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Tutorial: Surround sound mastering with only Premiere and Soundbooth

Nov 4, 2009 1:19 PM


Here is a tutorial that will allow you to create a fully mastered surround sound project by only using Premiere and Soundbooth.  No need to buy Audition, or the Surcode plug-in.  It will get around the flawed Premiere audio mixer LFE channel issue, and also the Soundbooth export limitation.  You will end up with a 5.1 channel suround AC3 file.  If you have the Surcode plug-in, this workflow will also benefit you.  You'll just skip my tutorial on Audacity.

 

****Disclaimer****

For commercial purposes, this free method is not recomended.  However, for non-commercial, private use, there is nothing wrong, or unethical about creating AC3 files for free!

 

A word on the Soundbooth issue first: Adobe clearly wants us all to buy Audition, that's why they removed it from CS4, prevent you from editing individual surround sound file tracks in Soundboth, and limit Soundbooth's export options.  They let Premiere output an uncompressed surround sound Wave file, but not Soundbooth.  In their online tutorial by Adobe evangelist Jason Levine, he mentions this limitation, but doesn't offer a work-around.  He moves right on to Audition, as if we all have it.  Well after much experimentation, I have a solution.

 

You might want to read my other tutorials first:

Free AC3 encoding: http://forums.adobe.com/thread/511930

and

Surround sound ASIO fixed: http://forums.adobe.com/thread/511934

and

my help to TheShamsMan here: http://forums.adobe.com/thread/514546

 

 

 

Workflow:

 

Layout all your audio tracks in Premiere, mix them, apply keyframes, animate the surround "Puck", etc.  Create a mix that would induce dizziness in even the most steady test-pilot.

 

Let's keep things organized from the start so you don't mix up the exported tracks later.  Create a folder, not a bin, where your Premiere project file is saved.  If you want to put all your Audio files for your project there, so much the better.  Give it a name matching your project name.  If your project is named "Next Blockbuster" then name the folder "Next Blockbuster Audio."  Inside this audio folder create another folder and call it "Premiere exported audio."  Lastly, create another folder next to that one and title it "Soundbooth mastered audio."

 

Now with your Premiere mix done, go to File>Export>Media, click on the Hottext next to "Output Name" and browse to the folder you created named "Premiere exported audio," and store the output there.  Under Format, select "Windows Waveform."  Under "Audio Codec," select "Uncompressed."  Under "Basic Audio Settings," select 5.1 for Channels.
It should look like this:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 1.jpg

 


Now, let's open up the file in Soundbooth. You should see six tracks laid out before you like this:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 9.jpg

 

You can't edit them individually in Soundbooth (you can in Audacity), so this is pretty much useless.

 

Let's fix that.  Go to File>Export>Channels to Mono Files.  Select the folder you created earlier named "Premiere exported audio" for the storage.  You should now see this in the "Files" panel:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 2.jpg


The top file is from your Premiere export, it is 5.1 surround.  The next six are the separated channels, all file names nicely appended for you: ..._L.wav, _R.wav, _Ls.wav, _Rs.wav, _C.wav, and _LFE.wav.  Now select your original Premiere .wav file at the top of the list and select File>Close.  We don't need that one anymore.  You should now have six tracks in the Files panel.  Select the top file "..._L.wav" and either right-click on it and select "Insert Waveform into New Multitrack File," or go to Edit>Insert>Waveform into New Multitrack File.  Now drag the next file "..._R" into the empty area under the first track.  Do the same in order for the other 4 files.  When you finish, you should have all 6 layed out in the Multitrack file in this order: L, R ,LS, RS, C, LFE.  We'll use Adobe's track order just to stay consistent.

 

Tutorial 3 Help 4.jpg

 

The bottom track is cut off a bit in the photo.

 

 

 

Okay, let's clean things up a bit.  Select the top file in the Files panel "Untitled Multitrack" and save it as an .asdn (Adobe sound) file inside the folder you created earlier, "Soundbooth mastered audio."  now select the bottom 6 files (not the ones in the mulititrack), and right click>Close Selected Files.  You should now have 1 multitrack file with 6 tracks indented under it.

