Avid Pro Tools - Preview @ IBC 2011

At IBC2011, a show primarily for the broadcast sector, Avid showed a Technology Preview with some very exciting features. 

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ez-G5jgebw

1- Disk Cache/RAM Disk

In the video (linked above), Tom Graham mentions that you can load the timeline into a “Disk cache or a RAM disk”. This feature could be huge. Particularly if it is capable of dynamically loading media. The forums have been alive with discussion about whether this will mean you can load VI’s into RAM and therefore get more instantiations of Virtual Instruments. As a post user, I don’t have a need for a whole bunch of VI’s, maybe it will be tweaked to enable this but for me the focus was on the playing from ISIS shared storage. 

2- Realtime Fades

To sum this up? Woohoo! For a long time Fades have been the bane of my life. These small little chunks of audio that constantly get corrupted/lost. Looking forward to never having to rerender missing fade files again.

3 - Clip Gain

My only run in with Clip Gain has been in the Import Session Data window where I convert it to Volume Automation. It will be interesting to see how this develops. 36dB of gain outside of volume automation sounds like it could be invaluable.  Not sure I’m a fan of another area that can’t be clicked whilst using the smart tool but maybe they have a way around that. 
The envelope function looks promising I can’t imagine that they’d be implementing this feature at anything less than sample level so should be really useful for fixing production audio issues.

4- Cross fade view

While you’ve always been able to see the result of the crossfade in the timeline, this will show you dynamically the two waveforms much like with the Fade window itself. Together with the Clip Gain it was shown how this updates dynamically great for seeing what is actually on the regions.

5- AudioSuite handles

Huge! Not sure how long these Handles are exactly but anyhing is better than nothing. I wonder if it’s Full file and if it is how they deal with a region being used later that referenced the same file? 

If you want to read more then there are plenty of forum posts on both the DUC and Gearslutz frantically debating what this preview means and when if at all we will see these features in a release. Also plenty of people pointing out that at the start of the video there is a disclaimer about this not being a promise to deliver any of these features etc.

General consensus on the disk cache/RAM Cache is that this is a sign that PT is going 64bit. Not sure if I buy that as evidence, Pro Tools has a history of interesting solutions to technological problems. DAE used to be external to the main program for example, the Disk management was too. Pro tools will be going 64bit if for no other reason than both Apple and Microsoft are moving their platforms into 64bit only operation. 

Whether this sees the light of day will remain to be seen but it certainly shows that Avid are thinking about some pretty radical changes to how things have been before. Read the forums, watch the video and then wait to see what happens. 

Life after Digidelivery - Gobbler?

I have been testing a new service recently that looks like a reasonable replacement for Digidelivery now that Aspera have announced the death-knell. It is called Gobbler and allows you to back up your Pro Tools sessions to an Amazon S3 storage system (cloud based/remote, replicated backup).

It’s incredibly simple to setup and use and allows you to then share backed-up projects with others. It can also keep a offline record of where your sessions reside, scan your home-based drives and it will catalog all of the audio files associated with the project, the geographic location of those files and give you an idea of the size of the session. 

I plan to continue testing this system as it moves out of it’s initial beta period next Monday (June 27th 2011). During this time however if you sign up you get 50GB of free storage to start backing up and sharing your sessions. 

To take advantage of this now click on this link to learn more.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Clicking this link helps me to get more free space for referrals but I do genuinely believe this could be a viable replacement for Digidelivery in small post houses/independent editors.


Project File Type support copied from the https://www.gobbler.com/features#organize site:

Compatible with most major DAW software and file types


Linear to Non-Linear storytelling

I recently had the opportunity to demonstrate what I feel is the overwhelming power of Virtual Katy on a project very similar to the first show that I used VK on. 

That first show was “Vantage Point” and when it first landed with us it was a linear telling of the story of a presidential assassination. It was a short 5 reel movie and far removed from the final released version. it had however had a lot of sound editorial work done on it already and parts of that was hoped to be saved. The next version we received was a non-linear telling of the story with each reel being from a different characters perspective culminating in a linear ending post-reveal.

Change notes on this type of conform would have been a nightmare and so we decided to give this new program, Virtual Katy a go. After a couple of failed attempts and some marvellous help from Craig Tomlinson with EDL evaluation and guidance we were able to reconform the linear version of the film into a non-linear version. 

Flash-forward to 5 weeks ago when I was approached by the mixer/sound editor on an independent feature to do this exact same process. We took the linear final mix sessions and we were able to reconform the full movie (tracklay, automation etc) into the non-linear directors cut in 40-60 minutes. The look on the directors face as he watched the linear guide QT’s being cut into the new non linear version and matching frame for frame was priceless to see. 

Obviously that wasn’t the end of the story and the sound editor then spent a few days going through and filling in the new scenes and smoothing some automation jumps but it widely accepted that this process would have taken a couple of weeks to have fixed without VK and it’s shot tracking, full project view.

