How to Do Anything with Audio in DaVinci Resolve

Latest Blog
February 27, 2024
JJ Lyon
Krotos Studio

It’s not just a pro-level video editing suite! Resolve also shines in the audio department, and here we’re going to be exploring its audio capabilities

Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve stands out from other video editing applications, not only because of its stellar video editing capabilities but also thanks to its advanced Fairlight audio editing workstation.

As opposed to other NLEs, in which audio capabilities can be seen as secondary or even an afterthought, Fairlight is practically an internal DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) within DaVinci Resolve that allows for professional audio engineering within the media suite.

Fairlight’s capabilities let it perform tasks that you’d probably have to do externally with most other video editors to get the same results. For instance, Adobe’s Premiere Pro – although it allows for some internal audio processing – relies on Adobe Audition as a standalone, external DAW.

Let’s jump into DaVinci Resolve together and walk through some of its audio features and potential uses.

Adding audio tracks in DaVinci Resolve

First, you’ll need to import some media into the Media pool by right-clicking anywhere in the Media Pool panel and selecting Import Media (or pressing Ctrl-I). Then, you’ll need to select some audio files to import into your project, and finally, drag and drop one of them onto your timeline.

You can add a new audio track from the Edit page by right-clicking one of your existing tracks and selecting Add New Track. If you’re aiming for ambient sound design, sound effects, or music, you’ll want to ensure you choose a stereo or 5.1 surround sound track.

If you’re planning on working with dialogue, you’ll most often want to opt for a mono track, as is most commonplace for any type of vocal within an audio mix. Mono is usually best for vocal tracks because it keeps the vocal centred and clear, avoiding amplifying any unwanted background noise across the stereo field.

Adjusting audio levels in DaVinci Resolve

If you want to increase or decrease the volume of a specified audio track in DaVinci Resolve, you can adjust the volume slider from the mixer panel in the bottom right of the screen. Each mixer channel will be named after its corresponding track on the timeline. Alternatively, if you want to alter the volume of a single clip, you can select the clip, and change its volume from the Inspector window (open the Inspector window by clicking the tab at the top right of the screen).

You can also gain access to the audio mixer in the Fairlight editor page (by clicking the music icon in the bottom toolbar), where you’ll also have more audio editing capabilities.

Separating audio from video in DaVinci Resolve

When a video (with audio attached) is imported into DaVinci Resolve, it will be linked to its corresponding audio clip by default. In order to detach the audio, click on the chain link icon in the toolbar (next to the magnet). Alternatively, you can press Ctrl-Shift-L to ‘link/unlink’ audio and video on a selected clip

Recording Audio in DaVinci Resolve

To set up recording (from a microphone) in your project, head over to the Fairlight editor, and add a new mono track. Then, from the mixer panel, simply click the No Input dropdown field and select Input. You’ll be met with a Patch Input/Output panel. On the left-hand side of the panel, you can select your input source, and on the right-hand side, you can select the desired track.

The default settings should suffice, but if you have advanced signal routing, you may need to make adjustments. Once your input and track are selected, you can hit the Patch button to assign your settings. Now, you can arm your recording track by clicking the track’s R button (next to the Solo and Mute buttons), and you’ll be recording once playback begins.

Zooming in and out in DaVinci Resolve

If you want to get a more detailed look at your audio waveforms, you can click the Track Display Options button in the top-left of the Timeline toolbar, enabling the Full Waveform and Waveforms Borders views. You can then zoom in and out of the waveform on the timeline by holding your Alt key and scrolling with the mouse scroll wheel.

From the Track Display Options, you can also enable the Gain Line view, which will give you further control over your audio’s volume by adding a changeable gain line to each audio clip, which you can interact with by clicking and dragging up or down. This is useful if you want to adjust the volume of an individual clip, rather than affecting the entire audio track.

You can also expand a track’s width to get a better view of its contents by clicking and dragging its border in the left-hand side column of the Timeline.

Adding audio keyframes in DaVinci Resolve

Adding keyframes to your audio can be a great way to automate various parameters across time during playback.

