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How to Sync Audio and Video Tracks in DaVinci Resolve

In our last tutorial on working with audio in DaVinci Resolve we covered how to use Fairlights's auto sync features. The auto sync is great, in this tutorial you'll learn how to manually sync video clips to audio that's been recorded externally from the camera, and why you might want to do that.

Recording Audio Separately From Video and Off Your Camera

They're a few good reasons to record your audio externally from your camera. The first is that you likely want to move your microphone closer to the source than the camera, and running a long cable is not always possible. 

The big benefit from onboard sound is a smaller setup, and you get and perfectly synced audio with zero fuss. However, it's the microphone that's built into your camera ranges from basically decent quality in a very controlled environment to not really usable in the real world. Most cameras these days have a 2.5mm, 3.5mm, or XLR jack that you could attach a good shotgun mic to, and some of these are great, but they have their limitations.

External recorders—even if it's just the onboard microphones in a decent pocket recorder that you can physically move closer—often give you the best balance of higher quality audio files and flexibility with your mic placement.

Blogger adjusting a small accessory microphone on camera

The Clapboard

Being able to manually sync your audio is more about prep work than it is about editing software. Regardless of the NLE you're using, these tips will help you get your audio and video aligned. 

Picture this: you're filming multiple takes, with your audio tracks being recorded separately. Each take is a new file to keep track of that needs to be later lined up in post. Renaming files on the fly is either not possible or is total time suck. This can quickly become overwhelming. Enter the clapboard. 

Hands holding clapper board on yellow background

The clapboard is the perfect tool to keep your production organized. The photo above is pretty bang on in terms of the placement in your shot. The information should be easy to read and take up the most of the frame. All it takes is to have your recorder and camera rolling and to follow these steps:

  • Place the clapper in centre frame
  • Make sure to record about three to five seconds of silence before and after you drop the clapper—this will give you a very visible spike in your audio and a clear visual reference to match in post.

Using the clapper is pretty easy. Fancy ones have timecode and digital readouts, wi-fi, bluetooth and apps, but a simple and inexpensive clapper that is durable, legible, and cleans up neatly is enough to improve most small productions.

Do you really need to go out and get a clapboard to sync audio? Not really, a hand clap will work just fine.

High Five's For The Win

A Cost Saving Alternative

You will not record some details, but if your project is small, let's say a one-shot talking-head interview, a hand clap will get the job done.

I recommend stepping out of the frame while keeping your hands the main focus. Keep your arms and hands rigid and try to do your best alligator clap with your thumbs pointing directly towards the lens on contact. This makes the visual much clearer than if you cupped your hands or turned your clap away.

Manually Synching Your Footage on the Timeline (No Timecode)

Once you start giving your audio and video a reference, manually synching the tracks n the timeline becomes a breeze. No more endless searching for starting points, and because of the silence before and after the clap, you'll see a clear spike in the audio. The goal is to match this clack with the video clip. Here are a few tips.

Align With Scratch Track

Some external audio workflows save high quality files to the audio recorder and a rough mix or "scratch" version to the camera. If you know your audio and video clips match, you can select the video clip (with the scratch audio) and replacement audio clip, right-click and select Auto Align. This only works if you have scratch audio because it works by matching the .wav audio forms.

First Contact

Because the clacker is moving so quick, you'll likely have two or three frames that look like there is first contact. Finding the exact moment is made much easier by stretching your timeline and using the arrow keys to scrub frame by frame.

Link Clips

Now that you've found the starting points, you can link the clips so that they become locked together in sync. Select the clips, right-click and choose Link Clips. This can be done in either the Edit or Fairlight tabs in Resolve. Then, clean up the timeline using the razor tool and trim up your clips.

Try Audio Auto Sync in Resolve

Thanks for learning with us! Manually syncing your clips is pretty easy, but it can get time consuming and frustrating when you get into dealing with loads and loads of tracks. Thankfully Resolve comes with some amazing features, like auto sync, which we explore in it's own tutorial


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