edited Audition sequence and have it updated and ready to go when you return to your Premiere Pro timeline.
Instead, you can either export a mixdown (a single exported audio file) that you can import into your Premiere Pro project, or you can choose the Export to Premiere Pro option in Audition (File->Export->Export to Premiere Pro). The latter will help to preserve the multitrack nature of the Audition session, but it’s not accurate to call it round-tripping, and here’s why.
Even if you choose Export each track as a stem—which lets you import the Audition tracks as individual audio tracks into a Premiere Pro sequence—the relationship to original media is severed and the original clip in/out points are not preserved.
Instead, they’ll take up the duration of the edit, so you might find that this approach creates more work than it solves.
The same is also true of the Edit in Audition->Sequence option you’ll find in Premiere Pro.
Other than allowing you to select a Work Area selection to send to Audition, this option is largely the same and requires export and import to get your audio edit back into the video project.
So it’s probably best to stick with clip-based round-tripping during the edit, and only export sequences when you’re ready to finalize.
And now that the housekeeping is out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons I leave Premiere Pro and head into Audition.
1. The spectral frequency display
For me, Audition’s standout feature is the spectral frequency display, which you can toggle on and off in the Waveform editor using Shift+D.
This tool is basically a cross between a heat map and a histogram, using color to indicate the volume of a sound in specific frequencies. And this can tell you more about the sound than a waveform ever could.
For example, a constant reddish-purple mist in the low end might indicate that you need to run a noise reduction pass, while a bright spot on the baseline could mean that there’s a microphone pop that needs your attention.
With a little practice, you’ll be able to see issues with your audio before you even listen to it, like sibilance, breath noises, and unwanted vocal transients.
Which brings us to…
2. Mouth transient removal
If you’ve ever used Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill or Spot Healing Brush to remove unwanted objects from an image, you might find yourself wishing for something similar for audio—especially when it comes to removing the kinds of clicks and crackles that are common in close-proximity vocal recordings like voiceovers.
You can’t do this in Premiere Pro. You can duck the audio using amplitude keyframes, isolate the frequency with high- or low-pass filters, or razor the offending segment entirely.
But none of these are ideal.
Thankfully, Audition has a Spot Healing Brush that does exactly the same thing as its Photoshop equivalent, namely isolating an area and then replacing it with data taken from adjacent values.
It’s insanely useful for stripping out unwanted vocal transients without damaging the tone or ambient noise of the audio.
A needle in an audio stack
Basically, you’re looking for “needles” in the spectral frequency display that occur when you hear the offending noises.
Hit B to select the Spot Healing Brush, use the [ and ] keys to resize the brush to suit, then paint over the area you want to fix.
When you let go, Audition will then fill the selected area with audio taken from the surrounding recording, which usually results in an invisible mend and is very satisfying.
Tip: Hold down Shift while you drag to lock the brush to the vertical, which is perfect for painting over clicks.
3. Re-timing your underscore
Retiming the underscore to match your video is a common task, particularly if you’re working on corporate videos or commercials.
Some music providers offer loops—sometimes even stems—alongside their royalty-free music tracks, so one way to build your music bed is to stack these up in Premiere Pro. Or, if you don’t have loops, you can razor your track into segments, copy-paste as needed, and then slap on some crossfades to smooth out the joins.
But you’ll get there a lot faster with Audition’s Remix tool.
It’s worth noting that Adobe is currently working on a Sensei-driven version accessible inside Premiere Pro—you can try it out before it goes to general release by clicking on the Beta Apps list in Creative Cloud.
For now, Remix can only be found in Audition’s Multitrack editor, so import your music track, then right-click and select Insert into Multitrack->New Multitrack Session to create a session that matches your music’s file format.
Then, right-click on the track in the Multitrack editor and select Remix->Enable Remix. (Or look for the Remix options in the Properties panel.)
Once this is done, you can simply drag the clip handle to the required length and Audition will then do its best to fit the music to your selection; repeating sections to add length, removing sections to reduce it.
And it’s really effective.
While you’ll be able to see the joins in Audition, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll hear them in the final mix.
Just bear in mind that Remix is constrained by music structure so it’s unlikely that it’ll be able to land on exactly the duration you need (in fact it gives itself at least five seconds ‘slack’ on either side).
To do this, open the Remix drop-down in the Properties panel and expand the Advanced settings.