Picture Editorial: Final Cut Pro, 24p project format
Sound Editorial : Avid Pro Tools 8
Conform materials: FCP Video EDLs
Virtual Katy: 3.0.2, 23.976 fps project

Regex - VK and Soundminer

I’ve mentioned RegEx before but thought I’d share some useful ones and some resources. 

VK allows for filtering on import of EDL’s. This is the Regex that I am using for this particular project to strip out all info other than Scene and Take from the Clip name.

_[(0-9A-Z)]*.+|\([a-zA-Z0-9]*.|\ (a-z0-9A-Z)*.+|\*

It’s not the prettiest and there is probably a more ‘tuned’ string out there somewhere but it works and I’m happy with that. 

With Soundminer I needed to repopulate the Scene Take and Tape fields from the filenames of some split out polyphonic files. Not going to go into why this was necessary right now but here is a regex string that was very useful in conjunction with the Admin functionality and the Find and Replace features in Soundminer. 


Note this particular string and the process within Soundminer CAN be destructive to your files. I used the UserComments (whcih was completely empty) as a scratch pad for testing. 

NAB Exhibit's only Pass

“Start creating your masterpiece today.

Whether you’re a musician, sound designer, audio pro or home recording enthusiast, the NAB Show is the ultimate place to find the tools you need to bring your content to life.

 Experience the leading pro audio and digital music technologies and tools enabling the mix of art, sound and science – giving you the power to engineer the crystal clear audio you hear within your imagination. ” - NAB Show Website

Use Discount code SM05 when registering for a Free Exhibits only pass to the conference. This pass gives you all the exhibits plus the Opening Keynote and State of the Industry Address, Info Sessions, Content Theater, Exhibits and PITS.

Here’s the links you will need

For more information: http://bit.ly/NABAud

Registration: http://bit.ly/NABRegSM05

The NAB conference is a great place to meet with the industry leaders, to network with peers and to check out lots of nice kit and goodies. This gives you access to all of that plus it’s the best cost FREE!!

Soundminer Pro - An Assistant's Best Friend?

If you are not already familiar with Soundminer as the best Sound Library Management program out there (in my humble opinion), then I’d suggest you leave right now and go to www.soundminer.com

Simply put version 4 of Soundminer is a slick and capable library management tool that just keeps getting better.

Reasons it’s great


  1. Justin Drury, the lead developer is about as responsive as you could hope from someone you are paying your money to to help you manage your workflow. 
  2. Open platform means you can send your files to any all industry standard DAW’s or dump them externally of your preferred application if you prefer to do more work than is necessary :)
  3. Groupware -  as of version 4 if you have the Pro version you can collaborate with your fellow editors, save spotting panels etc to a central server and generally employ Enterprise level access controls


Okay enough mindless gushing.

What’s this got to do with being an assistant. Well, about 2 years ago while at Soundelux London we were faced with a daunting task of managing the production sound rolls on Green Zone. The Dialogue team were more than familiar with Paul Greengrass’ style and demands for the Production Mixer from their work on United 93 but this was going to be something else. For this show the mixer had been asked to record discrete tracks for every character, which doesn’t sound that bad until you realise that means 18-20 discrete tracks per take, on a shoot that was split into multiple periods. The production rolls for this shoot were over 1TB.

We approached Justin with a question about harvesting the iXML data from the sound rolls into Soundminer, a feature that didn’t exist at the time. Less than 48 hours later he provided us with the Dialog database format. This enabled Soundminer to read and write to all of the iXML fields that we required. To be able to search across the entire shoot for a specific character’s takes/scenes and there was better to come.

Assembly of these production dialogs was a mission, even with Titan performing it’s tasks there were still gaps in the tracks where Timecode data wasn’t matching etc. A quick search for scene/take info in Soundminer and then quickly spot them into Pro Tools across the 20 tracks that were available meant that for the most part the Dialog sessions were at least completely assembled. Trying to do this in the Workspace in Pro Tools would be nearly impossible and pulling 1TB of data into a Pro Tools Session is NOT a good idea at all. (Yes I’ve tried it, no I would not do it again).

So what else?

Metadata in Production Recorders now comes in many different flavours. Generally the on-set mixer does a great job of setting Scene/Take information accurately along with Track Names etc but it is almost never perfect. Slates get miscalled, Id is left till the end board at which point you may move directly onto the next take with little time to adjust the data, your time is better spent fixing that hum on the leading lady’s mic. Whatever the reason, things will be mislabelled.

Soundminer makes verifying and renaming these files easy. 90% of the task can be done with key commands too which is superb. It’s large waveform display along the bottom of the window mean that navigating to the slate ident is a no brainer. Let’s assume that it is an incorrect slate, simply click in the scene/take panel, hit E and input the correct info. 

Now you want that reflected in the filename? Easy, Right-click on the Filename field and choose Field Build. You are presented with this dialog:

It is simple to rename a file based on Metadata fields.




This process works as well on individual files as it does on the whole database. Filenames are changed but if you make a mistake they are ‘undoable’, not something that can be done with automatic file renamers and the like.

These are two very quick examples of how I use Soundminer Pro everyday in my role as an Assistant Sound Editor. If you’d like anymore details or have further questions please feel free to ask in the comments or drop me an email. 

