Final Cut Pro: How to Change the Pan of Audio in the Viewer

Audio is just as important to a project as video is. A dynamic sound design has the ability to go in for the final kill in terms of having an audience being drawn into the escape experience of watching a movie. Sound can make us feel like we're really there and one effect that capitalizes on this is the audio pan. 

What is the Audio Pan?

A camera pan is a move that involves moving the camera on a straight line from left to right or vice versa. An audio pan is the sound version of the movement. In stereo left/right audio, the pan would be a noise that moves from left to right in the stereo audio channels. It could also move from right to left.

Plan Where to Use It

The first step in applying an audio pan is figuring out where to use it. This effect is especially great in horror movies. Often, what you don't see is scarier than what you do and an audio pan helps accentuate that.

For our project we are editing a horror movie and in this scene a woman is being chased through a dark, abandoned warehouse by a monster. This is the first scene of the movie and we will not be revealing what the monster looks like so it will have greater dramatic impact in the movie later.

For this particular sequence the woman is hiding. We then hear something fall in the factory. She looks to see what it was but can't see anything due to the darkness. Then we hear footsteps, something is running.

We're going to add an audio pan to the footsteps so that there will be some direction in the unseen movement.

Open the Audio Clip in the Viewer

To change the sound of the foot steps, it should first be it's own independent sound clip. We will double click the clip to open it in the viewer. Take notice of a button with a diamond on it. This is used to set keyframes. Also notice a sliding bar labeled pan. This changes the pan of the audio.

Set Keyframes

Move the play head to where you want the pan to begin and set a keyframe. Then move the play head to where you want the pan to end and set another keyframe.

Change the Pan Levels

Go back to the first keyframe and move the pan level all the way to the left. Then go to the last keyframe and move the pan level all the way to the right. When you play the clip back the sound should now pan from left to right.

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