Here, you’ll find Minimum Loop length (in beats) and Slack, both of which can affect the segments Audition creates, but aren’t likely to help adjust the duration of the track.
Instead, you can check the Stretch to the exact duration box, and Audition will do exactly that, using Stretch to perfectly match your requirement.
However, while the pitch of the music will be preserved, Stretch will affect the tempo of your track, so the more time you need to add/remove, the more noticeable (and less useful) this tool becomes. It’s up to you to decide whether the end result is what you want.
Tip: Remix works with music stems, too. Just add them to the Multitrack editor and follow the same process. Audition will retime each stem individually, so there are no guarantees this method will work, but sometimes you can get lucky with a surprisingly sophisticated revision of the original music. Just keep an ear out for clashing chord progression and percussion.
4. Re-timing your dialogue
Adobe Audition’s Stretch tool also comes in very handy if you need to retime dialogue.
I’ll not lie; I’ve previously used this to give a little pep to dreary corporate presenters. Your first instinct might be to use Premiere Pro’s Clip Speed/Duration tool as this has a Maintain Pitch option, but Audition will give you much better results. Allow me to demonstrate.
Here’s the original audio:
And here it is, shortened by about ten percent in Premiere Pro:
And here’s the same segment retimed in Audition:
As you can hear, Audition’s work is streets ahead of Premiere Pro in this regard. But while it’s a relatively straightforward process, there are a couple of things to consider before you start.
First, Audition defaults to a decimal range (mm:ss.dd) for time, so you’ll need to match it to Premiere Pro to make sure you’re working with the same values.
You can either do this by right-clicking on the ruler at the top of Audition’s Editor view and pick the SMPTE value of your Premiere Pro project from the Time Display options. Or you can change Premiere Pro to match Audition by right-clicking on the timeline ruler and picking Show Audio Time Units, then right-clicking on the Playhead Position value and choosing Milliseconds.
Second, Audition can only retime your audio, so retiming the associated video still needs to take place in Premiere. There’s presently no way to link the two processes.
The first step is to get the original audio into Audition. An individual clip can be imported directly into an Audition Multitrack session, but as I mentioned earlier, my preferred workflow is to mark the range I want to adjust with In and Out markers, export it as an uncompressed file, then import it into Audition.
Whichever method you choose, once the file is sitting in an Audition Multitrack session, you’ll find the Stretch controls in the Properties panels when the track is selected.
Choose Realtime as the Mode setting for now, and set your desired runtime in the Duration field. Playing this back will let you assess the extent to which you can adjust the timing of the selected media before it starts sounding artificial.
When you’re happy with the new timing, you can switch the mode to Rendered (High Quality), the Precision to High, and if you’re working with solo dialogue, check the Preserve Formants box and pick Monophonic as the Type. For music or group dialogue, choose Polyphonic. (Don’t use Varispeed as this can break the sync between your retimed audio and video.)
These settings will give you the best possible end result, but the effect is not multi-threaded and can take a while to process. When you’re done, export the Mixdown and bring the file back into Premiere Pro.
Back in your project timeline, select the clip(s) you took the original audio from and Nest them using the right-click menu.
This not only groups the clips together as a single entity, allowing you to adjust their timing as a whole, but also lets you unlink and delete the original audio components without losing the original assets (which remain untouched in the nested sequence).
With the original audio safely tucked away, you’re ready to retime your video, and I’d recommend the Speed/Duration tool in the timeline’s right-click menu for this, rather than Premiere Pro’s more obvious Rate Stretch tool. The latter might be a more direct approach, but it only uses Frame Blending to interpolate video frames.
The Speed/Duration tool lets you pick the more effective (and more processor-hungry) Optical Flow for frame interpolation, as well as offering to ripple edit any following clips, so it’s a better option.
Copy and paste the duration from your Stretch properties panel in Audition straight into the Speed/Duration panel in Premiere Pro, and it’ll now match the runtime of your adjusted audio perfectly.
Tip: If you want to calculate the time between two points in a Premiere Pro timeline, set In and Out markers in your timeline by moving the playhead and hitting the I and O keys, respectively. The time between these two points will then be displayed in the lower right corner of the Program window.
5. Breaking your audio into segments
If you’ve recorded (or have been given) a voiceover track, the chances are that it’ll be a single file.
So, if you want to retime or rearrange the spoken segments of the voiceover in Premiere Pro, you’ll need to razor them one by one, and trim the silence manually.
