Timeline Audio - Define Clips, Timeline, Hardware, Not Tracks
A more coherent approach should be taken to source channels, timelines, and monitoring.
In short, there's no reason that audio tracks in Premiere Pro should have a "track type" assigned to them (mono, stereo, multi-channel).
Any clip (mono, stereo, multi-channel) should be able to be put in an audio track.
There are three issues which need to be addressed:
1 - How channels are assigned within each source clip (ie. is it a mono channel, 2 channels as a stereo pair, or multiple channels as a 5.1 set-up, or any combination of the above)
2 - The number of channels in the master track (ie, what the timeline has been set up as; this should either be stereo, 5.1, or multi-channel)
3 - How the timeline master track is linked to hardware channels for monitoring.
Tracks should play no part in this chain. The channel mixing capabilities on each clip should address the chain of signal from clip to master timeline channel.
Antoine Autokroma commented
I agree audio tracks are too limited and the way the mapping is done is confusing
I am adding the following comments, as there were some responses to my post above (which have disappeared without any indication in the thread!) and my clarifications in response (which have also disappeared without indication).
Statements in quotes were questions or confusions expressed by another poster and they are followed by my response.
CLARIFICATIONS PART 1
“As to the first one, removing track "types" ... I'm trying to figure out how that would work with … different audio setups … how you could mix the sequence with different type audio and different numbers of audio tracks [I think you mean channels] on every clip…”
If you’re familiar with tracks and the audio mixer in Premiere Pro, then you’ll know that you can place a mono clip into a stereo track. Premiere allows you to control both level and output channel assignment via fader and pan, in spite of the “mismatch”. If you extrapolate on that model, it should be apparent that any channel within any clip could be controlled (level and output channel assignment) with very little change in the current interface. What remains important is the number of channels in the clip itself and the definition of “output” channels for the timeline (ie stereo, 5.1, etc.)
“Request 2 ... having the Clip mixer show input levels rather than output levels ... at that point, it wouldn't be showing what you were doing to the clip unless it had an added output meter. So esentially, you would be recreating the track mixer layout, right?”
I am not sure I understand your question at all. By showing “input” levels I simply mean that the level readings should correspond to clip channels - not output channels. If you bring down the level on Channel 4, the corresponding meter on Channel 4 should go down appropriately. Currently it will not if, for example, all the channels are mapped to stereo outputs (1 and 2) - in such a case, only the displays of channel 1 and 2 are active, indicating all channels that have been routed to them. It is utterly counter intuitive, as I am sure you would agree if you try such a set-up.
“Request 3 ... combining Clip and Track mixers, dumping Track keyframing and a couple other things ... um ... I know some editors that would be screaming rather loudly if this were implemented.”
As I indicated in my suggestion, if the Track/Clip dual functionality is to be kept, it could be a simple toggle button in the corner of the mixer - most editors would never touch it, and the interface doesn’t have to “switch” in any way, and the only thing that "toggles" is keyframing - all functions could be visible and available at all times.
CLARIFICATIONS PART 2
For anyone who might be confused, I’d first start with a review of clip channel mapping and setting up audio tracks:
“ … on the first request ... So much editing of audio in a video project is maybe two channels per the actual video clip, then 1-16 added tracks of audio for music, over-voice, background or walla, different sound effects ... which aren't controlled by the clip, but setup as tracks on a sequence. As the vast majority of audio "channels" are not in the clip to begin with.”
I am not suggesting doing away with tracks. An NLE needs the ability to work with and mix many clips at once, thus: tracks in Premiere Pro. I am not suggesting this should change. I am suggesting that tracks should not need to be assigned a “type” (per the second link above).
Clips do need such distinctions - the number of audio channels that any given source clip has ranges from 1 to 8 or more. Each channel needs to be identified as mono or part of a multi-cannel arrangement with specific output assignments (such as stereo or 5.1). Sometimes the channels will combine these. However, I see no reason why each clip, with its channels so identified, needs to be limited to certain types of tracks, and indeed, as per my previous example, you can place a mono clip within a stereo track (an example of channel/track “mismatch” which is already implemented in Premiere Pro).
It should probably be noted here that I am discussing clips with multiple channels where the "number of audio clips" has been mapped to 1 audio clip (per first link above).
Beyond the clips themselves, it is also important that the timeline itself (perhaps through the master track) - but not the individual tracks) must be set up with a designation. For the vast majority of users this will either be stereo or 5.1, but other multi-channel possibilities are important. Further, the relationship between this master track and the hardware is important.
What is not important (and in fact only serves to confuse the design) is “track type”.
I think if you go through an example and set up multi-channel clips, tracks, timelines and hardware to monitor (for example) an 8 mono channel clip via stereo hardware, the convolution of the current design will become apparent.
One alternative you have hinted at is to separate out multi-channel clips into multi-track clips (ie. 8 channels appear in 8 tracks instead of 1). And indeed, this is a very common approach. It has its negatives however, the most obvious being the multiplication of tracks to unweildly numbers - particularly when compared to the 1 clip multi-channel approach.
“Going to clip-based audio "channels" ... I'm not sure how that could or would work.”
It should be noted that Premiere Pro already supports clip-based audio channels. See the first link above.
“Request 2 ... I'm wondering if in the bin before applying to a sequence, if you chose "adaptive" as the audio type, as you can set multiple output settings ... would that change the outcome in your scenario using the Clip mixer? “
Adaptive channeled tracks are currently the way to use multi-channel audio clips in Premiere Pro. If you use them to set up a sequence for multi-channel clips, you will experience the problems with channel mixing that I have outlined and my suggested solution to this.
“#3, combining clip/track mixers ... the toggle might work, but for those who want both, are you then limiting them to one, or ... ?”
A toggle is simply that - when you want to keyframe track levels, you would toggle to the track keyframer; when you want to keyframe clip levels, you toggle to the clip keyframer. All functionality is maintained, the interface is simplified.
I am actually very sceptical about how anyone finds track keyframing useful - but then I might be limited by my own experience here. I would welcome examples and experiences of people who use this and in what cases it is superior to or more useful than clip-based keyframing.