Here is a tutorial that will allow you to create a fully mastered surround sound project by only using Premiere and Soundbooth.  No need to buy Audition, or the Surcode plug-in.  It will get around the flawed Premiere audio-mixer LFE-channel issue, and also the Soundbooth export limitation.  You will end up with a 5.1 channel suround AC3 file.  If you have the Surcode plug-in, this workflow will also benefit you.  You’ll just skip my tutorial on Audacity.

A word on the Soundbooth issue first: Adobe clearly wants us all to buy Audition, that’s why they removed it from CS4. They also prevent you from editing individual surround sound file tracks in Soundboth, and limit Soundbooth’s export options.  They let Premiere output an uncompressed surround sound Wave file, but not Soundbooth.  In their online tutorial by Adobe evangelist Jason Levine, he mentions this limitation, but doesn’t offer a work-around.  He moves right on to Audition, as if we all have it.  Well after much experimentation, I have a solution.

You might want to read my other Adobe Premiere tutorials first:
Free AC3 encoding and Surround sound ASIO fixed:


Layout all your audio tracks in Premiere, mix them, apply keyframes, animate the surround “Puck”, etc.  Create a mix that would induce dizziness in even the most steady test-pilot.

Let’s keep things organized from the start so you don’t mix up the exported tracks later.  Create a folder, not a bin, where your Premiere project file is saved.  If you want to put all your Audio files for your project there, so much the better.  Give it a name matching your project name.  If your project is named “Next Blockbuster” then name the folder “Next Blockbuster Audio.”  Inside this audio folder create another folder and call it “Premiere exported audio.”  Lastly, create another folder next to that one and title it “Soundbooth mastered audio.”

Now with your Premiere mix done, go to File>Export>Media, click on the Hottext next to “Output Name” and browse to the folder you created named “Premiere exported audio,” and store the output there.  Under Format, select “Windows Waveform.”  Under “Audio Codec,” select “Uncompressed.”  Under “Basic Audio Settings,” select 5.1 for Channels.
It should look like this:

Tutorial 3 Help 1.jpg
Now, let’s open up the file in Soundbooth. You should see six tracks laid out before you like this:

Tutorial 3 Help 9.jpg

You can’t edit them individually in Soundbooth (you can in Audacity), so this is pretty much useless.

Let’s fix that.  Go to File>Export>Channels to Mono Files.  Select the folder you created earlier named “Premiere exported audio” for the storage.  You should now see this in the “Files” panel:

Tutorial 3 Help 2.jpg
The top file is from your Premiere export, it is 5.1 surround.  The next six are the separated channels, all file names nicely appended for you: …_L.wav, _R.wav, _Ls.wav, _Rs.wav, _C.wav, and _LFE.wav.  Now select your original Premiere .wav file at the top of the list and select File>Close.  We don’t need that one anymore.  You should now have six tracks in the Files panel.  Select the top file “…_L.wav” and either right-click on it and select “Insert Waveform into New Multitrack File,” or go to Edit>Insert>Waveform into New Multitrack File.  Now drag the next file “…_R” into the empty area under the first track.  Do the same in order for the other 4 files.  When you finish, you should have all 6 layed out in the Multitrack file in this order: L, R ,LS, RS, C, LFE.  We’ll use Adobe’s track order just to stay consistent.

Tutorial 3 Help 4.jpg

The bottom track is cut off a bit in the photo.

Okay, let’s clean things up a bit.  Select the top file in the Files panel “Untitled Multitrack” and save it as an .asdn (Adobe sound) file inside the folder you created earlier, “Soundbooth mastered audio.”  now select the bottom 6 files (not the ones in the mulititrack), and right click>Close Selected Files.  You should now have 1 multitrack file with 6 tracks indented under it.


Soundbooth will let you play a 5.1 surround file through your computer surround system, but it won’t let you assign the tracks in a multi-track to specific output channels.  So you won’t be able to hear your changes in surround while working in Soundbooth.

You can’t make global changes to all the tracks, so correct them one at a time.  To select an individual track, click on the little downward pointing triangle next to “Editor: Untitled Multitrack 1.asnd.”  Apply volume keyframes, fades, effects, etc., Just don’t change the timing of any of the tracks.  Don’t delete sections, time shift sections, or use the “Change Pitch and Timing” “Time Stretch” filter.  If you do, then the audio tracks will no longer sync up with the video.  If you need to remove a section, select it and use Edit>Insert>Silence instead.  Adjust the audio on the tracks to your heart’s content.

The LFE track:

The LFE track is not a subwoofer channel, it’s only supposed to be used for low-frequency effects.
Take a look at the first 20 minutes of the movie IronMan:

Iron Man LFE.jpg

As you can see, it’s empty except for select sections mostly involving explosions.
With this in mind, select your clip in the LFE track, at the bottom of your multitrack file, and press delete.  Now let’s make a proper one.  Position the CTI (Current Time Indicator) where you want the effect to start, and right-click in the bottom track (Audio 6), and select “Insert File…”; Now select one of your pre-prepared, low-frequency, rumbly effects files.  It will be inserted into the track at the CTI.  If necessary, adjust the position of the clip so it plays at the proper point.  Continue inserting your effects clips as needed.

