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Tutorial: Reducing Background Noise and Removing Pops and Clicks in Final Cut Pro X

Background noise and pops and clicks in audio are an unfortunate fact of life for many productions. In this tutorial we'll explore some fixes you can try in Final Cut Pro X.
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Background noise and pops and clicks in audio are an unfortunate fact of life for many productions. In this tutorial we'll explore some fixes you can try in Final Cut Pro X.

The video above shows a clip I'm working on, and there are a couple of problems that you can see immediately in Figure 1 (below). Number one, the levels are too low. The audio peaks should be up towards the top of the waveform. Number two, if you play the audio file (begin at 0:40 in the clip above) you'll hear two big pops in the audio track of the clip shown in Figure 1.

Final Cut Pro X
Figure 1. The low-volume clip we'll work with in the tutorial

We'll start by boosting the audio volume, and when we do that we're going to increase some background noise that we'll want to minimize. After we've accomplished both those tasks, we'll remove the pops and the clicks.

Boosting Audio Volume

There are a couple of different audio controls you can use to boost the volume. To begin, click the clip in the timeline and open the Inspector window. There you can choose the Video, Audio, or Info tab. Choose Audio to see FCP X's Volume and Pan settings and Audio Enhancements (Figure 2, below).

Final Cut Pro X
Figure 2. The FCP X Audio Inspector

I already analyzed the clip during import and FCP X detected no problems with the audio (as indicated by the green checkmark next to Audio Analysis in Figure 2, above), so we can move on to Audio Enhancements.

Cick the white circled arrow to the right of "No Problems Detected," and FCP X will open the Audio Enhancements panel with Loudness controls, Background Noise Removal, and Hum Removal, as shown in Figure 3 (below).

Final Cut Pro X
Figure 3. The Audio Enhancements panel

But the first thing you should do before you start any audio editing is to break the audio and the video portions of the clip apart. To do so, click the clip and choose Clip > Break Apart Clip Items (Figure 4, below). Now you can apply your audio edits and rest assured that nothing you do to the audio file is going to affect the video file.

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 4. Unlinking audio and video in the clip

There are couple of different ways to adjust volume. You can adjust the Loudness parameters in the Audio Enhancements, or you can use the volume control on the waveform itself (Figure 5, below).

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 5. Adjusting audio volume directly in the waveform

Loudness includes a component of compression-not streaming compression, but the kind of compression that makes the voice sound beefier and more testosterone-filled like the voiceovers on Saturday morning car advertisements. But the doctor interviewed in this clip doesn't need that. He's got a very distinctive voice, so we're not going to use the Loudness control in the Audio Enhancements panel; we'll use the volume control on the waveform.

If you look at the waveform in Figure 6 with the volume increased (below), you can see that if I drag the volume closer to the top, we start to see red and yellow peaks. You don't want to hit the reds because that will cause clipping. If we pull it down to 8 dB, we still have the peaks in the yellow, which should give us plenty of volume, and but we've eliminated the clipping peaks in the red except for the click that we're going to cut out in a moment.

Apple Final Cut Pro X
Figure 6. Dragging the volume too high causes clipping, indicated by red peaks.

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