What’s up, film family! I’m back with another Final Cut article. This one will be different since I’m going more in-depth with two features instead of a tutorial: Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro. If you haven’t seen it, there are various ways to separate your audio from your video clip. While they all seem equal, I’m here to say that they aren’t, and it is essential that you know the difference, so you don’t rip your hair out. You can thank me later!

Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro

Why Bother Detaching or Expanding Audio at All?

When you are in post-production of your movie and want to do a light audio pass on your dialogue, you must separate it from your video. Mainly because you don’t want that audio to affect your video edit at ALL. Think of it like layers in photoshop. You can’t lock layers in Final Cut, but separating the video from the audio is as close as we can get. Keeping your audio and video separate will save you time and energy and help you keep your hair! You’re welcome again. 

So which one is the best? Well, there are a few things to consider. First, let’s talk about what each one does. 

Detaching Audio

Detaching audio means separating the video and audio into clips that are only linked by a small rope. In other words, they are no longer associated. They have broken up. If you place that audio under another clip, you will see that rope attaches to the new clip. Detaching audio is helpful when you are doing more creative edits and want to add audio clips from one clip to another. Detaching audio is also helpful if you want to duplicate a specific audio clip.

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Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro - Detaching Audio 1

How to Detach Audio

  1. Right-click on your clip 
  2. Select Detach audio

Detach audio keyboard shortcut: control-shift-s

Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro - Detaching Audio 2

Pro Tip:

If you accidentally detach a clip, you can command-z to bring it back. However, if you detach and move a clip, these clips are now out of sync. There is no way to resync the clip without undoing your action or manually resyncing it. Before you move stuff, make sure you have the clip duplicated somewhere else, just in case. Don’t forget if you choose to move that audio elsewhere; you now have a clip without audio. So make sure it’s not essential! You will know you detached your audio properly because only the audio clip will be highlighted.

Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro - Detaching Audio 3

Expand Audio

Expanding your audio separates your video and audio, but they are still considered one clip. This can be demonstrated by clicking on your audio clip and trying to drag it away from your video clip. You will see that the entire clip moves instead of just the audio. You will still be able to manipulate and mix the audio as a separate entity, don’t worry. Expanding audio will also still allow you to create split edits. (ie. you can still have your dialogue or video start before the other one) You aren’t locked down to your video clip’s start and end points.

How to Expand Audio

  1. Right-click on your clip
  2. Select Expand audio

Expand audio keyboard shortcut: control-s

Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro - Detaching Audio 4

Pro Tip:

If you accidentally expand your audio, you cannot reattach it without making a compound clip. So if you are going to do this, please make sure it’s what you want to do. I like to duplicate my clips and have an option for both. That way, when you are further down the line of editing, you won’t be upset that you can’t command-z your way back to fix something. You will know you expanded your audio properly because the video and audio clip will both be highlighted.

Detach vs Expanded Audio in Final Cut Pro - Detaching Audio 5

Which One Is Better?

The short answer is it depends. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it really does. Knowing what you want to do with your audio is the first step to making the right choice. 

If you are worried about your audio staying in sync with your video, then you will always want to expand it, not detach it. Most of the time, you won’t end up moving your audio out of sync with your video anyway. But as we all know, things happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just to reiterate, you cannot undo expanding audio once you have done it. 

Once you are confident in your ability to keep your clips synced, I recommend detaching your audio. There is a lot more freedom, and you can cover up any audio mistakes much easier. This will also give you the opportunity to get more creative with edits. You can speed up slow scenes and even move audio within less than a frame (this is my favorite Final Cut feature for those of you who have to manually sync any ADR). 

Now that we have gotten past the good stuff, let’s sum it up into something bite-sized. You just read a lot, so you deserve a concise list. 

Detach Audio:

Pros:

  • you can undo it, command-z
  • Sync less than a frame
  • You can move that clip anywhere on your timeline without the video
  • More creative ability

Cons:

  • you can accidentally desync your clips, and there is no fix without manually resyncing it

Expanded Audio:

Pros:

  • keeps your clips synced

Cons:

  • you can’t undo it
  • Less creative ability

Personally, I would always choose to detach the audio because I prefer being able to manipulate stuff as much as possible. That being said, if you are new to Final Cut or new audio and editing in general, I strongly recommend starting out with the Expand Audio feature. 

Hopefully, by now, you have been able to decide which option will work best for you! Once you get the hang of it, try adding fades to create more dynamic audio edits and cleaner sounds. 

Now We Know The Difference!

Understanding the difference between detaching and expanding audio will make your life so much easier. Instead of wondering why Final Cut doesn’t have certain features, it probably does, and you just don’t know about them yet. That’s why I wanted to talk about this with you. I would love to hear which method you choose and why! Drop a comment and share all of your Final Cut editing secrets. There is always room to improve, and I want to learn from you all too. I wish you a very successful post-production and happy filmmaking!