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sonicboomaudio

How to deal with changes to OMF's

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Hey all, I'm about to start work on a small documentary. I'm doing a preliminary mix so the producer can send it out to a minor festival. I'm nearly positive that they will do some revisions based on their feedback, which means my original mix will be out of whack with whatever newer version they come up with. How do you all deal with large changes? How do you maintain what you've already done and integrate that into the new edit? It seems to me that you'd have to start from scratch. I'm using Pro Tools v8. Sorry if this seems like an elementary question, but I've never had to deal with wholesale changes, only minor substitutions here and there.

Thanks in advance!

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Usually the picture is locked.. prior to audio post, otherwise you have to almost start from scratch. with each edit revision. (aside from fx/process and chain presets) You could work in segments, but everyone must be on the same page, down to the exact number of frames.

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I make a big deal out of picture lock. If they don't respect the concept of picture lock, changes will continue to come or you will be asked to start working on the project too early, and should really have been brought in much later to begin your work. That is not to say that some decisions aren't important enough to break lock, but in such instances I have clearly stated at the beginning that any work required in the event of a break in picture lock will be done at time and expense, which could include fees up to, equal, or even in excess of the original quoted fee for the project.

If it turns out 450 frames were inserted at time 01:22:23:05 and it ends up being a very simple case for you to insert the extra frames worth of time and shuffle your entire project, then hey, no problem, but if they start compressing / expanding scenes, add scenes, and even rearrange scenes without good notes, then it becomes quite laborious to accommodate the change and the work could become much too great and you are better off starting from scratch. If this happens a couple of times, the bill could end up being much larger than originally quoted.

You should have some sort of payment schedule in place or work on a retainer, that would require intermediate payments, to prevent the scenario that at the end of the project your holding a large bill and the client ends up taking the project somewhere else to be mixed becaue it would be cheaper for them to do so.

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I have never, ever, worked on a studio picture in the last 10 years that didn't have lots of changes two weeks prior to release. This affected visual effects, color correction, titles, the mix, everything. I think this is in part to insecurity on the part of directors, a lack of a willingness to commit to a decision, and interference from the studio (especially from marketing), among other factors. Because everything is digital, the assumption is that the post houses (VFX, sound, and picture) can just sweep all this stuff under the rug. It can be done, but those last couple of weeks are almost always 16-18 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. I can think of one memorable Miramax project I worked on where we had a 20-hour day followed by a 36-hour day in post. But we finished it in time for the premiere, by just a few hours.

There are automatic change-list programs out there that will solve some of these problems to a point. It used to be a nightmare with color; now, you just import the new list, click a couple of buttons, and the software flags all the new shots (on the assumption the old shots are OK). The third-party tools listed above by OneLouder will do the same thing for Pro Tools.

I think having a post supervisor who sets up a schedule with bullet points on every day will at least provide a clue as to when things have to be delivered. I agree with Tom that you have to put a clause in your deal memo that basically says, "edit for X hours, mix for X hours, overages and new conforms to be pro-rated at Y dollars." I can think of a little $3 million indie I worked on a couple of years ago where the final post bill went over by $20,000 because they had not factored in the additional costs for changes. The post house was absolutely irate and would not release one frame of material until the bill had been paid in full -- and the check cleared.

The billing process for post production is a lot like peeking into a sausage factory... you don't want to know what goes on there. Painful, bloody, and ugly (for both sides), especially when there's a lack of planning and experience involved.

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Oh Marc... I used to think will all the organised workflow and so many people on post in Hollywood films, this would not be the case...

Well, the grass ain't greener...

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I will add this: if it is thought that the delivery of the film will be "rolling", ie will go through a lot of versions, then it is important to set up the workflow for this before everyone starts (INCLUDING PICTURE EDIT). This makes the impossible possible. Of course, on one-off projects this almost never happens--there is a world of blithe assumptions, willful ignorance and what Doug Adams ("The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy") called "SEPs": "Someone Else's Problem", thus invisible. If your "spider sense" tells you that a lot of changes are in the offing, you need to get into the mosh with the picture and music and CG etc depts ASAP and figure out what the MO will be, or you will be RUN OVER by the changes--remember, sound is reactive to everything else in the movie! There are a lot of ways to skin this cat, depending on how gnarly the changes are, what systems are in play and how skilled the players are.

phil p

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Thanks all!

Your responses pretty much mirrored what I was thinking. I'm just doing the basics as far as getting the doco ready for the first viewing. I'll have to see what changes come after that. I will definitely check out onelouder's recommendations in the meantime.

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Oh Marc... I used to think will all the organised workflow and so many people on post in Hollywood films, this would not be the case...

No, it's worse! Believe me, directors are crazy all over the world. The problem for me is when they expect that the changes can be fast, cheap, and easy to accomplish.

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I've done this on smaller projects, where they wanted a really good mix for a next-to-final screening but knew there'd be changes:

Give them both a full mix, and d/m/e stems.

Tell them to put ALL FOUR into their NLE timeline, call it a new project with just those four audio tracks, and edit straight across. Then give me back an OMF of the new edited version... with fairly big handles.

Changes are now obvious, and in most cases you'll have enough right there in the OMF to handle them. Worst case you can open both the original project and the new version in your DAW, use the stem timecode to locate places in the original, pick up whatever pieces you need for fixes from the original and copy them into the new version.

It's a band-aid, but if everybody respects the 24-bit files there's no quality loss.

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" I have never, ever, worked on a studio picture in the last 10 years that didn't have lots of changes two weeks prior to release. "

and they have the money to deal with it!

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Except on occasions where they run out of money!

I can recall one occasion where we had spent six days working on the first two reels of a feature. When we started the second week, the phone rang. I handed it to the director. He kind of sputtered and argued for a few minutes, then finally hung the phone up and turned to me and said, "we have two days to finish the rest of the feature." And we did.

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