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Tutorial: - Exporting Audio Only, from FCP to a CD

October, 2003


Exporting Audio Only, from FCP to a CD

system requirements
QuickTime 6.0+
CD Burner


by Scott Taylor

Here's a little known secret: Final Cut Pro makes a pretty decent sound editor. Most FCP editors who know their way around movie production already know how to move and mix audio tracks, and sometimes editing audio is all a project consists of.

But two questions nag at this point, because many who are used to using FCP for audio/video masterpieces are unfamiliar with what to do next.

1. How do I get this sound out of FCP into a file I can burn a CD with?
2. How do I burn a CD with this file so that I can play it on a stand-alone CD player?

1. Getting Audio Out of Final Cut Pro
Exporting pure audio is just as simple as exporting a full-blown video production. You just need to take a slightly different path, which will Export only the audio whether you are in an audio-only project or the usual audio/video project.

In FCP, click on Export under the File menu, then select QuickTime. This will bring up the familiar QuickTime dialog, but this time you are going to aim your efforts toward sound output only. This is what your dialog will look like, and these are the settings you should make. Note that among the Format choices, you want to choose AIFF, then press the Options button to get the Sound Settings screen.


Regardless of the audio sample rate setting you used in FCP, you must convert to 44.1 KHz at this point to be able to play your final CD in a stand-alone player. This is the rule it lives by. And it makes little sense to choose anything but 16 bit and Stereo for the other options.

Pick a file name and a place to put it, and you are finished with step 1. If you are planning to burn a CD with many audio cuts, continue working in FCP until you have assembled and exported them all.

2. Putting Audio on a CD
There are lots of ways to burn a CD with an audio file, but not all of them will accomplish what you want here: a CD that will play in a stand-alone player. You can easily burn audio files to a CD using drag-drop-burn, but it will only play on your computer using whatever programs you listen to sound with. A stand-alone CD player will see and play nothing but silence.

What you must do is make a "music CD", not a "data CD".

I'll tell you how to use iTunes to do this, because it's a program found on every Mac that can run FCP and it's very easy to use. Not terribly intuitive, but easy. Toast will also do this job, but I'm going to assume that if you bought Toast, you know how to use it.


Using iTunes, you can choose to burn an Audio CD, which will hold about 80 minutes of audio, or an MP3 CD, which can hold up to 12 hours of audio, which will of course sacrifice audio quality. This behavior is set in the Burning pane in Preferences.

I find the easiest way to deal with iTunes for this purpose is as follows:

Start iTunes, and also open the folder containing your audio files in Finder. Click the button with the "+" on it in iTunes to create a New Playlist. The playlist is going to contain the files you want to burn to the CD.

When your new playlist is selected in the left pane, the right "song" pane will be blank until you add files. To do this just drag them from the Finder window into the iTunes song pane. You can rearrange the "songs" or audio cuts by dragging them around until they are in the order you want them to play from the CD.

Now simply click on the Burn button and follow the prompts.

Note: The iTunes documentation suggests that it will automatically convert audio files from any source/sample rate to 44.1Khz required for CD, implying that all that effort to export in the correct format from FCP maybe isn't necessary. For my money, I'd rather have the knowledge and the control so I do all the steps anyway.

© copyright 2003 Scott Taylor

About Scott Taylor:
I got excited about 8mm and 16mm film in the 70's, and made a minor classic short "Birth of a Salesman". Got away from film for other things, but discovered digital video a couple of years ago and the creative floodgates began to open again. I don't make my living doing video, but I do keep busy! FCP and Photoshop are the tools for the ages.

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