Final Cut Pro Sound Remix

By Greg Pak

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Challenge: I needed to remix parts of my 16mm film “Fighting Grandpa” in order to replace some music for which I couldn’t afford to pay licensing fees.
Discoveries: I couldn’t afford the prices charged by sound mixing studios to remix the film from the original 16mm mags. But I found a way to achieve the same effect using my Final Cut Pro digital editing system.
Upshot: For remixing small parts of my 16mm film, Final Cut Pro was the best solution.

The Gory Details
When my short film “Fighting Grandpa” played on Cinemax in 1999, I paid about a thousand dollars for sync rights to two church songs which I’d used on the film’s soundtrack.
    Now my contract with HBO/Cinemax is expiring and I’m beginning to license the film to other television venues. But I can’t afford to pay the licensing fees which would be required to get the rights to the original songs in perpetuity. Even for these obscure church songs, I would have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars.
    So I needed to replace the music with original music from my brilliant composer, Rick Knutsen.
    The problem was that I’d built all of my original sound tracks using 16mm analog mag, the standard at the time. But most of the more affordable mix houses in New York can’t handle mag at all. I’d have to transfer all of my mag sound tracks to DAT or BetaSP in order to mix from them.
    After considerable calling around, I finally located an affordable place to transfer my 16mm mag to DAT. They did a fine job transferring six mag tracks to DAT for under a hundred bucks. A great bargain. Check ’em out:
    123 W. 18th St. 7th Floor, NYC
    Contact: Fran
    Once I had the transferred DAT in hand, I realized I could probably do the remixing work myself on FCP. I transferred the DAT to MiniDV using my old, reliable Teac DAT player and my Sony GVD-900 MiniDV deck. Then I input each track into my Final Cut Pro system from the MiniDV. I already had a MiniDV copy of “Fighting Grandpa.” So I loaded in the picture from that tape. And I began editing.
    First, I sunk all of my original tracks and the original mix to the picture. Then I cut out all of the sections of the original mix which didn’t run beneath the music I needed to replace. Then I created a new track with the replacement music and cut out the parts of the original mix which overlapped the new music. Then I fine tuned, setting levels and using FCP’s 5 band equalizer audio filter.
    When I was happy with the way everything sounded, I exported the entire program as an AIFF file. This gave me a mono soundtrack, which I then imported into the project as a sound clip. I copied the project, stuck in that mono track in tracks 1 and 2, eliminated all the other tracks, and checked levels.
    Then, my friends, I exported to MiniDV and had a dub house make my BetaSP copies to send to television stations.
    If I had paid a sound mixing studio to do the work for me, I probably would have a marginally finer final product — their mixers have more experience and better machines, after all. But I’m fairly picky about sound, and I’m very happy with the result of my do-it-yourself job.
    And it saved me from having to spend several thousand dollars which I didn’t have…


One thought on “Final Cut Pro Sound Remix”

  1. Question – Can you tell me if I can use (in the background on a TV) a well known film (i.e. Gooodfellas, The Godfather)? I’ve heard that I can use footage for an amount of time before it becomes a legal issue… not sure if this is true. The film I’m making is a short (10 min) film that will be included with 6 other (10 min) films to make a feature that we intend to send off to festivals. The reason I mentioned this is because I understand that if we intend to use the film for festivals different rules apply compared to, if we intend to resale the film… The film will be shot on Mini-DV with basically NO budget. Thanks in advance for your help.

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