Protest against Rupert Murdoch dominance

In just 2 days over 36,000 of us have sent messages to Ofcom. We'll deliver tomorrow morning. Tell everyone!

Dear friends in the UK,

Rupert Murdoch is trying to take over British media with his bid for full ownership of BSkyB. We only have 1 day to tell regulators that this deal is bad news!

Rupert Murdoch is on a fast track to control over half of this country’s newspapers and television. We have just 2 days to get regulators to stop him and defend our democracy.

Britain loses if Murdoch wins. The BSkyB TV network would entrench his massive dominance of our media and extend his power and political influence. Murdoch has used his reach to promote climate change denial, the persecution of minorities, and the dangerous lies that led to the invasion of Iraq.

We have until Friday to stop this! Let’s flood the regulator with thousands of submissions opposing the take over. We’ll deliver the tens of thousands of comments in boxloads to Ofcom’s offices on Friday, making a media splash. Click here to send a message now, and encourage everyone you know to do the same today:


Murdoch’s News Corporation already owns 39% of the BSkyB television company and four of our best-selling newspapers. His new expansion bid rides roughshod over the ‘media plurality’, which the government has a legal duty to uphold. Regulator Ofcom is accepting public comments on Murdoch’s plans for just a few days.

This deal would allow Murdoch to cross-promote his different outputs and increase his political roles. For 30 years no British political party has won an election without Murdoch's blessing. This ability to get voters’ attention gives him frequent access to the prime minister - hence his nickname the ‘24th member of the cabinet’.

This is a fight for the soul of British democracy. We cannot afford to have one company dominate half of our TV, newspaper and online news. From illegal spying at the News of the World here to his hate-filled Fox News empire in the U.S., Murdoch’s media erodes the values we hold dear and shows few scruples when attacking political or commercial rivals - now including the BBC.

The Avaaz movement in Canada recently proved that determined campaigning can get regulators to oppose dangerous media moves. Let’s do it again here. Ofcom has given until this Friday for anyone to submit comments on whether this deal is in the public interest. Let’s send a message today and tell everyone we know.


In the world we are striving to create, citizens will be empowered by a media telling truth for the public good. Countering this deal is vital if we are to leave space for such a media in our country, and the world.

With hope,

Alex, Ricken, Brianna, Mia, Ben and the whole Avaaz team

PS Avaaz has a new website! Your feedback will be very valuable to help us improve it. You use the pink buttons on the left hand side of any page to report any problems you find.


UK invites views on Murdoch's BSkyB buyout proposal (Reuters)

News Corp notifies Brussels of BSkyB takeover bid (The Guardian)

Rupert Murdoch’s growing media empire (BBC)

Official memo on why the Murdoch bid would damage the media (BEEHIVECITY)

Support the Avaaz community! We're entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way -- donate here.

Avaaz.org is a 5.5-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decision-making. ("Avaaz" means "voice" or "song" in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 13 countries on 4 continents and operates in 14 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz's biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Adobe Audition - Mac Beta - First impressions

Adobe has released a Beta version of Audition for Mac via their Labs site (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/audition/). If you haven’t downloaded it yet get to it now. It’s a very powerful sample and multitrack editor for audio. 

While I’ve only played with it for a short time and consequently haven’t examined all features in depth these are my initial highlights:

Spectral Editing

As well as the waveform and Multitrack views, the Spectral view allows you to cut out/ paint out frequencies just like Izotope RX does. While the algorithms are not as powerful (yet) as Izotope the functionality being available in a free Beta version is a joy to behold.

Edit to Picture

Not quite as intuitive as I’d have hoped for but adding a video to a multitrack session allows you to ‘clean-up’ the associated audio as well as obviously laying new audio but to be honest Pro Tools is a better editor. The ability to spectrally edit to picture is (as far as I am aware) unique.


The application runs on Core Audio so anything that you can already use on your Mac will work happily with the application.


As mentioned above, current pricing is $0 (£0). The PC version which has now reached version 3 is listed at $349 and I’d imagine that after this beta period the Mac version would be equivalent. 

Pro Tools 9

So with Pro Tools 9, Avid have primarily given in to the masses of forum users who have been begging for a version of PT not tied to Avid’s hardware. They have also switched from the multi-tier platform that existed previously to a three-tier model. 9, 9-CPT and 9-HD.

Lets break them down a bit.

Pro Tools 9 - Upgrade from former 8LE and 8MP


  • 96 Voices
  • Maximum Stereo Mixer
  • Timecode Ruler
  • ADC - Automatic Delay Compensation (up to 4092 samples)
  • Multitrack Beat Detective
  • Session Interchange capability
  • EuCon support


From this list, ADC will be the widely discussed feature but realistically the Session Interchange is perhaps the biggest addition. Enabling interchange between multiple platforms is always a good thing.

Eucon support is great and going forward will only get deeper and more useful. I’m pretty excited about where they will take it in future. 

Pro Tools 9 Complete Production Toolkit

In addition to the features listed above you gain.


