Guide to creating score writing video exercises with Reaper and Audacity

It is quite difficult to obtain good video clips for the purposes of practicing to write film music. It is necessary to have a video file with only dialog and sound effects of length of about 1 to 4 minutes. Of course it is possible to film your own video on a mobile phone or create a video sequence from video stock clips, and I have done this successfully. I have managed to find a few free clips in the public domain on the Internet. These are pretty bad quality and also comprise of student films which can be a bit rough around the edges. However as an exercise they are ok.

Getting the video clip onto your PC

There is a wealth of film on YouTube. I have devised a workflow to get a clip from YouTube and process it to remove existing music but leave the dialogue in tact.

There are many websites that enable you to extract YouTube clips and MP3s, but they are clunky and can overwhelm you with adverts. There are also some restrictions in place. I found the best way to get a YouTube clip (either video or Audio) is to use a free browser add-on. My example is for Firefox, but I am sure there are others available for other browsers.

The add-on is “Easy YouTube Video Downloader”. It is a great little tool. Whenever you are on the YouTube website and have the video window up, it is always present with a download button as shown….

You simply press the download button and choose the video resolution required. It then downloads the video to the download folder as mp4 or mp3 format.

Getting the video into REAPER

Using video in Reaper is a large subject in itself, but it is very easy to add a video clip to reaper in preparation for film scoring. Simply drag and drop the video file onto the tracks window. You can then split off the start rubbish and tailing rubbish and have a clean video clip.

The video track has the combined video and audio. My first task is to split off the audio from the video as a separate track. I haven’t yet found a one button way of doing this so I do the following :-

1) Duplicate the video track entirely by right clicking on the left hand track window.

2) Render the video track into an audio only track by right clicking on the second video track item…..

3) This produces two takes for the second track. Crop to the latest take by right clicking on the second track item….

4) Finally turn down the fader for the first (video) track. All the audio is on the second track and this can be processed without affecting the video. The two tracks are also in sync.

Using Audacity with Reaper

Audacity is a free tool specifically for editing and processing audio files (Wav, MP3, OGG etc). It is a very useful tool and easy to use. Its worth learning a few of the basic edit operations. I use it a lot for extracting audio clips from band practice and gig recordings. I also use it to edit effect recordings from my ZOOM 1 mini recorder.

Reaper can easily integrate Audacity as an external editor. In Reaper, go to the preferences dialog and select “external editors”….

You add “wav” for the editor type and browse to the location of the installed Audacity application.

Once you have done this, you can right click an audio item in Reaper and choose Audacity to edit it…


Removing original film score

Audacity has the ability to silence parts of the audio. Simply select and highlight a section of the audio trace and press Ctrl + L. So it is possible to manually remove the music. This is quite tedious and Audacity has a plugin that can do this automatically. Note that to do this successfully the audio must be true stereo with the dialog panned centre stage. I could not do this automatically with the above cartoon example as it is a mono recording.

I downloaded a trailer clip for “Capone” and performed the above steps ……

I then selected the entire track and click on the “Effects” menu. I then selected¬† the “Vocal reduction and isolation” option.

I selected “Isolate Vocals” and played around with the other parameters to get the best effect…

I then normalised the track after the vocal isolation. (also part of the effects menu).

Audacity is a bit clunky in the way it saves the edited audio track. I went to the FILE main menu and selected the appropriate file export option ….


I exported the file to overwrite the original. Reaper allows you to do this. You need to browse to where Reaper is storing the WAV files and this can depend on the way you use it. The following shows how I saved the edit….

Final Tweaks

I then quit Audacity and went back to Reaper. The orignal WAV track was altered with just the vocal dialog and much of the existing music was filtered out.

Some of the music breaks through at a much reduced volume. I added the ReaGate effect to the audio track and adjusted the gate threshold to filter the track further. I was left with a very good music reduction.

It is possible to bounce the audio again to another track and tweak it further manually.

At this point the entire video can be rendered as a single video file, or you can start scoring within the same project.