This is fine for minor, one-off adjustments, but if you’re faced with a long-form piece that needs a lot of fine-tuning, you might want to automate this process using Audition’s Diagnostics panel, instead.
With the file open in Audition’s Waveform editor, open the Diagnostics panel (Window->Diagnostics), make sure that Mark Audio is selected in the Effect drop-down, and hit Settings to reveal the Define Silence and Define Noise parameters.
The correct values here will vary between recordings, so you’ll need to assess this on a case-by-case basis. You can use the Find Levels button to let Audition scan the audio and assess the threshold between silence and sound, but I’d recommend a more manual approach.
First, you’ll want to right-click on the Levels indicator and select Static Peaks then hit the Reset Indicators option. (To quickly reset indicators in the future, just click on the indicator ‘LEDs’ at the top of the Levels indicator.) Enable looping playback with Ctrl+T/Cmd+T, then select a section of your audio file that represents the silence with the Time Selector (T).
When you play this back, the maximum signal will be marked with a yellow indicator, which you can use as your watershed for this file.
You can then enter this value in both the Define Silence and Define Audio fields back in the Diagnostics panel (leave the time values as they are unless you find they need tweaking).
Now hit the Scan button and Audition will run through the file, creating range selections that isolate sounds from silence in a list below the Diagnostics panel. Take a quick look over the results and things look good, you can convert them into marker ranges by hitting the Mark All button.
The important thing here is to make sure Audition has correctly identified the sounds you want to keep, not that the ranges match complete sentences—we can fix that in the next step.
Tip: For best results, make sure you’re working with a clean VO recording. Ambient noise between vocals will lift the noise floor, making it harder for Diagnostics to cleanly detect the difference between audio you want to keep and empty segments to discard.
With your marker ranges automatically defined, it’s time to move to the Markers panel for a little cleanup prior to the final step. Take a quick pass over the segments; if there are any that you feel should be combined, then you can do so by holding down Shift, selecting the markers you want to combine and hitting Merge Selected Markers (it’s also in the right-click menu).
You can (and this is purely optional) change the marker names here. While this adds extra work to a process that’s supposed to be automated, it does allow you to include this data in the filenames of the exports you’re about to create.
A useful convention is to use the first few words spoken to make it easier to identify against a script. This metadata will also appear in marker labels in your Premiere Pro timeline if you choose to export an unbroken audio file, instead.
When you’re done, select them all and hit the Export Audio of Selected Ranges button, and you can pick the format and naming conventions you need from the Export Range Markers options. This will give you neatly-trimmed and labelled vocal segments that you can easily rearrange in your Premiere Pro project.
6. Punch and roll recording
Still in the realm of dialogue recording, punch and roll mode is another tool that Audition gets right (mostly).
This tool is designed to assist with recording new segments of dialogue in place of the old—which is particularly useful if you’re recording ADR and want to get the lip sync just right, or if you’ve heard a mistake in your voiceover that needs fixing.
To be fair, you can do this in Premiere Pro, too, but I find the UI in Audition much easier to work with. As we’ve already seen, you can mark up your audio segments automatically using Diagnostics, and the spectral frequency display provides valuable visual feedback that can help you match tone and pacing.
It’s available in both the Multitrack and Waveform Editors and it’s almost the same as regular punch recording, in which you highlight a section of the audio using the Time selector (T) and then hit Record (Shift+Space) to overwrite it with a new recording.
What punch and roll does differently is to play back a segment of the preceding audio (typically five seconds), which gives you an audible head start on the recording you’re about to make. Some will use this as a simple cue, while others will start their script read over the top of this playback.
Either way, it’s extremely useful as a tool for quick audio pickups.
To enable it, just right-click on the Record button and select Punch and Roll Mode. Highlight the section you want to replace, and when you start your new recording, Audition will play you in. (If you’re looking to add an audio segment rather than replacing an existing section, choose Insert from the recording options.)
Tip: There’s no shortcut for Punch Again, even though this function exists in Audition, so set one up using Audition’s Keyboard Shortcut editor (Alt+K). This will let you continue overdubbing until you’re happy with the end result.
Audition vs. Premiere Pro
Like I said at the beginning, there’s no rule that says you have to use Audition for your audio.
But while Adobe continues to migrate a lot of Audition’s everyday functionality over to its video editor, having a more powerful audio application on hand is still, in my view, a faster and easier way to get things done.