  • 192 voices
  • Multiple Video Tracks (up to 64)
  • VCA Mixing
  • Automation and Editing features from HD
  • 7.1 Capability
  • ICON Control


Avid are advertising the Complete Production Toolkit as enabling HD features without the hardware and they certainly appear to be delivering that for the most part. There are some TDM only features still left out but for just over $2000 you would be pretty happy about the features provided. 

Pro Tools 9 HD

So what differentiates HD from CPT?

Well the ability to use Avid’s Top-End interfaces for one. Many people have asked where HD-Native lies in the new scheme, well this is where. With HD-Native using Pro Tools 9 you have access to 64 channels of input recording on one card via the MADI, as I said before this makes it perfect for a dubber. You want to be able to add to it without extra cards? Then add on FireWire interfaces to your hearts content and create an Aggregate interface. 


  • Solo Bussing AFL/PFL
  • Track and Destructive Punch


HD’s value as MIX before it has always been in the additional processing power that has been available on top of native power. That will not change. With Pro Tools 9 Avid have further enhanced a users options for utilising that power. 

One really great thing for many users is the ability to run PT HD without the hardware attached via the ilok. This will be great for all those who like to edit on trains, planes and automobiles. Plug you ilok into a laptop and you are good to go. RTAS conversion of TDM plugin’s is automatic and as far as I am aware will switch back to the TDM versions when reconnected to a TDM capable system. One notable exception to this is Avid’s own ReVibe which continues to be TDM only.


A good set of decisions on Avid’s behalf have made for what should be a solid basis to move forward from. Let’s see how they proceed with development from this point. 

I will post more follow ups as I get through testing.

Pro Tools HD Native

So the worst kept secret in audio technology has been revealed officially. After weeks of Sweetwater putting products onto their site then removing them Avid have bitten the bullet and released Pro Tools HD-Native. 

Is this a good thing?

Well I think that you could look at it as both good and bad. 

On the good side?

  • People have been asking for this for a long time.
  • Opens the way for more hardware options.
  • Lowers the cost of entry to the Pro line.

On the bad side?

  • People have been asking for this for a long time.
  • Opens the way for more hardware options.
  • Lowers the cost of entry to the Pro line.

For the sharp eyed among you, you will have noticed that I have listed the same points on both sides. I feel this is an accurate representation of how this new system will be perceived. So lets deal with these one point at a time.

1/ People have been asking for this for a long time.

Expectations have been built up and many many pages of arguments have been had about why native is better than TDM.  I’ve long been a believer that if native is good then TDM just improves on that. 

If you spend any time on the DUC then you’ll have seen people discussing how their Native LE systems can run 300 D-Verbs whereas HD can only run 60 (or something equally as ludicrous). Now those people can rest happily knowing that you can now fill the 192 tracks that HD Native allows you with a D-Verb on every channel (while still having 108 spare :) ) for that washy sound so sought after by the record buying public. 

The expectations of a Native system have been blown up by those who have been running Logic/Nuendo etc and had unlimited track counts. While there are benefits to unlimited track counts it is not the be all and end all of a system. In my opinion while Logic and Digital Performer are better for music composition the audio editing tools in Pro Tools have been far superior for far longer. I would rather have 32 tracks available and great tools than having unlimited tracks and tools that make me scream. 

2/ Opens the way for more hardware options.

A major problem with the TDM system has been that by the time you have an HD3 a Mac has no more available PCI slots for other peripherals. With this new card you could fill the remaining slots with:


  • Blackmagic Card?
  • eSATA ?
  • RAID ?


If you match the Native card with one of the MADI interfaces you could then fill the remaining slots with eSATA cards. 64 Inputs, Multiple record drives for stability. Perfect for a dubber for example.

This does however open the door for more esoteric configurations as well, which means troubleshooting could become a very elaborate procedure. 

3/ Lowers the cost of entry to the Pro line.

Pros have experience that people are willing to pay for. They therefore have the ability to purchase the higher end systems that enable them to continue to do great work. I can see people buying these Native systems as extra external machines. You would keep your HDx systems for design work etc and then offload other playback elements onto your Satellite linked HD-Native.

This is a lot of power at a price that a cash-flush consumer might just decide to have a pop at. They read articles about Pro Tools capable studios and think that they need that and so buy it without having the requisite knowledge base to back it up. “Yeah I have Pro Tools” became an irrelevant statement when people started buying LE just to be able to say it. It’s the same as people buying Final Cut Studio and then setting up as a compositor/editor/grader on the basis that they have Motion/Final Cut/Color. 

This might seem bigoted but having spent many years reading the DUC and seeing the mentality of the LE users when it comes to Pro Tools I don’t think that I am way out of line in my assessment. 

Will I buy one?

Yes. As an assistant this is a very appealing package, as I stated in previous posts having the ability to build large sessions without attaching many many 192’s to a system. Conforms would occur on fully active tracks. It is very exciting. 

Who else should buy it?

I think it’s great for editors who have been through a mix to offload the playback of stems onto another linked system thus reducing the load on their main rig. 

