Adobe Premiere Pro’s Essential Sound Panel enables video editors to mix audio and add effects without having a degree or advanced training in audio engineering. Adobe Audition introduced the Essential Sound Panel over a year ago, but Creative Cloud’s Spring update (April 2017) introduced the panel into Adobe Premiere Pro CC. This is great news for video editors, because it reduces the number of steps and programs you need to mix your audio professionally and at broadcast standard.
There are four audio types in the Essential Sound Panel: Dialogue, Music, Sound FX, and Ambience. Below is an overview of the various parameters in each audio type, along with tips on how to use them effectively. Remember, audio editing and mixing is not a craft — it’s an art. No one formula will fit all scenarios, and this guide is not intended to fix your audio, but to give you the tools to help you better approach audio mixing in Premiere Pro CC.
Before I dive into each section, I’d recommend working in Premiere Pro’s “Audio” workspace. To get there, go to “Window,” select “Workspaces,” and choose “Audio.” This will open up the Essential Sound Panel on the right side the Premiere Pro workspace.
To begin editing, first drop your dialogue into your timeline. With the audio clip selected in your timeline, go to the Essential Sound Panel and choose the “Dialogue” audio type. From here, you’ll be able to edit using presets, loudness controls, repair, clarity, creative, and volume controls.
The types of audio effects you apply to your dialogue depend on your story, platform, and video genre. The creators of the Essential Sound Panel knew this, which is why they shipped the dialogue section of the panel with a variety of presets to fit different dialogue needs.
For example, if you want to make your audio sound like it’s coming from outside a location, there’s a preset called “From Outside a Building.” Or if you want to give your dialogue a podcast sound, there’s a “Podcast Voice” filter and, even better, if your dialogue is particularly noisy, there’s a “Clean Up Noisy Dialogue” preset you can use. Once you select a preset, you can see that various parameters from the Essential Sound Panel are automatically adjusted to fit that preset. Of course, these presets won’t magically fix or make your audio perfect. You’ll still have to make minor adjustments to the panel’s parameters to achieve your sound.
Once you make adjustments, the box next to preset will turn into “Custom” and you can save it as your own custom preset by clicking on the Save button. You can give it any name you like, and once you hit save, it will be in your preset dropdown.
Underneath your presets, there’s a loudness tab. If you select “Auto-Match,” it will set your audio to a target loudness of -23 LUFS, the broadcast loudness standard for dialogue. LUFS stands for loudness units relative to full scale, which is just a standard for audio levels on broadcast TV and other video.
Once you click the Auto-Match button and it turns blue, you’re all set. You just mixed your dialogue to broadcast standard, and all you had to do is click a button. It really makes it easy.
Following Loudness is the “Repair” tab. When you click on it, it will expand to reveal four new parameters, which you can activate by clicking on the check box next to it, then using a slider to reduce or increase the effects. When you enable any of the repair effects, it will apply an effect at the clip level, which you can see under the audio clip’s effects controls tab. Let’s review the four parameters.
Reduce Noise: When you activate “Reduce Noise,” it applies an Adaptive Noise Reduction to your audio. You can use the slider to increase or reduce the intensity of the effect. This effect removes variable broadband noise like background noises and wind. It works best if you add a few seconds of the noise before the dialogue begins. If you don’t have noise in the beginning, you may be better off pulling your audio into Adobe Audition and using the noise-print method to remove noise from dialogue. I’d also recommend getting a plugin called CrumplePop Audio Denoise for Premiere Pro to reduce hums or hisses. I use CrumplePop on my dialogue in almost every video I produce to remove hums.
Reduce Rumble: This effect is intended to get rid of microphone rumble only. When you enable this parameter, it adds an “FFT Filter” to the audio clip, which you can open up and make further adjustments to if the slider doesn’t offer enough control.
DeHum: This effect removes the sound of electrical hums from your audio. There’s an option to select 50hz or 60hz depending on your country. Typically, North and South America use 60hz and the rest of the world uses 50hz. When you activate this parameter, the Essential Sound Panel automatically applies the “DeHummer” effect to your audio clip.
DeEss: This effect does exactly what it sounds like — it removes the harsh “s” sounds, also known as sibilance. Once checked in the Essential Sound Panel, it applies a “DeEsser” effect to your audio clip.
Once you’ve corrected the audio using the “Repair” tab, you can move on to improve the clarity of your audio using Dynamics, EQ, and Speech Enhancement.
