Conform Issues Database - Introduction

Conform Issues Database – Introduction

August 1, 2016

Conforming timelines can be time-consuming before you even start color correcting. Learn the common issues (and how to fix them).


Spend Less Time Problem Solving And More Time Color Correcting

In this Insight, I’d like to kick off another series – this time I want to focus on conforming.

Those of you know me well, will know that I normally love speaking about the fun creative parts of grading & don’t often dive deep into the more mundane technical parts of what we do.

That is partly due to the fact that when I was at Smoke and Mirrors I was pampered by a wonderful assistant colorist who took care of many of the technical things that had to be done on projects including the often huge task of conforming.

Since I joined my new company Coffee & TV, I have been much more heavily involved in conforming my own projects and I’ve continually been shocked at how much work is involved and how naive I was in the past about how much time one must spend on this part of a project.

Conforming at best is a one-click operation, and at worst can be a whole day(s) of work just to get to the point where you’re ready to start grading.

My aim for this series is to create a collection or a database of all the issues I come across and in turn, share how I overcame these problems with you to help you save time when things go wrong.

I know some of you (our wonderful members!) shoot, edit and grade or and other words, do everything on your own, so the idea of having to rebuild someone else’s timeline on your own system may be totally new to you.

So, I thought with this Insight I’d provide an introduction with some examples of common issues you may run into.

In future Insights, we’ll dig deeper and into more specifics on several of the subjects presented in this article – that’s how we’ll build the ‘database’ of issues that you can refer to in the future, but for now let’s get started with the essentials.

What Is Conforming?

Conforming is the process of rebuilding an edit timeline created on a system other than your chosen color grading software.

People like to edit in their favorite NLE which includes tools like Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X (yes, I’m ignoring editing in color apps like Resolve)

Each NLE has it’s own way of processing things like sizing, re-timing, transitions and other timeline specific processes.

To transfer a timeline from an edit system to a color system, an instruction file is needed. Usually, this instruction file is an AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) or XML (Extensible Markup Language).

These instruction files include not only the source media in/out points of media and the timeline in / out points, but other properties and metadata data including sizing, effects, transitions etc.

Even though these AAF or XML instruction files often work well—they often fail

Why? Every piece of software has its own way of translating things like speed changes etc.

If the editor has spent days, if not weeks, making sure the project is perfectly timed with the best framing possible, we need to ensure our conform is identical to that timeline—frame for frame.

This means the #1 thing to ask your editor for (besides the actual AAF or XML files) is a reference movie with burnt in timecode and filenames.

After importing the AAF or XML ‘instruction file’ for how to recreate the editor’s timeline, you can use this visual reference to double check that edits and other properties are in place and appear how they should—frame for frame.

Below is a screen shot of a good reference movie I got from an editor on a project I worked on.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.25.31
This is an example useful burn information on a reference movie. The clip name and timecode can be used to compare with the information that came in with an XML/AAF/EDL to make sure the conform lined up, especially if there was a problem with this shot.

Keep in mind its always good practice to tell an editor exactly what info you’d like as burn-in.

This information can be helpful to figure out any bad time warps or missing clips but in a general sense, the information on the reference file can be used to cross-reference information in your color application to make sure shots line up correctly and your timeline matches the editorial timeline.

Bad in / out points are just the start of problems we’re looking for…

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  • Marc Wielage

    Well done, Dan. I have warned my clients before: the conform is often where most of the grief comes from, and if their editor (and/or assistant) was poorly-organized or used non-standard methods, things can go south very quickly. The biggest thing for me is FLATTEN THE TIMELINE BEFORE COLOR. I do not want 12 video tracks and 20 audio tracks. At best, give me 2 or 3 video tracks (at most), plus a reference track and/or the final mix. It’s very hard for some editors to grasp these simple requirements.

  • Biggest thing for me is to remind the editor that I need an offline reference clip that reflects the XML for color. Not a reference of the finished spot (although I want to have that as well).

  • vincenttaylor

    I made this white paper up a while back (It may have dated slightly) which I’d send out to editors in advance of a session. Sometimes people would even read it. It’s geared more toward commercial edits but if it’s of any help to anyone then please use it.

  • Stefan Seul

    I find it interesting that you like Resolve’s intergrated Media Manager. Didn’t you ever run into problems with it? Few weeks ago, I tried exactly that option: Copy only the files used in the edit to my drive to decimate 4TB of CinemaDNGs. On a brand new MacPro, Resolve always crashed during the process. It ran hours and hours, I even let it run for an entire night. The next morning, no media was copied. Resolve had freezed. So I don’t really want to rely on the Media Manager any more.