Dub stages as a recorder. 

Is this just my opinion?

Of course it is yes but if you were venture over to the DUC and take a look at this thread: http://duc.avid.com/showthread.php?t=283521 

Then you’ll see that many others feel the same way. 

What’s next?

Who knows. I think that an ExpressCard version of the Native would be really nice. Loading an OMNI into a rack bag and hitting the road would be great. 

Maybe a PowerCore like card for RTAS processing? Unlikely but you never know. 

Whatever comes next I think it will be exciting…

Soundminer Group Buy

Tim Prebble has managed to arrange a group buy discount on all versions of Soundminer. Soundminer is a premier sound library platform which has become prevalent over the past few years, now at v4 it has a rich feature set while being simple to use. 

Soundminer have just announced the launch of Soundminer HD and HD Plus which I discussed in my post about NAB.

This seems like a great opportunity to get a great piece of software with a nice discount. 


Add your support for it to the comments section.

New Avid Interfaces

Last month, Avid finally introduced the updated line of interfaces for Pro Tools HD systems. While they may not appear to be revolutionary in the manner that it seems many people were hoping for I think that they are a solid base to move forward from. Let’s look at them a little closer. 


To me this is the most useful interface that there has ever been for PT, in the LE world or the HD/MIX world. Multiple monitoring options including a headphone port, sufficient inputs (6 analog and 16 digital), 2 Mic Pres. It’s the everymans interface for Pro Tools. 


64 Channels on a single interface. While MADI interfaces are now old news on many fronts the very fact that this is an Avid approved box goes a long way with me. Yes SSL make a very similar box but why go third party digital? I can understand the analog arguments, better preamps etc but with digital there are only so many ways to send a 1 and a 0. An HD2 can now be essentially represented as having 4 192’s attached to it. This is wonderful for taking sessions to mix stages.  Why is this useful? 


The replacement for the 192/96 ranges. Available in three configurations: 16x16 Analog; 16x16 Digital and the do it all 8x8x8 which is effectively the new 192 Analog.

What else?

Well, there’s the new version of Pro Tools v 8.1 which has a brand new IO configuration, more to follow on this.

Also the new Mini-DigiLink connection, the question is why change something that has worked so well over so many years. To my knowledge there haven’t been a massive range of problems with the Digilink standard so why miniaturise it? There’s been rumours of ExpressCard interfaces as one example. I don’t know how I feel about that, but I think that if that were going to happen then it would have been released alongside the new interfaces.

I think that this, like Apple’s decision to only support intel for Snow Leopard and Avid’s own decision to End-Of-Life support for Mix interfaces on expansion ports, demonstrates a clear vision going forward rather than continuing along the legacy support that has existed for so long. 

The remote port on the interfaces, whilst not enabled right now, should be able to be enabled via firmware updates paving the way for 9-pin control. The strange part to the remote is why not have it as an Ethernet port which could then tap in to EuCon going forward. I’d stab at it being that the Euphonix acquisition came to late in R&D to add it to the interfaces.

More detailed breakdown of these interfaces coming soon. Hoping to get a hold of units to crash test in the next few weeks.  

Virtual Katy - Special Offer

Virtual Katy have been very kind in providing a special offer for those who make a purchase via this web site. They are giving a $100 discount when you mention this blog or my name when purchasing the Virtual Katy Premium Collection. 

If you’d like to take advantage of this offer please fill in the form linked as **VK Offer**



Conforming - Part 2 - Reconform

In part one we covered the process of assembling location sound recordings according to the picture editors EDL’s (Edit Decision List). In this part we will investigate what happens when they change their mind and do another turnover.

Before you say “but the picture is locked” realise that this is not the case…ever.

In this case you will need at least one of two things. Either the Video EDL’s from both versions of the picture or a change note (also referred to as change list) between versions.

Change notes can be great for doing the change conform by hand, if a little confusing at first. Trim head by x frames at this footage, trim tail by x frames at this footage. The great thing about change notes is that with a little work they can be whittled down from the 122 events that it lists originally to something a bit more manageable by combining the events that occur at the same footage for an overall change. 

The downside of change notes is that they are susceptible to pollution by VFX updates and unless the picture assistants are very focussed in their naming/tracking puling these VFX shots out becomes not only a chore but an impossibility. Recently I’ve seen change lists 24 A4 pages long for the addition of 35 frames due to the VFX shots being listed individually as delete x frames, insert x frames. Not very helpful.

This is where the Video EDLs come in. 

Over the course of the last 10-12 years video EDLs have become more prevalent for change management than change notes are. This is for a number of reasons:


  1. They are easy to produce
  2. They are easy to manage
  3. They provide more information than change notes


The downside is that they are more difficult to read for a human due largely to the split line format, maybe that’s just me though.

Many programs have been developed to compare versions of an EDL and compile a change scheme from this comparison. The three main contenders in this space are: Conformalizer, EdiTrace and Virtual Katy.

