Pro Tools Conformer

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Here’s a first – a non photography related post. This one is for the audio post production pros only as I outline a new project I created to solve a problem with complicated audio projects in Pro Tools.

So I wrote an app.

Put those iPhones and iPads away though hipsters, as it’s not mobile.

Maybe app is the wrong word. It’s an application.

Except it’s not really because it’s written in Applescript and doesn’t even have a proper GUI. But whatever, I digress….

What is it?

Conformer is an Applescript application that reads an EDL (Edit Decision List) and performs those edits on an open Pro Tools session automatically.

As I know that I’m not a professional developer and this is effectively a basic Applescript rather than a full blown app, this is a free download but if you are nice enough to buy me a beer or two, you can do so at the bottom of this post! Thanks!

You can get it here.

Why?

I often found myself in the situation of having completed an audio mix for a long feature and then being required to cut down that material to create other versions – either for worldwide sale or perhaps a series compilation. The picture editor would supply an EDL, which would be printed and then the edits performed by hand – which is laborious and tedious!

Since this procedure only happened once or twice in a year, it didn’t seem worth buying one of the other more expensive dedicated products on the market. At the end of the day, cutting up a few edits isn’t that hard!

What do I need?

Conformer was written and tested on Mac OS X Mountain Lion but was also tested on a Lion system and should also work with Snow Leopard systems. The app was used with Pro Tools 10 but should work with any recent version of Pro Tools HD.

It has not been tested with Pro Tools LE and DV toolkit as I do not have access to such a system. It is not compatible with standard Pro Tools LE as this does not support SMPTE timecode.

The input file needed to operate Conformer should be an EDL in the CMX3600 format. A simpler file is better. Conformer will ignore effects and comments and doesn’t care whether the cuts are presented as video or audio – again; the intended use is for cut-downs or re-versioning. Here’s part of the EDL I’ll be using to illustrate..

Edl

Installation

Copy the Conformer app to your Applications folder and add it to your dock for easy launching!

Preparation

 Conformer uses access for assistive devices, which is turned off by default in Mac OS X. This option should be switched on by opening ‘System Preferences’ and then the ‘Universal Access’ pane. At the bottom of the pane, check the ‘Enable access for assistive devices’ box.

 Before launching Conformer, you should launch Pro Tools and your session. The following steps should be performed first.

  • Set the ALL Group to On

  • Set ‘Automation Follows Edit’ in the Options menu (presuming you do want to preserve your existing mix)

  • Choose the Selector Tool (the middle of the three edit tools). Use the selector tool over the Smart Tool as this gives correct behaviour.

You may also wish to Clip group (Region group for Pro Tools pre version 10) your existing timeline to make the edits work better with crossfades e.t.c.

ConformerStart

The picture above shows a Pro Tools session ready to go. The source reels are at 12:00:00:00, 13:00:00:00 e.t.c up to 16:00:00:00 and there is space to cut the hour and a half long show starting at 10:00:00:00. The source reels are clip/region grouped to enable easier editing. The conform will cut all the tracks including the automation on all the 5.1 bus masters!

Using Conformer

ConformerTitlePage

Once Conformer has launched and you have passed the splash screen, it will ask you for your EDL input file.

Once the file has been chosen you will be asked if you wish to perform any offsets. If you have set your Pro Tools session (source reel) and destination timecodes to be the same as the information contained in the EDL then you may choose ‘Use Existing’.

ConformerOffsetChoiceIt is common with cutdown versions that the source reel, often the long master version, may exist at the same timecode hour as the new destination or shorter version. If this is the case, you should move your existing Pro Tools timeline by a whole hour or two and choose the ‘Offset’ command in Conformer.

Conformer will read all the reels contained in the EDL along with their start timecode hour and will ask you if you wish to globally offset all the values to a new hour.

For example, in a recent project, a 50 minute cutdown version of an hour long show  had 10:00:00:00 start timecodes for both source and destination reels. In Pro Tools the hour long version was moved to 11:00:00:00 and the corresponding EDL reel was set to 11hrs in Conformer. Enough space was left at the beginning of the Pro Tools session for Conformer to cut the new version at 10:00:00:00.

You will be asked about offsets for each of the source reels in the EDL and you should make sure the audio in the Pro Tools session matches the reel offsets you enter.

As well as reading and offsetting the source reels, you may also offset the destination timecode.

ConformerReelOffset

A note about timecode offsets. Currently Conformer only supports offsetting by integer hour increments, in either direction. Support for offsets to frame level may be added at a later date.

To Cut or Copy

ConformerEditBehaviourConformer will next give the option to either Cut or Copy the source reel edits in Pro Tools. For some simple edits it may be sufficient to use Cut but in some instances, for example, where a edit uses either the same sequence or same shot more than once, it may be better to use Copy.

Be warned! Conformer does not care whether the audio information is in the correct place in the timeline or even whether it is present at all, it merely remote controls the edit information contained in the EDL. If a shot is used twice and the cut option is selected, in the second instance there will be no information to cut when the edit is performed.

Running Conformer Edits

After all the options are set there is one last warning to set the correct parameters in Pro Tools, those mentioned in the Preparation section. Once this is confirmed hit OK and Conformer will start.

Once it begins, do not interfere with its operation. Conformer needs access to Pro Tools at all times, so the keyboard and mouse should not be used during operation. Switching to another application will also interfere with its performance. 

Once the edits are complete the Conformer icon will bounce in the dock and a dialog will inform you the edits are complete.

Below is the same session described earlier, the reels have been cut to the destination timecodes at the start of the session. Colour (color!) coding your region groups makes it very easy to illustrate!

ConformerFinished

More information

Here’s a demo video showing a single reel example.

Further work

 I may add support for a GUI in the future if Conformer proves useful.

I may also add support for more complicated timecode offsets.

XML and Change log support may also be investigated.

If anyone has any suggestions or wants to report any errors, drop me a comment below. Thanks.

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One Comment on “Pro Tools Conformer”

  1. Pete says:

    Hi Steve,
    I recently tried your little app on a couple of test sessions and it seemed to work quite well.

    I’m both a pro-tools 10 and Nuendo 6 user.
    I use Ediload re-conform my pro-tools sessions.

    Whilst I could be wrong, apart from Virtual Katy I believe there is only 1 commercially available application that can also do this with Nuendo, and it’s windows only.

    Here’s a link to the developers page:
    http://www.maisch.at/TMC/TheMaischConformer.html

    With Virtual Katy, support was dropped for Nuendo from v5.
    I would be interested if you were to develop something similar to “The Maisch Conformer” for the mac platform.
    I think there may be one or two Nuendo users on mac’s that would welcome this little app.
    Best,
    Pete.


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