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Giving clients stems/ OMF files of final mix.


Lewis
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Hey guys,

I'm a young guy who is just starting out in this industry and I am currently doing lots of free work. At the moment, I am doing everything from location recordings to the final mixes for short films. 

I have just finished the final mix for a short film with a client (i'm working for free), which they were very pleased and impressed with. This client is an older gent who is trying to launch his career as an actor through the submission of the short film I worked on into countless film festivals. He has many connections with very respectable and well known people in the industry, which is quite intimidating (but has the possibility of opening up the opportunity of paid work), which makes me concerned about upsetting him.

My dilemma started today, when I received an email from him asking for stems and an OMF file of all my work that I have just completed. His reasoning being that they can come in handy when rendering the final film and as a backup in case something goes wrong and they need to go back to it.  This client has very little understanding of post sound and it truly frightens me, thinking about what my name could be associated with if I hand these files over..

Am I just naive and it is common for stems to be given for rendering? If not, what is the best way to politely say that I am unwilling to give these files, but I am happy to make any necessary changes? What is the best way to go about this? Does anyone have past experience with this sort of situation? Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!
Lewis



 

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Never give an OMF, AAF or project files to the client unless they explicitly say they need it and they pay for it. The reason is because they could take those files, edit them a little and cut you out of the credits. If they want those files they pay extra or if you are doing the work pro bono never since all that you are getting are credits.

 

A stereo, 5.1 or whatever format they decide for deliverables is fine and having an omf does not help render out a better sounding product. But it gives the client plenty of chances to screw up all you hard work and now your name is attached to a crappy sounding project that you did not get paid for.

 

Check out Gearslutz in the post production area. This topic has been brought up many times before.

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Unless you have a contract that says you get a certain credit then your credit in the film is at the discretion of the filmmaker, including not listing you at all.   By OMF, do you mean an export of your DAW session, post mix?  This is a sensitive issue among rerec mixers, but in truth I figure that the biggest issue is the extra work involved for you to do this.  How useful that OMF is to anyone (as opposed to stems) without your plugins etc is debateable, but many mixers refuse to hand them over as a matter of principle.  In this case I think I'd go ahead and hand them over, but with the understanding that this work is extra and beyond the scope of the original deal, and thus should be paid for.

 

philp

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I usually receive an OMF (or AAF),  but the final mix file(s) are normally just stereo and/or a multi-channel PCM  file with the same EDL start time I received (usually 00:00:00:00). If needed the stems, mix minus, split mixes or other for foreign language versions, are the same file length and start/end times as the main mixes.

Of course this is 'discussed' beforehand and confirmed by email with the base price and revision limitations.

My post work is however limited to TV documentaries, DVD/BD, ect.

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Hi, Lewis, and welcome: " If not, what is the best way to politely say that I am unwilling to give these files, but I am happy to make any necessary changes? What is the best way to go about this? Does anyone have past experience with this sort of situation? "

this can all be messy, mostly depending on your agreement(s) with this gent, and or any others involved; yres oral agreements are legally valid, but written is always much better... even emails you exchanged may help, or hurt.

sure, this has happened before, and sometimes it ends up in courts...

there is a lot of good, though perhaps conflicting advice, so far, but it still depends; I tend to disagree with Will here, but solidly agree with the others.

 

deliverable's are normally specified, as is compensation (good and or valuable consideration, good consideration is money, and is best). credit is, as noted, at the producers discretion, unless there is something different contractually.

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Lewis,

If I were in your situation, I would provide the stems. Making the case that this is extra work and you should receive some compensation seems reasonable.

Turning over an OMF of your raw Pro Tools session (or the like) is more or less a complete No No in my book. Only if it's stated up front that this is required (and still something I would probably not agree to) or if you are delivering the project to someone else for a mix should you consider doing it.

Just my 2cents

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To follow up with what Greg says, if you used any sound effects from libraries you likely only have the permission to sync them to picture and provide them in a mixed context. If you turn over an OMF you are turning over the original recordings, which is in breach of the contract you entered into when you licensed the libraries for your use in the first place.

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Giving the client an OMF is also leaving you wide open to the blame game.

 

There are black holes in OMF- and AAF-land, where theoretically compatible files simply aren't... whether it's because of different plugins, or different DAW software, or manufacturers 'tweaking' the supposedly universal spec. If your client brings your files to another post mixer -- and why would he want the files if isn't doing that -- and part of the file doesn't open, is it your fault?

 

Stems, on the other hand, are universal. Anyone can play them, and they play exactly the same way on any system. They're also usually required by a broadcast or theatrical distributor, so they can cut foreign versions and music-less promos.

