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Using Premiere Pro’s Audio Automation Modes

Andrew Devis
By Andrew Devis

Discover a quick way to adjust your audio levels with the ‘Automation Modes’ in Premiere Pro!

Want to create audio keyframes on the fly?  In this tutorial we show you how to take advantage of the Automation Modes in Premiere Pro – the quickest way to set audio levels in your video editing project.  Let’s start by taking a closer look at the Premiere Pro Audio Mixer Panel:

Automation Modes in the Audio Mixer Panel


‘Read’ is the default setting for every audio channel and simply reads whatever audio level animation there is on the channel. Because you start without any animation this means the fader stays at 0 until you change it. While using ‘Read’ you can change the value and the fader will stay where you put it but no animation will be made.  You are simply ‘setting’ a value, not changing it over time.

‘Off’ simply turns the fader behavior back to the same as ‘Read’ before any animation has been added. In other words, ‘Off’ will ignore all audio animation on that track and just look at whatever value you’ve set the fader to.

‘Write’ is perhaps the most fragile of all the automation modes, in that wherever you’ve put the fader and wherever you move the fader once playback has commenced will be recorded and will overwrite any animation that may have been there before.

The big issue with ‘Write’ is that as soon as you hit the spacebar recording starts and that recording will write over whatever has gone before. Because of this, there is a default behavior in that once you hit the spacebar again to stop recording the automation mode will change from ‘Write’ to ‘Touch’ as this is a non-destruction automation mode .  It won’t write over any previous animation until you make a change.

You can change this default behaviour if you want by unchecking it in the Audio Mixer Panel’s panel menu as shown below. However, I wouldn’t advise to turn it off until you are used to using these modes.  It is meant as a safeguard.  Personally I like the default behavior and would only turn it off for specialized audio work and not for general projects.

We’ll cover touch and latch later on.

Switch to Touch After Write Option in the Panel Menu


When you make any changes using an automation mode you will be adding keyframes to the track. However, the default behavior of Premiere Pro is to show ‘Clip’ keyframes rather than ‘Track’ keyframes. So if you want to see the keyframes you’re creating when you animate with automation modes (or when you animate track audio in the timeline) you will need to select the option in the track header as shown below:

Showing the Track Keyframes


‘Touch’ is perhaps my favourite automation mode in that it has a built in option that automatically returns it to its start value when you let go of the fader. It works like this…

Before selecting ‘Touch’ it is also best to set the starting point for your fader (as this will be the value the fader will automatically return to). Then, when you hit the space-bar and move the fader, the fader will move to whatever value you take it to – but once you let go – the fader will automatically ‘drift’ back to that starting value over a predetermined amount of time.

We can set this amount of time in our preferences by changing the ‘Automatch Time’ to a different value in seconds. This is found at the top of the ‘Audio’ tab in your preferences.

Automatch Settings for ‘Touch’


Depending on your production 1 second may be too fast or too slow, so having this extra control is very valuable for editors.

‘Latch’ is very similar to Touch in that it always returns to the starting value you give it, but only when you stop and then start again.

Keyframe Optimization in Premiere Pro

There is one more somewhat hidden option for ‘Automation Modes’ in the Audio section of your preferences.  This is the ‘Automation Keyframe Optimization’.

Automation Keyframe Optimization Option in the Audio Section of Preferences


Automation Keyframe Optimization is a way to control the number of keyframes that are created when you animate the faders. For me, the default behaviour is usually fine, but sometimes – and especially on older machines – lots of keyframes can cause some problems (this is getting to be less of an issue as computers get more powerful).

As you can see from the greyed out box above the default minimum time between keyframes is 20 milliseconds creating a typical animation curve in the timeline something like the following…

Default Keyframe Production


It is unlikely that you would need to create keyframes even closer than this but of course it is always possible. Thus, this option is most often used to create less keyframes which would mean increasing the value from 20 milliseconds.  For example, here is what the timeline would look like if I changed that value up to 200 milliseconds ..

Increasing the Value to 200 milliseconds


Keyframes in the Timeline at 200 milliseconds


While this is an option, the end results tend to be a little too ‘clunky’ for my liking.  Seen side by side, you can clearly see which value (20 and 200) will give the smoothest results.

20 milliseconds and 200 milliseconds Automatch Keyframes


Like all things, don’t expect to get used to using these modes well without some practice. At first you will move the fader too much or too little and need to try again.  So, bear with it as you get used to the process and enjoy using these powerful ‘Automation Modes’ in Premiere Pro.