Editing dialogue in Adobe Premiere Pro

So…you’ve finished shooting your dialogue scene, now it’s time to get to work in Adobe Premiere Pro to cut it together. This guide will teach you how to organise your assets, batch synchronise audio and video, synchronise audio and video in the timeline, clean up your audio using Essential Sound and the Audio Track Mixer, and master the final product.

Organising your assets

Even with a simple dialogue scene, you’ll probably end up with a dozen or so clips. Organising your assets will help to avoid confusion later in your workflow.

  • Identify outtakes. Sort through your audio and video files, put those you don’t need in a folder called Outtakes.
  • Label your clips. There’s nothing more frustrating that trying to work out the difference between DSC0049 and DSC0053! Take a few minutes to rename your clips. Go for a consistent naming style, e.g. Scene 1 – Shot 1 – Take 1.mp4 or sc0001_sh0001_t0001.mp4. Do whatever will help you out when you’re editing!
  • Organise. Keep all of the assets required for your project, including the Adobe Premiere Pro project file, in the same folder. You might like to organise music tracks, foley sound and other assets in specific folders. Adobe Premiere Pro assumes that you are going to organise the assets yourself. There’s nothing worse than getting a media offline message when you accidentally delete a file from your downloads folder.

Creating a new project and importing assets

Start a new project. Launch Adobe Premiere Pro and click ‘New Project’.

Name your project and save it in your project folder. Give your project a name and choose somewhere to save it, the folder that you created to save your assets will be the easiest if you need to back everything up later.

Import your assets. Drag your video and audio files from the Finder or Windows Explorer into the project pane of your Adobe Premiere Pro project.

Batch synchronising in Adobe Premiere Pro

To automatically synchronise all of the video with the matching audio files, select all of the clips in your project pane and right click on these files and choose ‘Create Multi Camera Source Sequence’.

In the dialogue box that appears, under the heading of ‘Synchronisation Point’ ensure you choose Audio: Track Channel 1.

Note: At this stage, you will likely get an error saying Premiere Pro could not synchronise one or more clips. This is simply because you may have selected audio clips—such as music, ambience or foley sounds—that didn’t have a corresponding video clip.

Premiere Pro will sort the processed files into a folder called ‘Processed Clips’. You will notice that there are now multicam sequences that end with the phrase ‘multicam’. These are a combination of the video and your externally recorded audio.

At this point, it’s a good idea to label your clips with different colours to make them easily distinguishable in your timeline. Right click on each of your multicam sequences and, under Label, choose a different colour for each clip so they stand out on the timeline. In this example, I have labelled one clip ‘Mango’ and the other ‘Rose’.

Editing multicam sequences

At this point, editing becomes a very simple process of double-clicking on your multicam sequences to open them in the source monitor.

When navigating in the source monitor you can:

  • Drag the blue playhead to scrub through the clip.
  • Press the spacebar to play/pause.
  • Use the left and right arrow keys to move backwards and forwards frame by frame.
  • Press J and L on your keyboard to shuttle backwards and forwards. Pressing these keys multiple times will increase the speed of shuttling.

Using the playhead, find the beginning of the line you’d like to use and press ‘I’ on your keyboard to mark in.

Find the end of the line, then press ‘O’ on your keyboard to mark out.

Drag the clip from the source monitor and drop it into the timeline.

Drag the blue playhead, press ‘I’ to mark in at the beginning of the clip, press ‘O’ to mark out at the end of the clip.

Synchronising and editing clips in the timeline

It’s also possible to synchronise clips in the timeline. First, drop a video clip and its matching audio clip into the sequence. The video should be on V1 and its audio on A1. Drop the matching audio onto A2.

Drag a selection box around the two clips to select them. Right click on the selected video and audio clip and choose ‘Synchronise’.

In the Synchronise Clips dialogue box, under the heading of Synchronisation Point, choose Audio Track Channel 1.

Using the Selection Tool (V) mouse over the end of the clip until the trim icon appears. Drag the beginning and end of the dialogue or video clip so they are exactly the same length.

Line the playhead up with the beginning of the video clip, drag the externally recorded audio over the camera audio to overwrite it. Select the video and audio clip by dragging a selection box around them. Hold down Command L (Mac) or Control L (Windows) to link the two clips.

Once you have your clips in the timeline, it’s time to start cutting out the good bits. Use the following shortcuts to help you:

Comand K (Mac) Control K (Windows) will cut a clip at the playhead.

