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Music 265c Lesson 1: Video Project Intro & Preparation

PDF version is available HERE

Lesson 1: Video Project Intro & Preparation

For the rest of the semester, we will record, edit, and mix all of the sound elements for a video project. Before we can get to work, we need to find a suitable video. If you need access to a computer with Pro Tools, the Music department’s computer lab is available. You will need to check out an iLok from one of the professors in order to use Pro Tools on the lab computers.

A suitable video should cover these points:

  • At least 2-5 minutes long
  • Quicktime (.mov) Format (as long as Pro Tools can read/playback the video)
  • It should have some sort of contrast (different locations/scenes, etc: not the same thing)
  • Something new: none of the previous class assignments (no Hands-On projects, etc)
  • No music videos (but you can score music for your film as well as editing SFX)

Where to find a video

  • The Film/Media Arts students always need sound editors & original music for their projects.
  • Film Scoring students can use the same student film for their final project (music & SFX)
  • CraigsList. Start networking: this is how you will make a living in this field.
  • YouTube: You can rip and convert videos using websites like
  • The class film library (there is a large collection of VHS work-prints if you want to transfer it).

For your first project, I suggest looking for “silent” films & animation (i.e. containing very little dialogue). Animation like The Triplets of Belleville (2003), Tom & Jerry, The Roadrunner, or most of the old Warner Brothers cartoons, and films starring Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton are great for beginners. If you want more of a challenge, get in contact with the college’s Media Arts department and collaborate on one of the student film projects.

Getting Started

Before we begin, create a folder for yourself on your portable hard drive, or in the computer’s student projects folder: do not save your project onto the desktop, and do not save it inside someone else’s project folder because you weren’t paying attention. Don’t be that guy.

Once you have created a folder for your work, move your QuickTime video file into that folder.

Turn on your audio interface and Launch Pro Tools and create a new blank session (File > New Session) with these settings:

Audio File Type: BWF (.wav) or AIFF is acceptable

Sample Rate: 48 kHz

Bit Depth: 24 Bit or higher, Interleaved

I/O Settings: Stereo Mix – this might be different depending on your interface: more on that later.

Click OK, and navigate to your project folder. At the top of the window in the Save As field, give the project a unique name like [your name] Video Project so you can easily find it. Click the Save button in the bottom left corner.

When the session finishes loading, import your video file by selecting File > Import > Video. Find your video file and click OK. On the Video Import Options window select Location: Session Start, and make sure the Import Audio from File box is checked.

If you get an error message, you might need to convert your video to a different format. If needed, use a website like to convert your video to a QuickTime movie file.

Pro Tools will ask where you want to save the audio associated with the video. Save it in the Audio Files folder inside your Project Folder and click the Open button. At this point, you should see a video track, and a stereo audio track in your session. Create a Stereo Master Fader by selecting Track > New – select StereoMaster Fader, and click Create. Rename the audio track by double-clicking on the track name. Change the name to “Production” and click OK. For the rest of this project, we will use this audio track for reference purposes. In the end we will recreate all of the sound elements from scratch, and mute the original audio.

Save your work: File > Save, or use the ⌘S shortcut.

Preparing the Session

We need to check and change some of our settings in order to make our workflow easier. First, play the video in Pro Tools by pressing the space bar. You should see the video playing, and you should hear the audio in your headphones. If you can’t see the video window, select Window > Video and reposition the window so it’s not in your way. You can right click on the window to adjust the size, or click and drag on the corner of the window.

Playback Settings

If you can’t hear anything, we will need to troubleshoot the problem. If you can hear everything, skip ahead to the next section. On your audio interface, make sure your headphones are plugged into the right spot, turn up your volume, and unmute the interface. The same applies if you are plugged straight into your computer’s headphone port.

In order to fix this, inside Pro Tools, select Setup > Playback Engine. In the Playback Engine window, select your interface from the dropdown window. This could be an M-Box, an HD-Native system, or your computer’s Built-In Line Output if you don’t use an interface. Every system may be different. Once you have selected your interface, click OK. This will save, close, and relaunch your session using the new playback device.

If you still can’t hear anything, select Setup > I/O and select the Output tab. This displays the output routing for whatever playback device you selected earlier. Pressing the Default button should correct most issues. On the Default Output Bus dropdown, make sure your system’s main stereo bus is selected (it should be the first stereo path shown on the window above this menu: Out 1-2, Analog 1-2, or something similar). Click OK.

Lastly, in your Mix Window make sure your tracks are outputting to the main stereo bus. On the bottom half of the track’s I/O section, Select Output > and pick the main output from the previous steps. You should be able to hear your tracks playing back through your headphones.

Grids, Rulers, and Preferences

Because we are working with video, we will be dealing with Timecode instead of bars & beats. Timecode is the format used to label the hours, minutes, seconds, and frames of a piece of video. For example, we read 01:59:30:14 as 1 hour, 59 minutes, 30 seconds, and 14 frames.


On your Main Counter, click on the dropdown arrow (on the middle-left side of this picture), and select Timecode. Under your Grid and Nudge dropdown arrows (on the far right), set both of these to Timecode, 1 Frame, and Follow Main Time Scale. Lastly, activate Grid Mode by clicking on the Grid button in the upper left corner of your edit window. Save your work.

Spotting the Video: Memory Locations

After all of that preparation, we can finally get to work. Our first major step involves spotting the video: marking all of the events we see on the screen. This includes scene changes, camera angle cuts, transitions, and more importantly, the action we see and hear (or should hear) in the shot: gunshots, explosions, doors opening, and any other event that would produce a sound.

We can make a note of these actions by using Memory Locations inside Pro Tools. For example, go to the very start of the session by pressing Return. Next, press the Enter key on the number pad (right side of your keyboard) to create a new memory location marker. In the New Memory Location window, change the name of this marker to “Start” and click OK. While you’re at it, select Window > Memory Locations to see a list of all of the markers you make. Clicking on one will take you straight to that location.

First, go through the video and make a new memory location at every scene change and video edit. Go to the exact moment (down to the frame) when the camera angle cuts to a different perspective, and label these accordingly. For example, name the first marker Scene 1, and in the comment section, describe the location (e.g. indoors, large bank, crowded and noisy). Label each shot as well (e.g. Name: Shot 1, Comment: closeup on the bank teller. Shot 2, cut to bank robber, Shot 3, closeup on shotgun, etc). All of these shot markers will be used to line up and pan our sound effects as we import and mix them. Making a detailed list of memory locations here will save you a lot of work later on.

This part of the process may take a while, but it is crucial. On your first pass through the video, try to mark down all of the scene & shot changes (all of the video edits) – label them accordingly, and be sure to place those markers on the exact frame where the change happens. On your next pass, mark all of the events that would produce a noise: gunshots (on what frame do we see the muzzle flash?), doors opening and closing (on what frame does it stop moving?), car crashes (when do they hit the brakes, and when does the impact happen?) and so on. General ambient noise like a noisy crowd, traffic, birds, wind, and so on are important as well, but they may just be layered over a scene later on. Try to mark down all of the specific events you can find.

Once we’re done spotting the video, we can begin importing our sound effects: our next lesson.

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