How to: Route Multiple Clips to One Set of NLE Plugins (Bussing)

How to: Route Multiple Clips to One Set of NLE Plugins (Bussing)

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In this article, we’ll take a look at how to route multiple clips/tracks to a single set of plugins in a Non-Linear Editor. Why do we want to do this? Well, imagine you have one reverb that you just want to use on 45 clips – and you don’t want to drop that plugin in 45 times and “copy parameters” to them. Using “Bussing” is the answer, and I’ll show you herein how to get maximum use out of your NLE Plugins using this dope capability.

Why Do I Care?

“Dude. Mark. I’m an editor. I don’t care about this audio stuff. I just want to drop sound in and let the ‘audio folks’ deal with this stuff.”

Sure. I understand. That’s how most editors feel. It’s also why most editors are scrambling for work, because they have no idea how to get an edge over the 10,000 other editors in their town. Well, the best way to do that is having great sound and engaging audio in your timelines. Directors typically have small imaginations when it comes to figuring out what something “will eventually sound like,” and being an editor who can create audio mixes which are even 70% of the way to final is a major plus – and makes you a lot more hirable than the next guy. We go through a ton of how to get that Hollywood edge throughout this blog and in the MZed Pro Membership Education, but in this article I’m going to highlight an overlooked aspect of NLEs which can really create ease and facility in getting sound right. Bussing. It has nothing to do with getting yourself to downtown. It has to do with sending multiple channels of audio to one place, processing it, and sending it out.

When Would I Ever Use This?

Scenario 1: If you had 45 clips that all needed to have the “bathroom sound” reverb and EQ in order to give the illusion that your ADR or even lav mics are in parallel with the actors in a bathroom, you’ll have to create a preset for your two plugins, copy them to all your clips – and then every time you need to alter the sound, you have to remove all audio plugins, and repaste them. What a pain.

Scenario 2: If you had 45 clips that needed the same compression/balancing plugin (say, like the Waves plugin here used for balancing dialog), and you want every clip balanced the same way – and you didn’t want to fool with the same kind of copy, paste, remove, copy, paste to all clips every time you wanted to change anything.

Scenario 3: If you have a whole bunch of different kinds of clips (DX, SFX, Foley Etc.) that need to be processed by the same effects which create a “phone” sound (because there’s a lot of stuff happening on the other end of the receiver that the audience is hearing) like gun shots, car crashes, ambiences, screams, loop groups and DX all at once.

There are so many other scenarios where you’ve gotta process a lot of clips/sounds with the same kind of effect/plugin and you don’t want to deal with the standard, sub-standard copy, paste, remove, copy, paste to all clips every time you want something different.

How Do I Do This?

Well, the good news is you can do this directly and easily in Adobe Premiere Pro. The bad news is there’s a bad-dope way of doing it in FCPX. The worse news is that Davinci Resolve won’t do it at all as of version 12.5 – but the better news is that the next version (14) boasts more audio functionality than many DAWs. We’ll see.

The Bad News: Final Cut Pro X

If you have multitrack audio you may want to work with Compound clips

In FCPX, there’s no way around this: doing bussing is impossible, and there’s only work arounds. Without an actual functional mixer in the program, it’s impossible to do any kind of audio track/clip routing. The fix is to take any clips which you want to singly process and enclose them in a Compound Clip. From there you can drop any group of plugins onto that compound clip, and they’ll be affected. Unfortunately, you’ll lose nearly all control over the routing of those clips. For example: if you want to split out DX from SFX in this compound clip, you’re out of luck. Everything’s summed together and only accessible minimally from the Inspector. Sorry.

The Good News: Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro has plenty of functionality to do this kind of routing. Moreover, the best solution is to use Adobe Dynamic Linking to send your audio to Adobe Audition where you have maximum functionality for your audio – and then send it back to Premiere or use Media Encoder to do your final outputs. But if that’s scary, you can still do amazing routing from within PP.

First thing to do is to create a “submix channel.” You do that by opening the “Audio Track Mixer” – Not the “Audio Clip Mixer.” From there you have to look to the top left of this window and click on the little white triangle icon. This will open up the routing/plugin section which is otherwise hidden.

Find the tiny white triangle at the top left of the Audio Track Mix Window

Once its revealed you’ll create the submix channel (bus) by selecting one of the blank fields in the “lower” white section. In the fields you’ll see various possible submix possibilities including mono, stereo and 5.1 routings. For general use, you’ll want the stereo selection. Once chosen, the submix channel will be created, and you’ll know you have success by looking in the timeline and notice the submix channel as a new “track” next to the master output there.

Create a Submix Channel in the Audio Tracks Mixer on the Audio Track of your Choice

Doing this process allows you to use the new “knob” to “send” the audio placed in this track in the timeline in whatever amount you choose.

Created submix channels appear in the timeline.

The more you send to the submix channel, the more the sound will be affected by the submix. If you want to send all of the sound from a track to a submix channel, “deselect” the submix channel you just made – it won’t go away in the timeline – you’ll just lose the knob on the audio track. Then select the submix channel in the track’s actual output by clicking on the “master” field and selecting “submix channel.” Doing this will have all of the audio clips on this track in the timeline go 100% to the submix channel and any plugins you have instantiated there.

Select Submix 1 if you want send ALL of the audio to your submix
submix channels on right
Submix Channels appear on the right of the Audio Track mixer

To put effects/plugins onto the submix channel, just click on fields in the “top” portion of the white area (the bottom being the submix routing) and choose whatever plugins in whatever order you’d like. Notice that this submix channel’s output is sent to the “master output.” You can also send this output to another submix group if you like for additional processing. For example, if you had a bunch of submix channels doing effects of various kinds, but you wanted to balance all submix channels with an easy multiband compressor, then you’d route all the submix channels to another submix channel which would have the multiband compressor as its effect. That submix channel then goes to the master output.

Add plugins to your submix channel by using the top white fields.

Once you’ve done this, any audio clips that you place on the audio track which is being sent to the submix channel will be affected. All other clips will not be. It becomes super easy to add more tracks to this submix channel, because you just change their output to “submix channel” from “Master output” in the “Audio Track Mixer” window. It’s usually a good idea to change the color of tracks which are routed to any submix channel to avoid confusion.

It may feel a little complex at first, but once you do this, you’ll see the power of this process and how quickly you can affect even hundreds of clips at once.

Have you done routing in your NLE like this? Tell us about it, or Tweet about it!

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