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.