 

Mastering:
Soundbooth will let you play a 5.1 surround file through your computer surround system, but it won't let you assign the tracks in a multi-track to specific output channels.  So you won't be able to hear your changes in surround while working in Soundbooth.
 
You can't make global changes to all the tracks, so correct them one at a time.  To select an individual track, click on the little downward pointing triangle next to "Editor: Untitled Multitrack 1.asnd."  Apply volume keyframes, fades, effects, etc., Just don't change the timing of any of the tracks.  Don't delete sections, time shift sections, or use the "Change Pitch and Timing" "Time Stretch" filter.  If you do, then the audio tracks will no longer sync up with the video.  If you need to remove a section, select it and use Edit>Insert>Silence instead.  Adjust the audio on the tracks to your heart's content.

 

The LFE track:
The LFE track is not a subwoofer channel, it's only supposed to be used for low-frequency effects.
Take a look at the first 20 minutes of the movie IronMan:

 

Iron Man LFE.jpg

 

As you can see, it's empty except for select sections mostly involving explosions.
With this in mind, select your clip in the LFE track, at the bottom of your multitrack file, and press delete.  Now let's make a proper one.  Position the CTI (Current Time Indicator) where you want the effect to start, and right-click in the bottom track (Audio 6), and select "Insert File..."; Now select one of your pre-prepared, low-frequency, rumbly effects files.  It will be inserted into the track at the CTI.  If necessary, adjust the position of the clip so it plays at the proper point.  Continue inserting your effects clips as needed.

 

The LFE track should look something like this when you are done:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 8.jpg

 

 

 

Export:
Your tracks should be all mastered now.
Now let's export the multitrack as an interleaved surround wave file so we can load it back into Premiere.

 

Tutorial 3 Help 3.jpg

 

Ooops...Adobe must have forgotten to include the 5.1 option as a type under Channels, and since the Premiere Audio Mixer is flawed with regards to the LFE channel, I guess we'll all just have to buy Audition since it's not included in the Creative Suite anymore.

 

Soapbox mode on>  Adobe...This sort of thing is so annoying to customers, you guys really need to put down the marketing textbook for awhile, and focus on customer satisfaction.  At least provide an upgrade path for CS4 owners!  After all, you gave it to CS3 owners.
Soapbox mode off.<

 


Here's the workaround: On the Audio 1 track, click the "S" button (Solo) and go to File>Export>Multitrack Mixdown.  Select the Windows Waveform as the type, and the folder "Soundbooth mastered Audio" for the location.  Name the file "Mastered Left" and click Save.  Under Save As Options>General uncheck "Add To Files Panel."  Under Audio, select Uncompressed, Mono, and click Okay.  Now uncheck the "S" button for that track.

 

Now do the same for the other five tracks, and name the files: "Mastered Right," "Mastered LS," Mastered RS," Mastered Center," and lastly, "Mastered LFE"

 

Alternately, if you haven't added any clips to a track, you can right-click on a track's Clip and select "Export Clip Mixdown as..."  Just be careful not to slide the clip around on the track.  You'll throw off the audio sync if you do.  This won't work for our LFE track because we want to export all the clips on it into one file.  Just use the previous export method for the LFE track.

 


We have two options now.  One for those without the Surcode plug-in, and one for those who have purchased it.

 

Option 1) No Surcode.  Read my tutorial for creating an AC3 file with Audacity.

 

But instead of dragging a single interleaved file created by Premiere and dropping it in Audacity, you are going to drag the clips in the following order into the Audacity workspace: L, R, C, LFE, LS, RS.  That is the proper order for an AC3 file, and Audacity will use that order to create your AC3 file correctly.

 

If you choose this option, follow along with Option 2 below, because there is a work-around for the flawed Premiere Audio Mixer.  Plus, you will still be able to make editing changes to your Premiere sequence (If you're careful), and you will also be able to export selected sections of your sequence either to the Media Encoder, or to Encore.

 

 

 

Option 2) You have Surcode, or you want to have the editing option I just mentioned.

