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Lesson 16. Finishing and Outputting > Detecting Audio Peaks

Detecting Audio Peaks

When adjusting the audio level of your sequence, the one absolute rule is never to allow the audio to peak over 0 dB. Final Cut Pro can help you pinpoint exactly where the audio is peaking in your sequence by placing a marker in the Timeline at each peak.

In the Timeline, play the Racing Promo sequence, and watch the audio meters to see if there are any peaks in the sequence. You can also open the Audio Mixer and look at the audio levels on the Master fader.

When the audio peaks in the Timeline, the red clipping indicator lights up on one or both audio meters, depending on which track peaked. The indicators stay red until you stop playing the sequence. Although these indicators tell you there was an audio peak, they don't pinpoint exactly where in the sequence it occurred.

In the Timeline, deselect all clips by clicking in the empty gray area of the Timeline or pressing Shift-Cmd-A. Choose Mark > Audio Peaks > Mark.

A progress bar appears while Final Cut Pro examines the sequence.

When the detection is complete, markers are placed in the Timeline ruler area wherever the audio peaks occur in the sequence. If the peak is sustained for more than an instant, a long marker—or marker with a duration—appears over the clip to indicate the length of the peaking audio.


When the playhead is over an audio peak marker, Audio Peak appears as an overlay in the Canvas to identify it.

Move the playhead over the first audio peak marker, and zoom in to get a better view.

Audio meters reflect the levels of the combined audio tracks in the sequence. You will have to judge which individual tracks are causing the peaking. Since the music and sound effects are very low at this location, it's most likely that the A1 and A2 voice-over clips are the problem.

Move the playhead over the next group of audio peak markers.

Here again, the VO clip is causing the sound to peak.

Select the JM what you see clip" under the first two audio peak markers. Cmd-click the JM what you see clip under the next two markers to add it to this selection.


You can toggle on clip overlays if you want to view the volume level lines on the clips in the Timeline.

Choose Modify > Levels.

A Gain Adjust window opens. You can use this window to adjust current levels for a single clip or a group of clips. Gain adjustments that you make in this window can be relative or absolute. Making a relative adjustment changes the current level of the selected clips by the amount you enter and maintains any keyframes those clips may contain. Making an absolute adjustment removes any keyframes and resets the audio to a specific level.


If you select a video clip and choose Modify > Levels, an Opacity Adjust window will appear, allowing you to adjust the opacity level of the clip.

In the Gain Adjust window, in the Adjust Gain By field, enter –3 dB, and leave the Make Changes option set to Relative. Click OK. Watch the audio meters as you play through these two clips.

These clips no longer cause the audio to peak.

If there are any other peak markers in the sequence, select the clip and adjust its levels using the Gain Adjust window.


A good time to use the Absolute option in the Gain Adjust window is when you have changed the audio level of one or more clips and want to return them to their original 0 dB level, or to another specific level. You would enter 0, or other number, in the Adjust Gain By field and choose Absolute from the Make Changes pop-up. This option removes all keyframes.

To clear the audio peak markers from the Timeline, choose Mark > Audio Peaks > Clear, or press Ctrl-~ (tilde key).


If you've changed the peak levels and want to reassess whether there are still audio peaks, choose Mark > Audio Peaks > Mark again. Remember to deselect all clips before choosing this option.



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