Let’s say you want to automate your volume using keyframes. First, set your Playhead on the Timeline where you want your first keyframe to be. Then, select your clip and navigate to the Inspector panel. From the Inspector panel, you can click the Keyframe button to the right of your volume controls. This will add a keyframe in the current Playhead point on your Timeline.

From there, reset your playhead to the point where you want your automation to stop, place another keyframe, and adjust the volume to the newly desired value. You’ll notice that the audio will now gradually change over time from your first keyframe’s location, to the second keyframe’s location.

Fading in and out in DaVinci Resolve

In DaVinci Resolve, there are two ways to add fades (in or out) to your audio clip. The first method is to set your Playhead on the desired start/end point of your safe in/out, select the audio clip, and then, using the Trim drop-down menu, select Fade In to Playhead or Fade Out to Playhead. You can also hit Alt-Shift-D (for fade in) or Alt-Shift-G (for fade out).

Alternatively, and perhaps more efficiently, you can click and drag the white markers at the top corners (left or right) of your audio clip to manually set your fade in/out times.

Crossfading in DaVinci Resolve

To add a crossfade between two audio clips in DaVinci Resolve, simply ensure both clips are placed exactly adjacent to one another and use the Trim Edit Mode (press T to select, or click the Trim Edit Mode toolbar icon) cursor to select the break point between both clips. Then, from the Timeline drop-down menu, select Add Audio Only Transition (or press Shift-T).

You’ll then be asked if you want to Trim Clips or Skip Clips through a pop-up Add Transitions window. You can go ahead and select Trim Clips to allow the software to automatically adjust the clips accordingly.

You can then shorten the length of your crossfade by clicking and dragging the borders inward. If you’d like to extend your default crossfade transition length, you can navigate to the DaVinci Resolve drop-down menu, and select Preferences… (or press Ctrl-,). Then open the Editing settings from the User tab and change the Standard transition duration field, to your newly desired default transition length.

EQing audio in DaVinci Resolve

To EQ an audio track in DaVinci Resolve, head over to the Fairlight editor, and double-click on the EQ graph inside of the desired track’s mixer strip. You’ll then be met with the program’s stock equaliser, which you can adjust to your liking. Just make sure the EQ’s turned on, using the top-left switch first.

If you want to add a low-cut filter to remove the bass frequencies from your audio, simply enable Band 1 by toggling the Band 1 button, and adjust the Frequency knob as you see fit.

Compressing audio in DaVinci Resolve

To explore the compression controls inside DaVinci Resolve, open up the Dynamics panel by double-clicking the Dynamics graph on the desired track’s mixer strip. You can then enable the Expander, Gate, Compressor, and/or Limiter within the window.

To apply some basic compression, let's enable the Compressor by toggling the switch, lowering our Threshold to around -20dB, setting the Ratio to 3.0:1, and adjusting the Make Up gain by 3.0dB. You can see how the audio is being affected using the visual matrix. If you’re not a trained audio engineer, don’t worry, these controls might be a bit alien to you. You can check out the above video for a quick explanation of how compression works.

Spatializing audio in DaVinci Resolve

Making changes to the stereo field inside DaVinci Resolves follow the same steps as the previous two sections about EQ and compression. Double-click the Pan graph on the desired mixer strip.

You can then click-drag the blue dot on the graph to pan your audio from left to right in the stereo field, or you click-drag the green dots to bring your audio closer/further away. Additionally, make changes to the Spread knob to narrow/widen your audio in the stereo field.

Adding external effects in DaVinci Resolve

Finally, DaVinci Resolve allows for the use of third-party plugins in your audio’s processing effects chain. Head back into your Preferences settings and navigate to the Audio Plugins section under the System tab. From there, you can add or remove file directories for the software to scan for any third-party plugins you’ve installed. Once scanned, you enable/disable your plugins using the Available Plugins list.

Once you’ve scanned and enabled your plugins, you’ll be able to add them to any mixer strip’s effects chain by clicking on the Effects dropdown menu and selecting them.