Each of these applications compares one or more EDL’s from a previous version with one or more EDL’s from the current version and creates it’s own change plan from it, which it will then carry out on some DAW’s. The differences come in the feature sets available and this is where opinions become wildly different. 

EdiTrace by SoundsInSync

As you will know from looking through my previous posts I really like Mark Franken’s work on a number of bases EdiCue is superb and EdiLoad is without a doubt my favourite tool for doing anything with an EDL. Editrace is a little different in it’s approach to the comparison problem.

Basically you subscribe to the Editrace web site and from there add Projects and EDL’s via upload. When you need to do a conform you select the source EDL’s and a single Destination EDL and the web site does a comparison for you and creates a Change EDL for you to download. 

The resulting EDL is very clean and does a great job of weeding out VFX inserts and other extraneous information which makes for a pretty clean conform. This EDL is then loaded into the EdiTrace desktop application for auto-conforming in Pro Tools.

Conformalizer by Maggot Software

I have really wanted to like this application. It does some great things: QuickTime comparison to edit changes is a superb feature. I always felt it was limited in it’s project based features though and for me that was enough to break my interest in the application. For the odd one off conform it could be the tool for you though. Go to the web site and check it out. Justin is a very active member on the DUC too and answers questions and feature requests very quickly.

Virtual Katy by Virtual Katy

The feature set of VK scares me. That’s what I love about it though, if you work on shows with multiple versions then don’t buy anything else. It’s major strength is that it keeps track of all your EDL’s across an entire project. By loading all the EDL’s for all reels into a generation you can then compare across all reels/generations for any new cut that comes your way. 

This is great for: rebalancing, old material going back in much later on and when it goes wrong (through human error) cutting awesome trailers ;).

As of the latest version it has gained a RegEx (Regular Expression) engine too. RegEx is a method of matching text strings against a set of rules in order to replace/remove those strings. Why is that good for conforming? Well if you have a show with lots of VFX then you be familiar with EDLs that contain strings such as: “76-5 V_dNeg_72638”. What RegEx can do is strip out the data that is likely to change in the next versions EDL ie 72638 might become 72647 and leave you with the slate and take info. So instead of matching “76-5 V_dNeg_72638” across versions the comparison engine is now looking to match 76-5 across versions. 

This feature allows more material to be saved and in the process fewer cuts are made and your sessions look less like they’ve been through a shredder. 

You want material from Temp 1 to go back into Temp 5? Easy just choose Temp 1’s generation from the list and compare it with Temp 5’s generation and in seconds VK will compare all the shots listed in all the EDLs across all reels of both versions. From this list you might only want material from 02:10:15:23-02:12:57:13 to be retrieved. Easy, just select those Timecodes from the comparison list and hit conform selected. 

The problem that I’ve most frequently come across is getting picture assistants to provide all Video Layers to me as EDLs. When I haven’t had these is when the trailer cutting comes into play. Suddenly material from reel 5 will slot itself into reel 2’s boat chase. If the picture assistant still won’t give you the EDL’s you have asked for, just export the QuickTime you’ve just cut together from the timeline and they’ll have them to you very quickly after that. 

Conforming - Part 1 - Assembly

Sound post production is a confusing field at the best of times with the pull-up and pull-downs, sample and frame rates and all other sort of things that have their own names. Then over the years someone decided that calling two entirely different processes by the same name was the best idea since the NLE.

So what do these two terms mean and what tools are around to help with these processes?

Conforming - Stage 1

The first process that is named conforming is also referred to as the Assembly. I think I am right in suggesting that in the US they use assembly more than conform for this process but I’d imagine it varies between companies even then. 

This process involves the construction of traditionally split channel audio from the mix downs that were used by picture editors to edit with. Why is this necessary?

On set the Floor Mixer who is often referred to as the Sound Mixer (different from re-recording mixer) on credit rolls and the like will take the various channels that are being recorded (for the sake of argument lets say 8 discrete channels) and create a rough mix of these channels. All recordings on set contain a timecode reference that is linked with the cameras on set. Once the shoot has finished all of the footage is loaded into the picture editing system together with the sound recordings (sound rolls) and either auto-synced or manually synced by the picture assistants. 

The mix track created by the sound mixer will be used on track A1 and A2 of the editing system as track limitations exist in all of the picture editing platforms. (they have increased in recent years but they still have limits)

Once a picture has been finished to a decided milestone then the picture editor will turn this picture over to their assistant to provide to the sound crew. 

A standard turnover for a feature project will contain: Picture, Audio Guide Tracks, OMF/AAF (Open Media Framework/Advanced Authoring Format) which presents the picture editors sound tracklay and EDL’s (Edit Decision List) both audio and video versions.

(It should be noted that while change lists are often provided to help with the second version of the conforming name they have become less reliable with the dawn of visual fx drop ins etc and are often so polluted that they are unusable)

After all that we reach the conforming (meaning 1) or the Assembly. A sound assistant will take the Audio EDL that was provided and either by hand (very rare) or using an automated program construct an expanded version of the OMF/AAF for use by Dialogue editors (primarily). 