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I'm pretty sure that it's legal to hand over DAW mix sessions (which is what we are really talking about, not the original OMF export from the picture editor) with library SFX in them, if it wasn't then companies like Nat Geo etc wouldn't ask for them and they sometimes do.  (You aren't reselling the sfx as a library but instead as part of a project, which you are entitled to do.)  The thing I never understand about requests for these sessions is that they are really unlikely to work very well on someone else's system.  The plug ins will differ, the new mixer will have to spend a lot of time figuring out your bussing etc, to what end?  In situations where I hear about these sessions being delivered as a regular part of the deliverables there is usually clear agreement on how sessions are layed out and what plugs are used how and where, and these sessions often end up back in the same post production "factory" that made them to be repurposed.  Some mixers guard their sessions as being proprietary information that they don't want to divulge or allow to be reverse engineered; I don't flatter myself that mine are anything any better than anyone else's so what's the point?  But it can be a lot of work to properly export the show in this way, and I do make sure that clients know that work is not included in my original price unless we agreed to it.

 

philp

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Thank-you all for your great replies!

I have just replied to his email and I have decided against handing over an OMF or stems of my mix (unless desperately needed). After reading your responses and them aligning with my gut feeling, I decided that it was a bad idea. This is a basic summary of the reasons I gave;

  • I am unable to hand over an OMF due to legal reasons involving sound library licensing. 
  • An exported OMF of my mix will not sound the same, due to missing plugins and automation of some parameters.
  • Handing over stems for a final render is uncommon and could result in changes and errors in final levels.
  • If the stems are desperately required, I am happy to make changes to the mix on my system, due to my access of appropriate metering and knowledge of the project's workflow.

This has been a big lesson. I have realised that I need to start writing contracts when I begin work and to outline what exactly my work on the project involves and what files will be transferred at it's completion! 

 

Thanks again,

Lewis

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I don't see a problem handing over stems assuming that's part of the deliverables. I know of many projects that have needed a 5.1 English mix, a 5.1 M&E-only mix, and sometimes separate music-only and effects-only tracks. Providing the OMF or the session is kind of crossing the line, since that's the raw work. 

 

You can always conter, "well, if something goes wrong and you have to go back to the original files, just call me and we'll work out an arrangement for me to continue the work." It would not be unreasonable to say, "my policy is to only hand over the final mix -- everything else is internal work files that probably will work differently on other people's systems."

 

I've had cases where Pro Tools sessions only 4 or 5 years old would not work very well on newer systems, driving me mental. Picture editing usually works up to a certain point, but when there's layers and layers of crap going on, it can go horribly wrong. Color and VFX software are even worse, since they tend to change even more drastically. 

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Stems are fine. I actually provide stems all the time and with Pro tools offline bounce it does not take that long to record them anymore.

 

Providing the OMF or the session is kind of crossing the line, since that's the raw work.

Yep. It's like asking an editor for the XML file. The only time I send a OMF or pro tools file is when I did the Dx editing and am handing that of to the re-recording mixer.

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As was said STEMS are a normal and expected part of audio deliverables, usually divided by food group (narration, dialog, sfx, music).  Most of my clients assume they will get such stems after mix approval, they are part of the original deal and are vital for reversioning.  There is absolutely no legal issue with library sfx being in those stems--stem delivery is SOP in the audio post biz.  DAW session delivery is controversial, and doesn't really buy the client much unless some very strict guidelines have been agreed upon before work started.  They are also time-consuming to do, ergo expensive.

 

philp

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You ALWAYS provide stems, regardless of what you got paid or didn't get paid.

You decided to do they job for free.

Everything I work on is provided with stems at the end of the day.

It's industry standard, so telling the client it isn't common, is simply showing your own inexperience.

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You ALWAYS provide stems, regardless of what you got paid or didn't get paid.

You decided to do they job for free.

Everything I work on is provided with stems at the end of the day.

It's industry standard, so telling the client it isn't common, is simply showing your own inexperience.

 

I am completely inexperienced, hence me asking these questions in the first place. I feel as though when you hand over stems to your clients, they would have far more experience than the person I am dealing with. I have a strong feeling that handing over stems is going to result in something I don't want my name associated with.

But thanks for the input! I'm glad to know this now.

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 I have a strong feeling that handing over stems is going to result in something I don't want my name associated with.

 

If the director is going to mess up the show with stems, he'll do it with the mix as well.

 

I've had network shows where the director called up after they aired and said "what the ### did you do to the second act???". 