    With less data, it seems to work better: On another project with 1.5TB of RAW data, it worked out but was very slow. Copying all the media to my drive via Finder would’ve been faster. At least I saved some space on my drive.

  • Great article, Dan! Looking forward to this series! With 4K+ shoots delivered at 1080, editorial resizes/repos have become common. I haven’t had the time to figure it out yet, but I have sometimes run into issues where those repos don’t come into Resolve properly, and repos that I do in Resolve don’t export properly. For expediency, I’ve found myself rendering out 4K clips on those repos and doing a copy/paste in Premiere on the Motion settings from the offline to the graded clips. It may (or may not) have something to do with the Scale to Frame Size and Set to Frame Size commands which have different effects on how it sizes the clip.

    I’d love it if you could address this somewhere in the series.

  • Dario Bigi

    Hey Dan, Your 7 A001 clips reminded me of a similar problem. It is something to look out for when getting Sony or Canon clips from a PPro project that are H264 (our favorite) One thing I discovered about PPro and Clips that are created with Zero start time, time code is that PPro “renumbers” the time code internally but it does not forward the information when leaving the “Adobe Universe”. I had a similar issue to your clips and had the editor send me the PPro project. The PPro bin showed the timecode differently. It turns out PPro when importing a series of clips of that nature (Sony/Canon H264 from one Card/Folder) will make Clip 1, Clip 2 etc have sequential timecode based on durations. Example being, the end timecode of Clip 1 becomes the start time code of Clip 2.
    So the real time code of Clip 1 is. 00:00:00:00 to 00:01:02:03. Clip 2 also has a 00:00:00:00 start time code. BUT in the Bin, Adobe made the time code of Clip 2 start at 00:01:02:04 and it’s end time code/duration ripples to Clip three and so on.
    It’s a rare occasion to get that type of footage (Thank you DPs with budgets and real cameras) but I wanted to share it incase someone else goes down that rabbit hole.

    Separately, Thanks to you and the Mixing Light Boyz for creating and sharing a great database of helpful info. It’s difficult being locked in a dark room constantly and keeping up on our ever changing industry.

    Be well,

  • Steve Sebban

    I mostly work on 60 or 90 documentary movies, a lot of them are indies and they don’t have the time, the money and/or the skills to manage or convert their footage correctly. The conform process is daunting. Once, it took more than 7 days (!) just to finish it.

    I have mixed results with the Media Manager, especially trimming footage. Most of the time, it just fails. I took the habit to tell my assistant to just copy the full clips used in the timeline instead of trimming it. There’s some waste of storage but it doesn’t fail anymore. (R12, I haven’t tried 12.5 yet)

  • Killer job rounding up some of the most common conform issues. Looking forward to more insights on this topic, as it may not be sexy and creative but it can sure take up a LOT of time. Thanks, Dan!

  • Apparently in the conform options for resolve if you say use frame count and there is non timecode > 0, it ignores the use frame count. I had to reset the timecode even though the frame counts matched on each clip. I had to reset like 1800 clips timecode to 0 ONE at a time on this feature recently.

  • Also make sure the reference movies are not in a h.264 or long GOP formats that can loose frames.

  • Ian Grey

    I am always amazed by how much push back I get from editors who don’t want to have to go through the timeline flattening it. The other day I was on a show where the editor attended a session and said we had the wrong clip, we were meant to use the one on track 3 not track 5

  • Marc Wielage

    I hate H.264 reference movies. The clients rarely want to listen to my reasons why. I did just finish a job this week where the editor came in and was genuinely apologetic once we saw how many hoops we had to jump through to conform his feature. At no charge, he jumped in and fixed the last two reels and saved me quite a bit of time. We win our battles one day at a time.

  • VitusSoska

    I created a checklist for the editor before preparing the timeline and media for delivery. Initialy I followed the approach with as less tracks as possible, but as I had to handle timelines with a lot a vfx-shots, I adviced the editor for dedicated videotracks, depending on whether original footage or in someway edited footage landed on the picturelocked timeline.

    The conform issue I hate the most is, when editors rename the clips to organize their project, instead of using the NLEs internal organizing tools.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Editors who rename their camera files at the Finder level should have their hands replaced with a single toothpick when editing—this way they understand the mind-numbing torture they’re potentially imposing on creatives further down the post-production pipeline.

    Thanks for sharing your check list!

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Resolve won’t reset the TC for multiple clips at once in Clip Attributes? Talk about mind-numbing work.

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