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A Better Way to Export Clips From a Single Audio Dialogue Track in Audacity

A more efficient way to export audio clips
from a single audio track using Audacity.
As an Independent Animator you may often find yourself recording all the dialogue for every character in your script yourself.

Or, if you work with multiple voice artists, you may get a single audio file from each artist containing all of their character's dialogue only.

If you intend to use either of those recordings to trigger an automatic lip syncing feature such as the one found in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator 4 you're going to need to split the audio up into smaller clips.

I use Audacity to edit my audio and, if you do too, I'm sure you've probably done the laborious, manually select each clip, and export to a separate audio file.

It's a process that's fine, it works, and it gets the job done. However you're probably doing it that way because, like me, you've never really bothered to deep dive on Audacity's very powerful features.

There is a more efficient way to split a single track of audio into smaller clips and that is to use Labels. Here's the process step by step:

(Hey, if all this seems TLDNR, just skip to the end and save my cheat sheet graphic. Come back and get the detail if you find the graphic isn't clear enough).

Labeling Your Audio Clips

  1. Open your one track audio recording in Audacity.
     
  2. Mark the first label by by selecting the start point of the audio (if there is a lot of dead space before the audio begins) or just click the Go to start button. ( |<< ), then hit Ctrl-B. You'll see a label track open up with a flashing cursor at the label point, waiting for you to give it a name.
     
  3. The name you give it will reference the audio to the right of the label marker. You can use any naming system you want. I tend to write the speaking character's name (only use letters, numbers, or dashes for the label names). Press Enter to set the label.
     
  4. Play the track and use the x key to stop and set the playback cursor between the end of the first audio and the start of the next.
      
  5. Use Ctrl-b to add the next label. Give it a name. Again I'd use the speaking character's name. Labels do not have to be unique and you don't need to number labels with the same name at this stage.
      
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you've labeled all your clips in the whole file.

    Drag the circle icon
    to move a label.
    Note: If a label isn't in exactly the right position you can move it by clicking and dragging on the circle icon just below and to the left of the label name.


Exporting Your Audio Clips.

  1. Before exporting your clips open Audacity's preferences and make sure 'Show Metadata Tags editor before export' is unchecked under the Import/Export Preferences.
     
  2. Next go to File > Export > Export Multiple...
     
  3. Select a folder where you want to export to.
     
  4. Change the format to MP3. The default options should be fine.
     
  5. Make sure 'Labels' is selected under 'Split Files based on'.
     
  6. Make sure 'Numbering before Label/Track Name' is selected under 'Name Files'
     
  7. Click the Export button. All you clips will be exported to your selected folder numbered in the order they were clipped from your original file.

Useful Shortcut keys to remember

p – play/pause without losing playback point.
x – stop playback and set the playback cursor at the stop point.
Ctrl-b – place a label at the current cursor selection.
Ctrl-m – place a label at the current selected playback position.

Cheat Sheet Graphic

If all of the above seems complex and hard to remember, below I've created a handy cheat sheet graphic with all the steps for you to save. It's really not that hard to remember once you've split your audio this way a couple of times. It's also so much more efficient than saving each clip one at a time manually. It'll literally save you hours on longer recordings.

Save this graphic to use as a reference.

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