 

Back to Premiere:

 

Create a new Bin in your Project tab and name it Mastered Soundbooth Audio.  Drag the six mono files we exported from Soundbooth to that folder.  Now to stay consistent with Premiere's Master volume meter display order, drop the sound files one at a time past the last audio track (In the dark gray unlabeled row) in the following order: Left, Right, LS, RS, and C.  Don't put the LFE channel in a track yet.  Now rename each audio track so it matches the file next to it.

 

Now, as I explained, the Audio Mixer in Premiere has a flaw.  You can't assign a track only to the LFE channel.  And because we can't make a surround file in Soundbooth we need another trick to get our LFE file into our sequence.

 

Select the file "Mastered LFE.wav" in the project tab.  Now click on Clip>Audio Options>Source Channel Mappings..., now under "Track Format" select 5.1, and repeatedly click the Channel tile until the Bass Clef appears.

 

It should look like this:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 5.jpg

 

You just converted your mono LFE file into a virtual 5.1 surround file, with the LFE audio only on the LFE channel.  This is the only way to achieve this in Premiere.

 

Now drag the LFE file from the project panel to the same place you dragged the other files, and rename the track "Mastered LFE.  Notice that Premiere shows the track as a 5.1 surround track even though it's really mono.

 

The bottom of your Audio track section should look like this now:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 6.jpg

 


We're almost done.
Mute all of your original audio tracks, but don't delete any.  You may need them for editing later.

 

Now open up the Audio Mixer panel for your sequence.  We're going to assign each of our mastered tracks to play only in the proper channel.  Notice the position of the small black circle (the "Puck") in each surround mixer.  Make sure the Bass Clef knob is full CCW (Left) on each track so nothing bleeds over into the LFE channel.

 

It should look like this:

 

Tutorial 3 Help 7.jpg

 

Now export using your Surcode plug-in.

 

If you are an Audacity user, and you didn't already make your AC3 file using the individual tracks, then Export again from Premiere into a 5.1 surround wave file.  Drop it into Audacity and export your AC3.

 


One last thing, you have the ability to export only a section of your sequence by setting the "Work Area Bar."  You can also cut out sections of your sequence if you want, without messing up the audio sync, by doing the following:  select all the tracks in the sequence (video and audio); position the CTI at the start of the section to remove; select Sequence>Razor at Current Time Indicator, position CTI at the end of the section to remove; select Sequence>Razor at Current Time Indicator, Marquee select all the clips you just created, and right-click>Ripple Delete.  All the Audio and Video will get shifted over, without any loss of sync.

 


There you have it.  Full surround mastering with proper LFE channel creation.
And because we exported uncompressed every time, we didn't lose any audio quality.

 

I hope you all find this useful.

 

Maybe if I quit knocking Adobe they'll give me a job writing tutorials for them.
I really do love their products!

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 3, 2009 9:46 AM   in reply to Terrachild
    Free AC3 encoding

     

    From Neil Wilkes, Encore guru:

     

    "I would strongly advise against using any form of freeware AC3 encoder.

    They will be either reverse engineered or a hack, as this is not free technology.

    Your finished discs would not be able to use the Dolby logo either as the title would fail verification because none of these hacked encoders can produce guaranteed compliant streams.

    The list of licensed encoder manufacturers is located

    http://www.dolby.com/professional/technology/licensing/dolby-digital-p ro-encoders.html"

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 3, 2009 4:32 PM   in reply to Terrachild

    The Dolby surround format...is also available to any company that makes a product that needs to incorporate a decoder.

     

    Firstly, we're talking here about encoders, not decoders.  Secondly, Neil's right.  The technology is patented and carries a price.  You cannot legally use it without paying.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 3, 2009 4:35 PM   in reply to Terrachild

    The main reason it's not free is because Dolby cleverly tied their Trademark to the file format.

     

    That's not quite accurate.  The technology is patented.  The logo is Trademarked.  Two different things.  And you can get a licensed encoder without applying to use the Trademarked logo.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 3, 2009 4:48 PM   in reply to Terrachild
    Taking your audio and putting it in a file format is a little like taking a story you wrote and putting it in a particular type of book binding and typeset, to use an analogy from another era.

     

    Well, if the binding materials used a patented process and the typeset was Copyrighted, then I agree it would be equally as illegal.

