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Managing audio layers in Final Cut Pro X

managing audio layers fcpx

Yes you read the title right, layers. Some editors love the FCPX magnetic timeline, other editors aren't that keen and have found alternative workarounds. Isazaly Mohd Isa uses a special way to lay out his audio which helps organise clips.

Isazaly very kindly sent us this method on how he arranges the audio when he's editing long form work in Final Cut Pro X. It might not be to everybody's liking and we are sure it will spark off a good debate, but it works well for him.

My name is Isazaly (my name is pronounced as ‘ee-sa-za-lee’ or just zalee for short!) and I'm an Apple Certified Trainer based in Malaysia and Singapore. In the SuperMag 2010 Issue No. 4, I wrote an article on how to professionally manage your audio layers for final mixing in FCP7. (You can still download it here: SuperMag 2010 - Issue #4) I have received a lot of positive response and appreciation from that article and now in 2013, I’m back yet again, this time on FCPX.

A quick flashback. In FCP7, I described how to organise your audio from something like this:

(Click for larger images)

tracks fcp7 unorganised small

....into something more manageable with a more professional workflow. Especially good when you’re doing your final mixing directly on the timeline. Yes, some of us editors do that over in this this part of the world, we're editor cum audio mixer cum motion graphic artist cum colourist!

tracks fcp7 small 

Onto the present...

In FCPX, video and audio tracks are long GONE, but not forever. As much as I am liking loving FCPX now, I still want a ‘visually appealing’ timeline, like FCP7, for sentimental value!

You can still manage your audio layers ‘visually’, with what I shall call this “Z Virtual TraX” system. You will not only get a better workflow, especially when utilizing ‘Roles’ to export audio stems for audio post, but you will also be able to clearly see precisely ALL audio tracks at a glance.

This was an ad-hoc solution that I found (based on my last article) that has helped me to manage a project which was my very FIRST longform production cut on FCPX. It was for a local cable station here in Kuala Lumpur.

I’ve created a 3-hour SILENCE (.mp3) via ‘Audacity’ or you can use any audio software that can generate ‘Silence’. If you’re a lazy editor, here’s a link to my “Z Virtual TraX” clip. It is actually an MP3 audio track with NO SOUND, just pure silence for 3 hours. The term “silence is golden” perfectly matches this scenario!

All you need now is to import this track, select range (in and out points) on the timeline to determine the length you need, usually this will be my FINAL duration of the project. Then connect it (shortcut key ‘q’) to your timeline and change the “Z Virtual TraX” in the ‘Inspector > Info’ and label them as such - Ambience, Sound Effects, Voice Over/Narrations & Music respectively. All you need now is to move UP or DOWN each of the respective audio clips into its own region.


(Hint: Hold down SHIFT + Click then drag clips UP or DOWN vertically without misaligning your audio clips that are already in place, but in the wrong ‘region’.)

As you can probably figure out by now, the rest of it is pretty simple, especially if you have read my last article and understood the workflow, which has been around since celluloid days.


track layers

fcpx appearance


But wait a minute, where have those “connectors” in the audio clips disappeared to? You will probably wonder, what is the use of the “Show Connections” in the Clip Appearance? Are those not redundant?

For me, yes. If you have that setting toggled on your “Z Virtual TraX” will look like this! 



Have fun using “Z Virtual TraX” on Final Cut Pro X!

UPDATE 24th June

Based on reader's comments and feedbacks, you can also use a "CUSTOM" generator or "Alex 4D Adjustment Layer" to use as a separator and rename them accordingly for your audio layers. About hardware performance issues, I am no expert, but please share them in the feedback is you have the answer.
managing audio layers update
Thanks for all the feedbacks and response, making FCP.co lively and making FCPX rock again!


Isazaly Mohd Isa
Apple Certified Trainer


Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.


BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

amazon kindle BF

Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.


Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!


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