The most common conform issues

5 minute read

Considering that the online process involves many different teams, usually in different locations, and with different software platforms, errors are always possible. Even more likely than technical glitches are procedural errors or oversights. These can be on the part of the offline edit team, such as a misunderstanding of what the online facility needs, or could stem from the online facility not communicating their needs sufficiently.

Below are some of the most common stumbles experienced during the conform process:

1. Not including project files in the turn-over to an online facility

The Avid Media Composer bin (.avb) or the Adobe Premiere Project files (.prproj) are essential to the online process, as they represent the most complete “genetic” history of the project. The project file is often omitted by offline editorial teams when turning over to online facilities.

Without these files, the online facility will be unable to revert to the project timeline if something is missing in the EDL, XML, or AAF files

2. EDLs truncating source file names

When exporting an EDL, many of the default templates will truncate file names to only a few characters. For example, the CMX3600 EDL template will reduce original camera file names to only 8 characters. Since many modern digital cinema camera systems create camera files that are 20+ characters long, this will make conform near-impossible.

Instead, be sure to export EDLs with something like the the File32 or File129 templates in Avid Media Composer’s List Tool, or select the “32-character name” setting in Adobe Premiere Pro’s EDL export window. This will keep original camera file name in tact.

3. Committing MultiCam Edits

If you are using Group Clips or MultiGroup clips in Avid Media Composer, all camera angles will be preserved in AAF exports unless you chooses “Commit Multicam Edits” first. Without this step AAF exports will take a disproportionately long time to export from Avid Media Composer. Additionally, the unneeded media will be included in the conform even the camera angles that did not make the final edit. For Non-Avid platforms, including multicam media may lead to misinterpreted footage, where the wrong camera angle is placed on the timeline when importing the AAF. Obviously this would resullt in conform errors, and client confusion

4. Stripping away CDL information from the project metadata

Some editorial processes in Avid Media Composer have been known to “strip” away CDL metadata out of the ASC_SOP and ASC_SAT columns. This can lead to confusion.

To avoid this, you should verify that an AAF still contains this metadata. Just create a fresh project in Media Composer and import the AAF, then check the CDL values to make sure they are still present.

5. Not including CDL Information in EDLs

This is similar to the previous issue. You can prevent it by choosing “Color Decision List” in the export settings of Media Composer’s List Tool.

6. Providing multiple final sequences with the word “final” in it

Too often, a project file is provided to the online facility with multiple sequences entitled “final.” There might be a “final version” or “final approved revised version.”

To avoid confusion, it is best to provide only one sequence in a final bin or folder so there is no ambiguity as to which sequence is the final one for conform editorial

7. Exporting visual reference files using an H.264 codec

H.264-based Quicktimes are, paradoxically, often not friendly to common conform and grading platforms. This has to do with the interframe compression that most flavors of H.264 utilize.

Instead, use an intraframe codec, such as ProRes or DNxHD.

8. Renaming clips in the NLE project and losing the original camera filenames

This can be a disaster. Always be sure to copy the OCF (Original Camera File) names into another project column before renaming any clips.

9. Delivering “giant shovel” data dumps

Sometimes online facilities receive hard drives with literally 100% of the original camera content, without any degree of organization. This is a nightmare

Remember, online editors do not have the same degree of familiarity with the project as the offline editing team. They are going to need some help. Take the time to organize your OCFs, and maybe trim the unused takes on large project handoffs.

10. Transcoding unnecessarily

If you are doing the conform yourself, prior to turning over to an online facility, be wary of transcoding un-necessarily. Some editorial media types are already equal-to or better-than what the camera itself created. This makes additional transcoding redundant, time consuming, and potentially detrimental to picture quality

As an example, if you have CanonXF 50Mb 422, and you want to transcode to ProRes 422 for offline editorial, that would be a mistake. You are already editing the project with a media format that is better than what the camera created in the first place. Thus, no additional transcoding is needed during turn over.

Consult with the online facility to see what aspects of an offline editing timeline are, unexpectedly, already online-ready.

11. Assuming subtitles will work for the other team

For subtitles and/or closed captioning, never assume that they will appear as typed into your NLE. They will not always translate to the conform platform used by an online facility.

Rather, be sure to discuss subtitles/closed captioning with your finishing facility early in the process. Expect that, at least in some cases, subtitles will need to be completely recreated, either by the online facility or by a specialized “house” that has unique toolsets and skills to create them.

12. Not including LUTs or CDLs

Be ready to provide any “show LUTs” or scene LUTs or CDLs, so that the conform tool can prepare those in the color project. Conform editors often are multi-tasked into the position of preparing the content for grading and will need to apply LUTs and CDLs where needed. But if they don’t have them, they will call you asking for it. It’s better to just include it from the beginning.

13. Not preparing the conform for color

If you are turning over a flattened conform to a color-grading facility be certain to do the following:

  • Remove all temp color: leaving temp color behind will interfere with a colorist’s process
  • Separate all titles or graphics that live on top of picture to another layer of the timeline: “baking in” the titles or graphics over picture will make color grading difficult or impossible
  • Include an A-mode EDL so that the color system can “notch” the flattened file at the edit points
  • For transitions such as dissolves, be sure to include the outgoing shot and the incoming shot with sufficient handles at the end of the delivered, flattened file. This way the color grade can be applied to the handles of the outgoing and incoming shots, and the dissolve can be reapplied after the grade is complete
  • For composites done in the NLE, be sure to include the V1 layer and the V2 layer (and as many layers are needed) at the end of the delivered, flattened file; the layers will need to be graded independently, and then re-assembled in the conform tool after the grades are applied.
  • Be sure to indicate to the online facility what fonts were used for titles, if titles are to be re-created during the online
  • For stills, include the highest resolution still available for grading when possible (even if it isn’t used)
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