     

    Most people would say that no one should have the right to own a format.

     

    "Most people" don't write (or often even understand) the laws.  Legislators do that.  So what "most people" think here is irrelevant.

     

    But not the format itself.

     

    The US Patent office would seem to disagree with you, since it apparently has granted Dolby the appropriate patents.

     

    An "open-source," (not "hacked," which implies inferiority)

     

    Hacked is correct in this case.  Open Source would be the wrong term here.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 4, 2009 6:26 AM   in reply to Terrachild

    Terrachild,

     

    First, nice tutorial.  Thanks for making it available.

     

    I'd like to jump in the middle here and say that you and Jim make some valid points, but you are each working from a different perspective.

     

    You said:

    Now if you need the Dolby TM on your product, I'm sure paying for the Surcode encoder is the right way to go.  However, 99 percent of the users of Premiere probably don't fall into that category.

    I think you significantly underestimate the percentage of Premiere Pro users that deliver content to paying clients.  Those folks need to know the potential hazards to their business from using freeware AC3 encoders.

    you are going to be tracked down by the Overlords.  I don't mean to scare you, but hey, the law is the law!

    Even more important than this concern, however, is the concern for ethical business practices.  Using a Dolby logo on your deliverables without paying for licensed encoder is wrong.  Not to mention very misleading to your clients.  However, you also said:

    for commercial purposes, this free method is not recomended.  However, for non-commercial, private use, there is nothing wrong, or unethical about creating AC3 files for free

    Using free and open-source tools, I whole-heartedly agree!  Please consider making the above statement a disclaimer at the beginning of your tutorial.

     

    More perspective.  Neil and Jim are businessmen who make their living by providing their clients with quality products.  When a client sees the Dolby Digital logo on a delivered DVD, that client must be able to rest assured that the audio has been mastered and encoded to Dolby's stringent quality standards.  (The analogous video situation would be THX-certified DVD or BD discs).  I'm sure Neil and Jim wanted to make it clear that commercial entities can't afford to put their reputations at risk, or their livelihood, by using something other than fully-licensed versions of Dolby encoders.

     

    I'm a big believer in open-source software, licensed under the GNU.  One just has to be careful how they are used in commercial endeavors.  For personal use, there aren't any such concerns, IMO.

     

    -Jeff

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 4, 2009 1:20 PM   in reply to Terrachild

    I tried to take your advice and put the disclaimer at the top of the AC3 tutorial, but alas, there is no edit button for it anymore.

    Done.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 4, 2009 6:03 PM   in reply to Jeff Bellune
    Using a Dolby logo on your deliverables without paying for licensed encoder is wrong.

     

    Just to add some further clarification, using a licensed encoder is a separate thing from entering into a Trademark agreement.  The first is expected for all users of Dolby Digital.  The second is optional (only necessary if you want to use the logo.)

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 4, 2009 6:08 PM   in reply to Terrachild

    ****Disclaimer****

    For commercial purposes, this free method is not recomended.  However, for non-commercial, private use, there is nothing wrong, or unethical about creating AC3 files for free!

     

    I would disagree.  Even for personal use, there is an ethical matter to consider.  People will do it, I'm sure.  Hell, even I watch free movies online sometimes.

     

    I will leave it to each individuals conscience to determine which course to follow.  But it is still wrong, and I feel it important for anyone using this method to be aware of that fact.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 4, 2009 6:21 PM   in reply to Jim Simon
    I feel it important for anyone using this method to be aware of that fact.

     

    I feel it is even more important that your PPBM results are shared among us.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 21, 2011 7:46 AM   in reply to Terrachild

    Very many thanks for an interesting and informative tutorial - while I had come to many of the same conclusions as you did, your workflow is better.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 21, 2011 9:32 AM   in reply to Diamond

    Thanks for locating this old tutorial for me. I had been looking for it for some time now, as the 5.1 SS question comes up, from time to time, and my searches had come up empty.

     

    While I use, and highly recommend the Minnetonka Audio SurCode DD 5.1 SS Encoder plug-in, there are others, who are looking for another solution.

     

    Appreciated,

     

    Hunt

     

    PS - Now that the forum Search has been fixed, it would probably have been easier the next time - but you saved my having to do so.