The EDL contains references to the Tape used (sound roll) and the Timecode start and end. 

Traditionally this process would have involved recording the relevant audio into the edit system from DAT tapes etc, but this has now mostly changed with the advent of hard drive based recorders. More often than not the assistant will be referring to a list of folders on a drive. In order to perform this process manually they would refer to the sound report sheets for the start/end TC’s of the files. 

Thankfully programs exist that do this leg work for you. The most frequently used is Titan by Synchro Arts, as of version 4 this is now capable of writing/reading to and from Pro Tools version 7 format files as well as to the AES31 format.

Useful Programs to help

Ediload - Great application for tidying up EDL’s. Discipline in naming of sound rolls appears to be becoming a thing of the past but this really helps sort those issues. Batch editing of sound roll names etc.

Titan - The only application to consider for large scale assembly projects

Alternative/Up and coming methods

As of version 7.2 of Pro Tools, Avid have been including a feature set labelled “Field Recorder Workflows”. The feature set is now getting quite deep and significant improvements have been made to the way in which Pro Tools selects alternate channels etc. On projects with up to 15 sound rolls then you should give it a look. There a some prerequisites that are all listed within the documentation as to the best practices that should be observed but as long as sufficient metadata is being kept then you should have some degree of success. Unfortunately as your sound roll count increases you may find it difficult to maintain performance levels with this path.

Part two will cover the other process referred to as Conforming.

Any questions/comments please add them in the comments or drop me an email via the link on the left.

Eastwood Sound and Vision

I am currently acting as Technical Consultant for Eastwood Sound and Vision.

As part of my role I visit with studios to discuss their technological needs and future workflow plans. If you’d like any further information about the services that Eastwood Sound and Vision supply then visit the web site at http://www.eastwoodsoundandvision.com

The other part of my role is supporting Eastwood Sound and Vision’s current customer base. As a large provider of Avid Pro Tools systems and Apple FCP systems for both sale and rental, that’s going to keep me very busy hopefully. 

Looking forward to utilising my skills in a wider range of circumstances than existed at Soundelux. 

If you are interested in talking with me about any of these services/products then drop me an email from the link on the left. 

Hope to work with you soon.

Cracks in the system?

So having just regained some time to look around and see what’s been happening in the world of technology and audio it seems that there was some kind of ‘crack’ released to allow Pro Tools HD to run without HD hardware. 

Russ at the Air Users Blog has already written a series of articles to both point out the existence of the crack and indeed to tear down the fact that this doesn’t appear to be a true ‘capable’ crack. 

Software cracking has been around for as long as people have charged for software. In fact before that they would take open license to adapt previously written code. The most widely distributed software of all time was itself basically a crack/adaptation of another program. (That would be Windows by the way). Bill Gates took software written by Xerox and adapted it to serve his purposes. Of course he did it with permission from the programmers wife but it was still not wholly completed by Mr. Microsoft…

I’m not in anyway suggesting that what happened in the early 80’s was illegal. Just that it represents an example of someone taking existing software and adding to it, changing it and redistributing it as something else. 

Where the illegality come into software cracking then?

In the case of Pro Tools’ latest crack it comes from a direct decision of the programmer to circumvent both the hardware requirements and anti-piracy devices put in place by Avid (formerly Digidesign) to protect their intellectual property. That is illegal. 

What will Avid’s response be? Will it change their plans? Does it matter?

I would doubt that Avid will change their plans over this. I wouldn’t think that they even care that much that this has happened. In my opinion Pro Tools is the DAW of choice for a reason, that being that it has the most complete and easy to use feature set for it’s given customer base. While there are alternatives on the market they are all compared to Pro Tools and strive to as far as possible maintain some form of interoperability with Pro Tools. 

Avid are market leaders in both picture and audio NLE systems and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Anyone who has tried to do feature post work in Final Cut/Soundtrack Pro or Logic will tell you how far behind Apple is. Steinberg have just shipped Nuendo 5 which has some really nice features. It always has had some really nice features, but still in their advertising literature for the program they point out how much more compatible it is with Pro Tools. 

Native only software 

Computer systems are getting faster and more powerful with every month. Mac’s slightly slower than every month but still with frequent updates… This is a great thing, without a shadow of a doubt. Where Pro Tools has the advantage is it can utilise large amounts of that power and also have all of the processing capability and reduced latency of their own TDM processing power. 

As long as they utilise this advantage they will never be left behind. Native systems maybe able to have 200+ D-Verbs on the channels where HD can only have 12 (or whatever the numbers are) but have you heard D-verb? It’s horrible. Revibe, TL Space, Altiverb. Three reverbs that sound infinitely better than d-verb, and two of which require an Accel processing card. 

I’m sure at some point that Avid will follow the path that they have with Media Composer and make a software version of HD but why would they shoot themselves in the foot and drop their HD processing cards? What advantage would that allow them?

Why the interest in this crack then?

