The Correct Way To Use Audio in After Effects

September 1, 2009

In this tutorial, I show you the proper way to import and interact with audio in After Effects. I show you how to convert your MP3s into AIFF files using Quicktime. I also, show you the proper way to do fades and cross dissolves using Plugins.


  • THANKS been waiting for this insight

  • Great post as always, Nick!
    One more thing you can do that I find helpful is to hold down the command key (on a Mac) while scrubbing back and forth in the timeline. Doing this you´ll hear the sound as well. 🙂

  • Cheers Nick, On the videogame animation that i did i had that awfulfull glitch spent hours trying to resolve it, not realising that the mp3 was the problem.

    Dont feel an idiot know and a bit more confident,

    Thanks for sharing,


  • Nice little tidbit. But what about the new Quicktime X? Since They killed quicktime pro in Snow Leopard, the export options are for apple TV, iphone, and youtube. Kinda disappointed in that.

  • Good tips! thanks a lot. I was using the audio levels and always wondered why the fades were so fast.

    Quick side note: if you don’t have quicktime pro which I think is required to export AIFF. You can do it directly from itunes by rightclicking any song and selecting ‘create AIFF’ version. If the option is not available you can fix that by going to itunes>preferences>import settings.

  • Yeah – you’ll run into these same problems if you use MP3s in Final Cut Pro and other NLEs.

    P.S. – Lowering/raising audio by 6 dBs (not 3dB) will lower or raise the volume by half (or double).

  • Pop, click… problem solved! Thanks again man.

    I was hoping that you would get into scrubbing and time marking/syncing. But, based on the other posts, maybe I’m already doing this right. ;P

  • Thank you very much for this useful meaningful blog….

  • Awesome! Always had trouble with sound in AE. But not anymore! What is the name of the song you used during the video? Sounded prety sweet.

  • Great tip !
    It seems the audio comes about 10s late when you do the previews in the tutorial, your voice is always flowing but the music from the file in AE comes about 10s after you press the button to preview it.

  • Ah, you caught me red-handed. I’m guilty of using the levels that way… though I do do a prior edit in soundtrack pro first.
    Thanks for the lesson.

    random; have you covered a lesson about using the masks in after effects?

  • Great job nick. Just wanted to point out. if you have i-tunes setup to use aiff as exports you can right click and “create AIFF” and then show in finder…..Workflow thing! saves me time.

  • hi nick!!

    thanx i didnt know it!

    im pretty new round here but have made me a cinema 4d user, before i was a maya user but i think cinema 4d is more my style, so thank you for your amazing lessons.

    there is something i was wondering, if you check my site you will se that im very into retro graphics and i use a lot of wireframe objects in after effects, but how i can do that in cinema 4d?

    this is my site

    would be cool to have a tutorial about it

    and check this video, im sure taht is all made with cinema 4d, reminds me your lessons about sexy textures and cs tools

    enjoy it

  • I used to use mp3s in commercials all the time (that’s how the vo’s came) but I’ve only had click and pops once or twice. Other than that they worked fine. Can you tell us why we shouldn’t use them?

  • Thanks! I’ve never been an audio guy, this helps a lot.

  • What about wav?
    Anything’s basically better than mp3 but I’ve heard many people saying that wav is the best.

  • hi pal,

    I have a issue with audio in aftereffects CS3
    I used a widescreen square pixel comp(PAL) setting. And just dragged a audio(mp3) to comp window and set up a small animation with text then pressed ‘0’ for RAM preview. it works perfect. But when I see the movie in final render the audio doesn’t sync with the animation.

    after saw this tip, I extracted the audio to aiff format from the .mov file(it was actually a show reel downloaded from internet) but I face the same problem 🙁 help me on this, my personal showreel is struck up with this damn issue.

    PS : will offer gorilla a banana if it’s fixed 😉

  • Nick (or anyone)

    Good idea or bad idea to use unlicensed movie for a demo reel?

    Let me rephrase this…what is commonly done?

  • Great post, really helpfull.

    Also I see you have quite a bit of the Roots in your music collection… Big fan?
    Probably one of the best live shows on the planet.

