Miscellany - Some thoughts and tidbits

It’s been 5 months since I last wrote anything on this site. My absence has been multi-faceted. 


  1. I’ve been busy and learning an awful lot
  2. I like these thoughts to be my own thoughts and learning doesn’t necessarily rule that out but it also isn’t easy to filter other peoples ideas.
  3. Various NDA’s have made writing tough at times. 


On with the Miscellany. 

Virtual Katy - After a reorganisation on the business side VK have released version 4 of their flagship product. VK 4 Premium which now works with Pro Tools 10 and has been tweaked in it’s conforming algorithms to improve speed and accuracy. It’s no secret that I am a big fan and am really pleased to see the product now operating on PT10 and look forward to developments continuing. 

Ediload - Mark at Sounds in Sync has released an incredible update to his utility application which now creates a conform reference track for use with Pro Tools Field Recorder functionality to assemble production sound rolls for editorial. First time I used it it’s accuracy brought tears to my eyes. In my testing I needed to do very little nudging of the assembled material to bring it in line with the AAF material the one caveat is that it does rely on the Pro Tools expansions, which are getting much better but can over-do the expansion when compared with Titan (Tip- Expand tracks before importing AAF materials). Clean up of the Assembled session is fairly quick once you get used to it and should get better as PT improves this aspect of it’s functionality. 
The second impressive feature of this new version is it’s ability to build a change EDL from a conformed session. Why would I need this? The way I’ve taken to using it is in combination with VK. I’ll import the guides and do a conform using VK, fix any problems, heal where appropriate etc and then import that into Ediload. This gives me the best of both worlds a kind of personal change list but with the Project Management of VK.

The descent of Apple - If you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know about a growing frustation with Apple over issues such as customer service, disregard for ‘international’ customers, lack of updates to Mac Pro, dumbing down in general. Am I suggesting that they are going to disappear? Absolutely not but if they continue to irritate me they are in danger of losing at least one customer. Then yesterday (June 18th) something truly interesting appeared. 

Microsoft Surface - A few years ago Microsoft first demonstrated a product called Surface it was about the size of one of their ‘phones’ ie coffee table sized. It had some tremendous features: Multi touch was the first, wireless transfer of files between devices that were layed on it amongst other things but it was a coffee table. If you’re in London and want to see it in action make your way to HSBC/Barclays (?) in Piccadilly Circus where they use it for customer information. 
Yesterday they shrunk that to a couple of models of tablet/ultrabook. The RT model doesn’t really interest me as it requires specific apps to be written for it and Apple has that market all but sewn up. The Pro version however will run standard Windows applications in addition to custom designed apps. It also has an full USB port also known as an “oh look I could put my ilok there” port.  Pro Tools on a touch enabled tablet just slightly larger than an ipad? Sounds nice. Let’s see how this progresses. 

Oh yes, then there were Track Presets in Pro Tools which is exciting.

That’s all for now. 

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. 

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.