Well to be honest it represents a remarkable achievement and shows that there is some interest (if not a lot of interest) in a version of Pro Tools HD that can run without needing to have a full HD system in tow. For a start those rigs get very heavy :). I’d love the ability to build mix setups on the train using my laptop or quickly check back through versions for a specific change. LE doesn’t really cut it for doing the job that I used to do. It has too many oddities with 5.0 automation and plugin data to be relied upon to not mess them up. Full PT HD even without the Audio Engine would be great to have. Make it run off an iLok authorisation for all I care.


This crack exists. I won’t use it. I have no interest in a compromised version of a great package. I think that all Avid should take from it however is the fact that people are interested in an untethered version of their software.

Frankly I’d like certain parts of the program to be made available outside of the software even. I’d love a Digibase application as a standalone; an offline IO Setup that would allow you to drag 192’s etc onto it to build a mix stage setup and create routing paths without the need to be attached to the hardware itself. 

Not sure it will ever happen but those are my desires. For what it’s worth. 

NAB Show - Day One

People always said that NAb was big. They were lying the convention centre is huge and every inch of it is filled with new stuff to see and learn about. BVE has nothing on this. 

So what did I see?

First thing was to meet up with the Hollywood Edge guys, good to say Hi and finally meet John Moran but visit was short there.

Soundminer was up next. Justin was demoing his new Soundminer HD which is kind of Miniminer on speed. It’s Spectral Search function (designed for the music libraries primarily) will be superb once rolled into the Pro version. Also the new multi selection/multi region spot feature will be huge. Basically drag over multiple sections of a waveform and hit spot and it will spot end to end on the timeline. Very cool.

Headed up toward the Avid booth largely to see who was around rather than what but as expected massive crowds meant that meaningful interaction was difficult to come across. Heading back Tuesday to catch up with David Gould though. 

After a spot of lunch (an incredibly messy pulled pork sandwich) and fighting with Wi Fi connectivity (it doesn’t work there no matter how hard I tried) figured I’d drop in on Euphonix. They are obviously in a little bit of flux after the announcement of acquisition by Avid. Really liked the MC Artist Control section. Hadn’t seen that before but maybe it isn’t that new. Switching between applications was completely intuitive and the surfaces adjusted instantly. Very impressive technology ad will be good to see how Avid utilise their engineering power going forward.

Next up was Aspera. As you may have read on a previous post I have pretty strong feelings about their maintenance of Digidelivery. As expected they see it now as more of a maintenance rather than active development project but their new systems, Cargo in particular, are very impressive. 

Cargo is basically a Digidelivery-like client that is email like in it’s interface and tool set. KC who is the UI engineer took me through the system and was interested to get feedback on what other features it needed in order to make it a usable replacement for Digidelivery. The underlying server system is their Fasp-Ex server and delivery technology. If you are in Vegas for NAB then drop by the booth and see KC to learn more or drop them and email for demos. It’s the most complete and useful package for that sort of delivery (one to one or one to many) system that I’ve seen. 

Headed into the Pro Audio section after that and met up with Brian and Douglas at IOSONO. It’s a 3D sound system that is starting to be rolled out into theatres. Going to head to the Chinese on Friday to see a live demo but from the way it was described yesterday it involves a matrix conversion from 32 channels up to 200+ individual speaker outputs. The idea behind it is that you are able to mix into channel 15 of the system which when played back in a compatible theatre the sound gets de-matrixed into the equivalent speaker channel. Mix once and it will play in each theatre in the appropriate speaker channels. eg at the Chinese theatre there are 320+ channels whereas the Todd system has 220+ channels. The system knows how many channels that theatre has and de-matrixes appropriately. Hoping to understand it more by Friday but definitely worth a look if you are around the convention centre today. 

Headed off to the Renaissance Hotel for the Sohonet party. Good opportunity to network with lots of people, much colder than I anticipated but you know, warmer than Britain at the moment. Met with a lot of the team at Universal Pictures which was good and various other people. The Technical Design team from Star were quite fascinating to talk with, particularly realising how many problems were the same between audio editorial and their 3D modelling worlds. 

Absolutely exhausted grabbed some dinner and headed home. Ready for another busy day at the show today. 

Leaving on a Jet Plane

So, Wednesday this week I fly to LA in order to try and network with as many people/studios as is humanly possible. The trip nicely coincides with NAB the largest trade show for broadcast and post production in the world which is happening in Las Vegas. Some problems are still to be solved:

1 - Telephone connectivity - my beloved iPhone will either have to be crippled while in the US or I need to figure out if AT&T can help me in some way. If I was from the US coming to the UK it would be easy as O2 do SIM only packages. AT&T don’t seem to do that. So it’s either pay £6/MB for Data or disconnect it. While O2 offer a package where you can pay £50 for 50MB of data while abroad I reset my counter one evening last week, then used my phone as normal which resulted in 14.6MB of usage that day. So I’d be okay for just under 3 days. Not great though for a fortnight.

2 - NAB lasts from Saturday - Thursday, this reduces my time to make it round other facilities and people to 9 days including weekends. That should be fun :D.

3 - Less than a week after landing I have to have moved out of my current flat and as of yet have found nowhere to move to.

Still things could be worse. :D