Dynamics: This will let you compress or expand the dynamic range of your dialogue recording. You can move the dynamics slider to make your dialogue sound more natural or more focused. When you make the audio more focused, it compresses the audio, reducing the dynamic range between the loudest and the quietest part; and when you make the audio more natural, it expands the dynamic range, making the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of the audio further apart. When you use Dynamics on an audio clip, you’ll see that it applies a Dynamics Processing effect directly to the clip, which you can open up in the Effects Controls tab.
EQ: Enabling the EQ in the Essential Sound Panel will apply a Graphic Equalizer (10 bands) to your clip, which you can see under the audio clip’s effects controls. This allows you to enhance or reduce specific frequencies from a list of common EQ presets. For example, if you’re working with a female voice, you can select the “Subtle Boost (female)” EQ to boost the frequencies common in female voices. The best part is, you don’t need to know what these frequencies are — the Essential Sound Panel handles that for you. You can decrease or increase the amount of the EQ using the slider.
Enhance Speech: By checking the box next to “Enhance Speech,” the Essential Sound Panel applies a “Vocal Enhancer” effect to your audio track. There are only two modes: Female or Male. This will enhance the vocal frequencies of either male (85 to 180hz) or female (165-255hz).
You can also add a creative reverb, which basically adds atmospherics to your dialogue to make it sound like it was recorded in a particular environment. After you check the box next to Reverb, it adds a “Studio Reverb” effect to your dialogue. You then choose from a list of reverb presets, such as “Thicken Voice” or “Auditorium.” You can also use the slider to make the effect more relaxed or aggressive.
Lastly, if you want to increase or reduce the volume of the audio, you can adjust the level slider at the very bottom. What this is does is add a “Hard Limiter” effect to your audio clip, which will increase or decrease the overall volume without distorting the audio.
After you place your music track into your timeline, select the clip and choose the “Music” audio type from the Essential Sound Panel. Unlike dialogue, there aren’t a whole lot of parameters for finished music. The most important is loudness, which will make sure that the your audio is not overpowering your dialogue. Once you hit “Auto-Match” under loudness, you will see that the music is set to a -25 LUFS broadcast loudness standard.
You can also adjust the duration of the music by entering in a new target, but all this will do is cut the audio down to the duration you indicate. If you want to remix it down to a new duration, you need to use Adobe Audition’s Essential Sound Panel or another program, as remix is not yet available in Premiere Pro’s Essential Sound Panel.
3. Sound FX
Using the Essential Sound Panel, you can enhance and alter the way Sound FX — like the screech of a car, ringing of a bell, or the typing at a computer’s keyboard — behave in your video.
Place your Sound FX clip in your Premiere Pro timeline, select the audio clip, then select the “SFX” audio type in the Essential Sound Panel and make adjustments with these parameters:
Loudness: Under the Loudness tab, select “Auto-Match” to set your audio level to -21 LUFS, the broadcast loudness standard for sound effects.
Creative: The creative tab lets you add a heavy, light, outside, or room reverb to your sound effect to give it an atmospheric sound.
Pan: Using the Pan tab, you can change the way sounds are heard in the stereo field. For example, if an ambulance is coming on the left of your video frame, you can adjust the pan slider to place the sound coming from the left too.
Looking for Sound Effects to use in your project? Explore the full Sound Effects library on Pond5.
Unlike sound effects, Ambience is sound that reflects the atmosphere of a space and is more subtle. For example, in an office space you may hear printer sounds or computer mice clicking, but these are considered sound effects, not ambience. Office Ambience would be more like the buzz of the florescent lights and the subtle chatter of employees talking.
Drag and drop your ambient sound into your timeline, then with the audio selected in the timeline, select the “Ambience” audio type from the Essential Sound Panel.
From here you can adjust the loudness, add reverb, and adjust the stereo width of your ambience.
Loudness: The broadcast standard for ambience is -30 LUFS. This is lower than dialogue, as it is meant to be more in the background. Make sure to click “Auto-Match” to get your ambience to -30 LUFs.
Reverb: You can select from four reverb presets: Large Room Ambience, Outside Ambience, Room Ambience, and Wind Effect. You can use the slider to increase the amount of reverb.
Stereo Width: This applies a “Stereo Expander” effect to your audio clip, which allows you to increase or decrease the amount of presence of your ambient noise. For example, if you want to make the ambience feel like it,s all around the viewer, you can adjust the slider more to the right, toward “Width.”
Think of the Essential Sound Panel as a toolbox that makes sound mixing easy for beginners. Also, remember that just going with presets is not the way to go. One preset does not fit all. You’re going to have to make adjustments and listen to your audio until you achieve your desired effect.
If you have any further questions, be sure to leave a comment below. To learn more about the Essential Graphics Panel, check out my previous post and the archived live-stream on the Essential Graphics Panel from my YouTube channel.