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How to Use a Bus System to Edit Multiple Dialogue Tracks in Fairlight

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If you've been working with video for a while now, you've probably heard of a bus channel. If you're like me, you've likely been a little confused by what exactly a bus is, how it works, or a combination of the two. There's no need to fret. We've all been there—it's just part of the learning process.

In this tutorial, I'll explain what a bus is and how to use the system to improve your editing process in DaVinci Resolve 17. Let's start by going over what a bus is, and a simple example of when to use one.

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What Is a Bus?

Although things can get quickly complicated, the concept of a bus is just a group of audio channels that you can adjust as one unit. I like to think of a bus as a video adjustment layer that's specific to audio. That just means if you have multiple audio channels you want to edit with the same approach, you can make the adjustments to the designated bus instead of making the changes to each individual channel.

The bus system is a pretty amazing tool to know how to use. You can use it to apply compression, equalization, limiters, noise reduction—pretty much anything you could apply to a single track, you can apply to a group of tracks using a bus.

When to Use a Bus

Because the nature of a bus is to group channels together, it's a good idea to have the levels roughly mixed. They don't need to be perfect or anything, but they should just sound good to you. You can always go back and adjust the channel levels to fine-tune the mix. But as a general rule, rough mix the tracks that you want to group together. It makes a world of difference. That way, if you need to adjust the volume, you can use the bus to do that.

How to Set Up a Bus in Fairlight

Let's open up Resolve 17 and head over to the Fairlight tab. As soon as you start a project, you should see Bus 1 automatically in the mixer. This is your main output for DaVinci Resolve. In other words, this is what takes your sound out of Resolve. 

I've done some digging online, and there seem to be some issues people are having with getting sound from Resolve. If you open up the program and don't see bus 1 (main output) in the mixer, that could be the problem, but the solution is easy. At the top left of the Fairlight page, you'll see the Index tab. Open that up, and you'll be able to see the Tracklist. Check that the eye icon is turned on, and if not, turn it on by clicking, and you'll now see it in your mixer.

Checking Bus 1 Visibility: Index > TracklistChecking Bus 1 Visibility: Index > TracklistChecking Bus 1 Visibility: Index > Tracklist
Checking Bus 1 Visibility: Index > Tracklist

Now that you can see Bus 1, let's double-click to rename it "main out"  for clarity—it just makes a little more sense. Next, we need to go over how to send channels to main out. If nothing is being sent to it, no sound will come out.

In the mixer, you'll be able to see your bus outputs in each audio channel. If they are on, it will be blue, and if not, you can toggle it on and off by clicking. Another thing to check before we move on is that the Main Out is being sent to Main. This is located under your video preview.

Because we only have one Bus (main out), there aren't many options, but as we add more buses, this will change.
Checking bus outputsChecking bus outputsChecking bus outputs
Checking bus outputs

Patch Settings for Buses

Another culprit for lack of sound would be your patch settings. To access your patch settings, click on Fairlight in the header and open up Patch Input/Output Settings.

For your source input, select Bus Out, and select both Left and Right Main Outs as well as your output—in my case, it's just my Mac's built-in output. Then select Patch. Doing this tells Fairlight where you'd like your audio to be sent.

patch settingspatch settingspatch settings
Patch Settings

Creating a New Bus for Your Audio

Now that we have all of the audio troubleshooting out of the way, it's time to create a new bus that you can send your mixed dialogue tracks to so you can apply your edits to everything at once.

Using the Fairlight dropdown tab, select Bus Format. This will bring us to a panel where we can add a new bus. Select Add Bus and name it "Dia" or "Dialogue" (this just keeps things organized). Make this bus Stereo track. Hit OK and you should see this in your mixer. If you don't see it, you may have to drag your mixer over a little bit.

Creating a new busCreating a new busCreating a new bus
Creating a new bus

Now you can go back to Bus Outputs in your mixer and change your selection to Dialogue. From here, you simply need to apply any effects to this bus as you would an individual track, and you'll be speeding up your editing by being able to skip the repetitive steps of applying effects one at a time. 

That's It!

Thanks so much for following along and learning with us. If you want to know more about Fairlight and discover some other great resources for editing, check out these tutorials:

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