Edit movies, TV shows, and video clips with Audacity

Audacity can’t edit videos, but it can edit the audio from videos. It’s easy to import audio into an audio-editor for grabbing sound clips. I found this to be better than my previous analog recording workflow.

This is especially useful for podcasters who review movies, discuss TV shows, or need an audio excerpt from a video.

Separate video edition (completely different recording session) coming soon!

1. Prepare your video file

Audacity works best with MP4 videos, but other QuickTime formats work on OS X, too.

Videos with digital-rights management (DRM) can’t be opened by Audacity. So if you have one of these and you have legal plans to use the audio clip for the sake of commentary, review, or criticism, then find a tool to remove the DRM and convert your video to MP4.

Learn what podcasters need to know about copyright laws from my previous episode with Gordon Firemark.

2. Install FFmpeg

By default, Audacity can’t open video files. Simply install the free FFmpeg plugin to allow Audacity to import and export many more audio and video formats.

3. Open your DRM-free video in Audacity

With Audacity setup and your video free of DRM, simply drag it into an Audacity window to have Audacity convert the audio for use.

You may want to save this audio if you ever want to edit it again, or you can discard it.

For convenience, you can normalize your audio and convert it to mono (if your podcast will be in mono). This will make it easier to see and hear the audio as you edit, but it’s note important to the quality of the audio.

4. Find and select the audio you want by timecode

Watch your video to find the clip you want and look at the time. If you know you want the audio from 12 minutes in, go to 00:12:00 in your audio and select as much as you want.

When you have audio selected, you can press play (Spacebar) to hear just your selection. Include about half to a whole second of extra audio (but no extra words) at the beginning and end.

5. Extract the sound clip

With your excerpt selected, there are three ways you can extract it for your use.

A. Duplicate selections and Export Multiple

This is the easiest method for batch processing because you’re working with all clips in a single project.

  1. With your audio selected, press Ctrl-D (Windows/Linux) or Cmd-D (OS X) to duplicate the selected audio to a new track.
  2. Either Solo your new track and edit/enhance as necessary (coming up), or continue finding and selecting more excerpts and repeat step 1.
  3. Select all your tracks and Normalize (see main #7 below).
  4. From the Track Control Panel, optionally name each track as you want its file name to be.
  5. Go to File menu > Export Multiple…
  6. Select your file-naming preference and Export.
  7. Re-import your new WAV files into separate projects for further editing, process them externally, or leave them as is for use.

B. Export selection

This is the quickest way to make and name your clips as you go.

  1. With your audio selected, go to File menu > Export Selection….
  2. Enter the file name you wish for this audio.
  3. Find and select more excerpts and repeat steps 1–2.
  4. Re-import your new WAV files into separate projects for further editing, process them externally, or leave them as is for use.

C. Copy and paste to new file

This is best for editing each clip independently and getting a close-up view of your audio.

  1. With your audio selected, copy it (Ctrl/Cmd-C).
  2. Create a new project (Ctrl/Cmd-N).
  3. Paste your audio (Ctrl/Cmd-V).
  4. Edit and process as necessary.

6. Edit as needed

Leave about half to a whole second at the beginning and end of your audio clip.

You may want to edit the inside of your audio for conciseness, relevance, or clarity. For example:

  • you may need only one side of a multiperson conversation,
  • you may want to remove the pauses between phrases that don’t transition well from video to audio, or
  • you may want to cut out things to make the clip more understandable.

7. Normalize

After you’ve edited your audio clip, then normalize it. I recommend to -1dB or even -0.1dB. Audio from professionally made movies and TV shows are usually already processed to how they need to be. And since most videos have ambiant noise, many audio enhancements (like compression and limiting) can enhance the wrong parts and make your audio harder to hear.

Normalization increases the whole volume of the track until the loudest point is a certain amplitude (volume). Because these peaks may be rare, it may be all right if that target amplitude is higher than you would normally prefer (such as a character yells).

8. Add fades in and out (recommended)

After you’ve normalized the audio, then I suggest some subtle fades in and out. These shouldn’t be very long, but they can make the inclusion of the audio clip much smoother.

Simple select as much audio that you want to fade at the beginning or end of your clip, then go to the Effects menu and choose Fade In or Fade Out, respectively. The more audio you select for your fade, the slower the fade will be.

I recommend 1/4–1/2 a second for a fade, but sometimes a full second for fade-in can be good.

Fades are especially great for music clips.

9. Export as WAV

When you’re finished, export your clips as uncompressed WAV files. These work great for either “direct-to-drive” recorder or post-production. I always recommend working with uncompressed audio until you make the final MP3.

New email address for Zune/Windows Phone podcasts

Rob Greenlee is still managing podcasts for Microsoft, but there’s a new email address for adding or updating your podcasts in the Zune/Windows Phone directory.

Just email your RSS feed to podcasts@microsoft.com. If you’re updating podcast information (like your cover art, description, title, or feed URL), mention that in your email.

Learn WordPress and Audacity in upcoming webinars

The core software to successful blogging or podcasting is WordPress. But if you don’t know how to use it, you’ll struggle with building your online platform. Tickets are now on sale for my next “Learn WordPress” webinar on Saturday, April 27 at noon (EDT/GMT-4).

My first Audacity webinar was a great success and was highly praised. This is where I teach the basics and some of the more advanced techniques of using Audacity for podcasting and other audio-editing. If you want to edit your own audio for high quality and with efficiency, then join me for my “Learn Audacity” webinar on Saturday, May 18, at noon (EDT/GMT-4).

Tickets are $100 for either of these 2-hour webinars (including Q&A), or $175 for both. Reserve your space today!

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

6 comments on “How to extract audio clips from movies and TV shows with Audacity – TAP120

  1. Guest says:

    Are there any legal problems with using clips from films?

    1. It depends on how much you use and how you intend to use it. Like I mention in the podcast audio, the “fair use” clause of copyright law allows to use copyrighted material for the sake of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.” Parody is also allowed.

      But using copyrighted material as your own is not allowed. Such as using a TV show theme song as your podcast theme song.

      Listen to my episode with Gordon Firemark about copyrights for more detail.

  2. Doug says:

    Just curious as to why you have to convert the files. I have been able to record the dvd/video/youtube audio directly to audacity through the stereo mix. Then normalize and fade then export as a wav

    1. Stereo mix isn’t easy to do on every PC. On some, it’s very hard or requires extra, confusing steps. Stereo mix also requires you to wait for the whole recording to finish and maybe monitor it along the way.

      Dropping the compatible files directly into Audacity means you don’t have to wait for the analog recording process. You’ll also get a higher quality recording this way.

      Converting the files, in my case, removes the digital rights management so I can use the audio material under Fair Use allowance of the copyright law so I can comment and review.

  3. For easier to get audio is get Total Video Converter which support extract audio from video, movies and karaoke. Another software is Format Factory which support extract audio from videos. Then, modify the sound (just likes make karaoke without vocal) on Audacity. After finished, combine or mix video and audio into one! Enjoy the newest video!

  4. Harney says:

    iDealshare VideoGo can extract audio from video, convert between video formats, audio formats, directly play media files and edit videos.

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