Understanding the Golden Rule of 'Conforming Timelines' for Color Correction

What is the Golden Rule of Conforming Timelines?

November 5, 2016

If you move your timeline from one bit of post-production software to another then you need to know the 'Golden Rule of Conforming'.


Conforming ‘In the Shadow of Giants’, Part 1: Defining Our Terms

In the Land of Digital Video Postproduction, there is nothing more filled with pitfalls and traps than moving your timeline between software platforms. Forum message boards are littered with tales of woe; intelligent people brought to anger by the complexity of the task. And this task—moving timelines from one app to another—has a name, ‘Conforming’. This Insight kicks off a multi-part series by asking, “What is the ‘Golden Rule of Conforming Timelines’?”

But first, what is ‘Conforming A Timeline’?

This Insight will dig deep into a project Patrick recently conformed… and it was a bitch. The timeline had a series of unusual properties that don’t translate very well between different software apps. It was edited in Premiere Pro CC and exported via XML into DaVinci Resolve. But before we even begin to talk about the Golden Rule of Conforming a Timeline, we need to discuss what the heck we mean by the term ‘Conforming’? Different people apply different meanings.

Here on Mixing Light Dan, Pat and Robbie generally use the term identically. In this video Insight, you’ll learn specifically what they mean by ‘conforming’ and the end goal of the conform. Specifically, you’ll learn when you can absolutely positively state, “The Conform is finished and the color correction can begin.”

Why bother with ‘Conforming’?

Inevitably when talking about Conforming someone asks, “Why bother with Conforming? If it’s so difficult then just have the client render out a ‘flat’ movie and cut it up in Resolve using the Scene Cut Detector?”

That’s a great question. And the answer is simple: If your client specifically shot RAW then conforming their timeline back to the Camera Original footage gives you access to the RAW data. I’ve seen many jobs go sideways where the client decided to render out their RAW footage to a traditional codec—and get burned later. By rendering they lost access to the camera originals. In RAW workflows, often our clients think they’re saving time by skipping the Conform. But later they discover they compromised their final images by abandoning their RAW pipeline.

Conforming also provides editorial flexibility, post-color correction

As we all know, ‘picture lock’ never is. Clients almost always want to make changes – even after the color correct. If you grade using the camera original footage then you can render out each shot with extra frames. These 12-48 frames of ‘handles’ allows the editor to make slight tweaks to their timeline after the job has left the color grading suite. They don’t need to come back to you later (and pay you extra) simply to render out a few extra frames.

This Insight series will show you the Conform process I’m going through for a project that Mixing Light produced.

‘In the Shadow of Giants’ is available for purchase as a Color Correction Practice Project

This 10-minute short film was lensed in the late Spring of this year and color grading is wrapping up as I type this. It’s a terrific practice project with everything you’d hope…

  • 10 minutes, 200 shots: Perfect for working on your color correction muscle memory and simulating a beefy job
  • Mix of codecs: With CinameDNG, ProRes, and .h264 this project is typical of a modern documentary or corporate storytelling piece. There are some terrific images that ‘grade up’ easily and others that have serious problems
  • Mix of cameras: Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Canon C100, Xenmuse X5 on an Osmo Mount – which all need to be graded into a seamless stream of images
  • Time-lapse footage that gives you an easy opportunity to work on your keyframing skills
  • Strong story, set in Paris with good music: It’s easy to watch and listen to with a solid narrative that makes this feel like a ‘real job’… because it was designed, produced and shot like a real job.
This ‘Conforming Giants’ series highlights the bit of the workflow we can’t provide you

Giants was a 7-day shoot. The final hard drive had over 800GB of source material. Obviously, we can’t provide the entire hard drive as a download. So we’ve conformed the final timeline and Media Managed it down to only the footage needed to recreate the timeline. This ‘Conforming Giants’ series documents this process, so you can learn from that process too.

In the end, you’ll have Giants conformed to DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro CC (of course). The main thrust of this Insight will focus on DaVinci Resolve. But I’ll document the significant challenges presented by Final Cut Pro X, as well.

Note: Here’s the link to Dan’s Insight on Conforming that I mention in the video below.



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