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

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. 

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.