     

    PPS - Though I will probably link to this in the future, I have never used the methods outlined, so there is a big disclaimer on my part.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 25, 2011 12:49 PM   in reply to Terrachild

    I convert 6 mono channels to 5.1 all the time. For the sub channel put it on the time line twice, send one to centre and sub and the other to just centre but put the invert effect on that track. that will cancel out the centre feed from the first track. Just make sure that you keep the levels the same.

     

    Richard Knight

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 25, 2011 4:07 PM   in reply to Richard M Knight

    Hi Richard

     

    By "Sub", I take it you refer to the LFE channel? Why do you put it on the timeline twice and does this mean you actually have seven tracks on the timeline?

     

    D

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 26, 2011 2:31 AM   in reply to Diamond

    Yes sorry I used the wrong term I meant LFE.

     

    As you know you can't send a mono track to just the LFE so to get round this limitation send it to centre and turn the LFE send to max. This will give you the feed to the LFE but you will have an unwanted signal going to the centre. To loose this unwanted signal send the same mono feed to just the centre but phase invert the track using audio 'invert' effect. This will cancel out this centre feed.

     

    I film classical music dvds and my sound mixer gives me the surround mix as 6 mono tracks from his Sadie LRX. I take these tracks and put them on their own timeline as follows.

     

    1  Left                   sent to    Left

    2  Right                 sent to    Right

    3  Surround Left     sent to    Surround Left

    4  Surround Right   sent to    Surround  Right

    5  Centre               sent to    Centre

    6  LFE                  sent to     Centre and LFE

    7  LFE                  sent  to    Centre with 'Invert'

     

    I then export to a 5.1 wav file that I then use as the master sound track for my edit.

     

    I know it is not accepted as correct to use the LFE for anything other than effects but we got complaints from our dvd customers that their LFE meter wasn't moving on low organ pedal notes. It was easier to put a little on that track than try to explain why it should not be needed!

     

    Richard Knight

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 26, 2011 3:55 AM   in reply to Richard M Knight

    I see. That does sound like an excellent strategy although in the original tutorial Terraknight shoed us how to extract the LFE and set it up as such in the 5.1 premiere timeline as follows:

     

    ============================================

    Select the file "Mastered LFE.wav" in the project tab.  Now click on Clip>Audio Options>Source Channel Mappings..., now under "Track Format" select 5.1, and repeatedly click the Channel tile until the Bass Clef appears.

     

    It should look like this:

     

    Tutorial 3 Help 5.jpg

     

    You just converted your mono LFE file into a virtual 5.1 surround file, with the LFE audio only on the LFE channel.  This is the only way to achieve this in Premiere.

     

     

    =======================================

     

    I think this has the possible advantage of being able to master the LFE exclusively in Soundbooth or Audition. Thanks for the insight, nice to speak to fellow professionals as 5.1 mixes are a rarity where I live :-)

     

    Dave

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 27, 2011 1:25 AM   in reply to Terrachild

    What do you think of this. I am a documentary producer therefore my requirements differ from Richard's whose focus is on re-creating the feel of a concert whereas mine is to lend interest and dimension to a soundtrack.  Usually I am  taking a Music Track, Voice Over and sound effects to the 5.1 mix and I've settled on the following -

     

    All mastered as mono tracks

     

    L - Left track of stereo music Score + front FX sent to Front Left (Primary mix down with FX panned to maximise spatial feel)

    R - Right track etc. to Front Right

    C- Voice Over

    Ls - Rear Left as Mono

    Rs - Rear Right as mono

    LFE - All bass effects

     

    This is the only way I can think of to get the music where I want it without using stereo track for the L & R front channels.

     

    Dave

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 13, 2013 10:40 AM   in reply to Terrachild

    You are doing great work. I can use Audacity to make 5.1 file. But I have to do it repetitvely. I have three folders. One has 500 stereo files good for L, R channel. Second folder contains another 500 stereo files good for C, LFE. Third forlder again 500 stereo files good for SL, SR. Is there any way a computer program can pick them in order and make 500, 5.1 files. Batchprocessing?

     
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