The LFE track should look something like this when you are done:

Tutorial 3 Help 8.jpg


Your tracks should be all mastered now.
Now let’s export the multitrack as an interleaved surround wave file so we can load it back into Premiere.

Tutorial 3 Help 3.jpg

Ooops…Adobe must have forgotten to include the 5.1 option as a type under Channels, and since the Premiere Audio Mixer is flawed with regards to the LFE channel, I guess we’ll all just have to buy Audition since it’s not included in the Creative Suite anymore.

Soapbox mode on>  Adobe…This sort of thing is so annoying to customers, you guys really need to put down the marketing textbook for awhile, and focus on customer satisfaction.  At least provide an upgrade path for CS4 owners!  After all, you gave it to CS3 owners.
Soapbox mode off.<
Here’s the workaround: On the Audio 1 track, click the “S” button (Solo) and go to File>Export>Multitrack Mixdown.  Select the Windows Waveform as the type, and the folder “Soundbooth mastered Audio” for the location.  Name the file “Mastered Left” and click Save.  Under Save As Options>General uncheck “Add To Files Panel.”  Under Audio, select Uncompressed, Mono, and click Okay.  Now uncheck the “S” button for that track.

Now do the same for the other five tracks, and name the files: “Mastered Right,” “Mastered LS,” Mastered RS,” Mastered Center,” and lastly, “Mastered LFE”

Alternately, if you haven’t added any clips to a track, you can right-click on a track’s Clip and select “Export Clip Mixdown as…”  Just be careful not to slide the clip around on the track.  You’ll throw off the audio sync if you do.  This won’t work for our LFE track because we want to export all the clips on it into one file.  Just use the previous export method for the LFE track.
We have two options now.  One for those without the Surcode plug-in, and one for those who have purchased it.

Option 1) No Surcode.  Read my tutorial for creating an AC3 file with Audacity: Free AC3 encoding

But instead of dragging a single interleaved file created by Premiere and dropping it in Audacity, you are going to drag the clips in the following order into the Audacity workspace: L, R, C, LFE, LS, RS.  That is the proper order for an AC3 file, and Audacity will use that order to create your AC3 file correctly.

If you choose this option, follow along with Option 2 below, because there is a work-around for the flawed Premiere Audio Mixer.  Plus, you will still be able to make editing changes to your Premiere sequence (If you’re careful), and you will also be able to export selected sections of your sequence either to the Media Encoder, or to Encore.

Option 2) You have Surcode, or you want to have the editing option I just mentioned.

Back to Premiere:

Create a new Bin in your Project tab and name it Mastered Soundbooth Audio.  Drag the six mono files we exported from Soundbooth to that folder.  Now to stay consistent with Premiere’s Master volume meter display order, drop the sound files one at a time past the last audio track (In the dark gray unlabeled row) in the following order: Left, Right, LS, RS, and C.  Don’t put the LFE channel in a track yet.  Now rename each audio track so it matches the file next to it.

Now, as I explained, the Audio Mixer in Premiere has a flaw.  You can’t assign a track only to the LFE channel.  And because we can’t make a surround file in Soundbooth we need another trick to get our LFE file into our sequence.

Select the file “Mastered LFE.wav” in the project tab.  Now click on Clip>Audio Options>Source Channel Mappings…, now under “Track Format” select 5.1, and repeatedly click the Channel tile until the Bass Clef appears.

It should look like this:

Tutorial 3 Help 5.jpg

You just converted your mono LFE file into a virtual 5.1 surround file, with the LFE audio only on the LFE channel.  This is the only way to achieve this in Premiere.

Now drag the LFE file from the project panel to the same place you dragged the other files, and rename the track “Mastered LFE.  Notice that Premiere shows the track as a 5.1 surround track even though it’s really mono.

The bottom of your Audio track section should look like this now:

Tutorial 3 Help 6.jpg
We’re almost done.
Mute all of your original audio tracks, but don’t delete any.  You may need them for editing later.

Now open up the Audio Mixer panel for your sequence.  We’re going to assign each of our mastered tracks to play only in the proper channel.  Notice the position of the small black circle (the “Puck”) in each surround mixer.  Make sure the Bass Clef knob is full CCW (Left) on each track so nothing bleeds over into the LFE channel.

It should look like this:

Tutorial 3 Help 7.jpg

Now export using your Surcode plug-in.

If you are an Audacity user, and you didn’t already make your AC3 file using the individual tracks, then Export again from Premiere into a 5.1 surround wave file.  Drop it into Audacity and export your AC3.
One last thing, you have the ability to export only a section of your sequence by setting the “Work Area Bar.”  You can also cut out sections of your sequence if you want, without messing up the audio sync, by doing the following:  select all the tracks in the sequence (video and audio); position the CTI at the start of the section to remove; select Sequence>Razor at Current Time Indicator, position CTI at the end of the section to remove; select Sequence>Razor at Current Time Indicator, Marquee select all the clips you just created, and right-click>Ripple Delete.  All the Audio and Video will get shifted over, without any loss of sync.
There you have it.  Full surround mastering with proper LFE channel creation.
And because we exported uncompressed every time, we didn’t lose any audio quality.

I hope you all find this useful.


For commercial purposes, this free method is not recommended, due to the proprietary .ac3 file format. But it is a great way to test out the format.