Press W to ripple trim the footage after the playhead.

Press Q to ripple trim the footage before the playhead.

Before you start dragging your clips to put them in order, ensure that snapping is turned on. The shortcut for toggling snapping is S on your keyboard. The snapping icon is the magnet in the currently open sequence. When it is blue, snapping is on. When it is grey, snapping is disabled.

Drag the clips to rearrange. When dropping a clip on the cut between two clips hold down Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) to perform an insert edit.

Hint: If you ever find gaps between your clips, right click on the gap and choose Ripple Delete to close the gap.

Performing a fine edit

Once you’ve got your clips in order, it’s time to do a fine edit. You can use ripple trims (Q and W) to remove any awkward silences at the end of lines and make the conversation flow naturally.

Press W to ripple trim the footage after the playhead.

Press Q to ripple trim the footage before the playhead.

Press B on your keyboard to bring up the Ripple Edit Tool. This can also be found in the toolbox as shown here.

With the Ripple Edit Tool selected, you can mouse over a cut and drag to change its in or out point.

Performing L and J cuts

In certain dialogue scenes, you may want one character to continue speaking while cutting to another character. These cuts are known as L cuts and J cuts based on their appearance in the timeline.

First select both of the clips and hold down Command L (Mac) or Control L (Windows) to unlink the clips.

Using the Selection Tool (V), mouse over the end of a clip and drag to shorten it, then drag the next clip to fill the gap as shown here.

Crossfading clips

In some cases, you may hear an audible transition between two clips because one is louder than the other. An easy way to fix this is by going to ‘Effects’  pane and searching for ‘Cross’ which will bring up a folder of audio crossfades, including Constant Power. Drag this effect and drop it between the audio tracks to smooth out the transition.

Adding reaction shots

When editing a dialogue scene, it is common to cut away to a character’s reaction while another character continues speaking.To achieve this, open the reaction shot in the source monitor by double clicking on it. In the source monitor, find the beginning of the reaction and press ‘I’ to mark in, find the end of the reaction and press ‘O’ to mark out. Instead of dragging the clip into the timeline, drag the filmstrip icon at the bottom of the source monitor. When you mouse over this icon, the tool tip will say ‘Drag video only’. Drop it on the video layer above the clip that you would like cut from. 

Cleaning up audio in Essential Sound

Essential Sound provides a quick and effective method for improving audio quality. Start by selecting the dialogue clips in your timeline.

You can do this by dragging a selection box around them.

If you wish to deselect or select additional clips, hold down the shift key and click the clips individually.

If you can’t see Essential Sound on the right of your interface, choose Window > Essential Sound.

With your clips selected, in Essential sound, click ‘Dialogue’ under the heading of

Under ‘Loudness’ click ‘Auto-match’ to bring the levels of all clips up to -23 LUFS which is a standard for broadcast loudness.

Under ‘Repair’, you will find a number of common ways to fix audio. Check the box to apply and adjust the slider to increase or decrease its strength.

  • Reduce Noise. Apply the DeNoise effect to eliminate background noise. Adjust the slider to find the optimal balance between noise reduction and audio quality.
  • Reduce Rumble. Remove low-frequency sounds, such as wind hitting the microphone.
  • DeEss. Soften sharp sibilant sounds caused by certain voices and microphones.
  • Reduce Reverb. Mitigate reverb caused by recording in environments with hard surfaces.
  • Dynamics. Add clarity and punch to the voice by checking this box and adjusting the slider.
  • EQ. Enhance voice clarity by selecting the appropriate EQ preset (e.g., add a subtle boost to male or female voices).

Mixing sound

Adjusting individual clips. To mix sounds so they don’t overpower your dialogue, move your cursor over the division between audio tracks and drag it down to make the audio tracks wider and reveal the volume controller. With the Move Tool (V) selected, drag the volume levels to increase or decrease the volume of a particular clip.

Using the Audio Track Mixer. If you can’t see the audio track mixer, go to Window > Audio Track Mixer. The faders on the Audio Track Mixer represent the different tracks in your sequence. When you will play your sequence, you will notice the audio level metres moving as your clips play. Having all your audio on a particular track—for example, ambience on one track, music on one track, dialogue on one track—is a convenient way to adjust the levels of these sounds all at once.

Photo by Pixabay.