I didn't do anything. It was exactly what he approved in my studio, and saw laid back at the editor's. Some jerk at the network decided to cut three minutes out of the second act, and rather than do a clean job making L-cuts on the stems, he decided to rebuild the music (with awful library cues) and fx and do a fresh mix in Avid. 

 

If you don't trust the director -- and you did this for free, because you wanted to work with him -- consider it a learning experience. (Strike that: consider everything we do in the studio a learning experience...)

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lewis: " I have a strong feeling that handing over stems is going to result in something I don't want my name associated with. "

maybe the director has a feeling that using your mix results in something s/he doesn't want their name associated with.

 

now lewie, climb down off of that pedestal, before you get hurt...

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  • 2 months later...

Hey guys,

I'm a young guy who is just starting out in this industry and I am currently doing lots of free work. At the moment, I am doing everything from location recordings to the final mixes for short films. 

I have just finished the final mix for a short film with a client (i'm working for free), which they were very pleased and impressed with. This client is an older gent who is trying to launch his career as an actor through the submission of the short film I worked on into countless film festivals. He has many connections with very respectable and well known people in the industry, which is quite intimidating (but has the possibility of opening up the opportunity of paid work), which makes me concerned about upsetting him.

My dilemma started today, when I received an email from him asking for stems and an OMF file of all my work that I have just completed. His reasoning being that they can come in handy when rendering the final film and as a backup in case something goes wrong and they need to go back to it.  This client has very little understanding of post sound and it truly frightens me, thinking about what my name could be associated with if I hand these files over..

Am I just naive and it is common for stems to be given for rendering? If not, what is the best way to politely say that I am unwilling to give these files, but I am happy to make any necessary changes? What is the best way to go about this? Does anyone have past experience with this sort of situation? Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Lewis

 

Hi Lewis.  The projects you're talking about aren't worth getting into an awkward debate over.  I'd just hand over the stems and tell him, like you already did, the OMF isn't a realistic option.  

 

As an editor, which is all I do now days, sometimes I get stems, sometimes I don't.  Depends on the company and the client.  Sometimes you get an inexperienced assistant who requests the stems.  Sometime's I get CCd on the email asking for them and the conversation can sometimes go like this...

 

Assistant: "Hi Audio Designer.  I'm an Assistant at such and such and we need all of the audio files you used for the project.  Thanks."

Audio Design: What the hell?  Consolidated?  Dumped in a folder?... "Hi Assistant. How would you like all those files delivered?"

Assistant: Uhhh.  "Hi Editor.  I was told to collect all the audio files used in the project.  Any suggestions?"

Editor:  All the audio files?  What the hell?...  "Hi Assistant.  What are the files being used for?"

Assistant: "Hi Editor.  We need them for mastering and archiving."

Editor: "Hi Assistant.  You can ask for stems. That should cover all your bases."

Assistant:  Cool - a new industry buzz word.  "Hi Audio Designer.  We'd like the audio files to be stemmed."

Audio Designer: Stemmed?  "How would you like the tracks split?"

Assistant: "Hi Editor.  How would we want those tracks split?"

Editor:  How the hell should I know?  "Hi Assistant.  You'd probably be fine with dialog, music, and effects. Might want to check with the Project Manager."

Assistant:  "Hi Audio Designer.  Dialog music and effects please."

Audio Designer: Good lord, when is this project going to be over?  "Hi Assistant.  Sure thing.  I'll have them out by end of day.  Let me know if you need anything else."

 

The Editor and the Audio Designer both live to fight another day - with another company.  

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  • 1 month later...

I know there are many answers here but. OMF, no, no, no.

Stems are very standard deliverables however it is best to agree on what stems are required before you even start or as soon as it is realised that a particular stem might be required as it will possibly impact the routing of your session (eg. Proving dipped or undipped stems etc...)

But I reiterate. No on giving OMF.

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  • 1 month later...

Our typical deliverables for a show are 5.1 Printmaster, DX A, DX B, DX C, PFX, Group, Foley, Fx, Music Stems, 5.1 M&E Printmaster, and 5.1 M&E Sweetener(The sweetener consist of anything needed for the ME that is not in PFX, Foley, FX, Music, and our edited DX/Group Stems) this allows us to rebuild the ME later. 

 

The stems(M&E Excluded) all equal the 5.1 Printmaster when played back at unity.  We have no eq or any moves after our stems prints.  We also provide Stereo DME LtRt crashes of the printmaster, DX(A, B, C), MX, and FX(PFX, FX, FO, Group).  All this is done in longplay format 23.976 and in by-reels at 24fps. 

 

We never turn over the units. 

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