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.