  • Thanks for the tips! My problems with aifs is getting them to preview before putting them in a comp – instead of opening in a qt-esque player just to listen to a file it keeps opening in a footage viewer window, which is no use. Anyone else had this and found a work around?

  • damn, i had no idea mp3’s did that. thanks so much for the insight. *gonna go convert all of my projects sound files to AIFF now* 😉

    from student in training

  • You mentioned the lack of resolution in Ae for aligning an audio file, but how are you supposed to get precise placement. Are you suggesting using dynamic link to Soundbooth, if thats possible, or are you talking about trimming off fractions of a second in the front of an audio file and re-importing it into AE, back and forth until the alignment is right????????? That could be a lot of work.

    • If your trying to match the beat, Just match the video as close as you can. Even if you fix one beat to be exact, chances are that the next one will be off. Just edit your track it a “real” audio program and bring it in AE for animation.

  • thanks. I think you might check your Screencap app’s audio settings or something, the music is delayed heavily. I don’t need to explain, I bet you know already.

    helpful stuff!

  • Thank you very much, Nick! It help e very very much!

  • Hey nice job on the tut.

    I have to jump in and make a suggestion though. Using AIFF’s is REALLY bad. There are lots of known problems with AE and aiffs, even in AE 5. I work in television and avoid AIFF’s like the plague. They nearly always cause synch problems

    I’d always recommend using WAV (16 or 24 bit) for audio, either OSX or Windows. Use Audacity to convert your audio. It’s free:

    Anyway, great site keep it up.

  • thanks for the tutorial– it really helped me.. i was lost –a mute button who would know? also correct formats use did the trick.
    Thanks again.

  • Thanks, perfect tutorial. I knew there had to be a better way to do sound levels in AE.

  • Thanks Nick great tutorial
    Greetings from Colombia

  • Thank you for the helpful audio tips Gorilla!

  • Hi Nick, thanks for this tutorial; it is timeless.

    I was wondering: I saw a tutorial of yours with a quick tip on how to use after effects audio tools to actually make music (well, to produce “native sound” on AE). I’ve been unable to remember nor to find out which tutorial it was… do you mind to tell me which one it is?

    I’m positive it was yours, as long as I remember the tutorial to be cool and pretty clear.

    Best for you.

  • Thanks man!! You helped me a lot!

  • Nick,
    Just to say Thank you from Martinique (French West Indies)
    Your works are so good.
    Don’t change nothing. I wish you good luck for your business.


  • Thanks Nick!
    Btw it’s control + . (period)

  • Hi Nick,

    1st thanks for all the tutorials.

    I have kind of 2 freak questions.
    1- When I stop previewing audio with the period key the time cursor comes back to the start point. I would like to know if there is a shortcut to stop the preview and keep the cursor where I decide to stop.

    2- Also, there is a plugin to convert audio peaks in marks?


  • Thanks for this!

    I was going mental with some audio issues in my project and this tutorial seems to solve everything.

    Cheers 😉

  • Why i still have the problem after converting my mp3 to aiff?

  • Great Tutorial!

    I do have a question, what causes erratic audio playback? I’ve purchased a few AE templates and each that I time add and render the project, the resulting Quicktime (mov) has inconsistent audio playback. The movie will start and the audio plays for 2-3 seconds then stops, restarts then stops completely.

    Can you provide any insight to where the problem might be?

    The projects have been rendered several times with audio options verified.

  • Many thanks for this tutorial. I already made the mistake and imported the wrong file format attached to a video. I have converted it and can import as you instruct – can I get rid of the mp3 and do another voiceover? My apology in advance if this is the 3millionth time you have been asked this question…

  • Thanks Daniel, what a great tip on the Audio Fade out using “Stereo Mixer” as a percentage instead of the logarithmic “Decibel” scale in the “Audio Levels” section. Keep up the great work!


  • Great tips. I didn’t get any problem converting MP3 to AIFF. The quality of cinematic visual effects is improving as the software technology is advancing day by day. A website which used to take months now it can be made within a day by using templates and graphic tools.

    After Effects Templates :

  • Hi Nick, thanks for your sharing of using audio in after effects, very useful!

  • Nice tip.

  • big thankzzz 4 the tutorial m8!!!

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