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AAF Import and Export: Pro Tools + Digital Performer, Logic etc
Tue, 06/27/2006 - 16:21
[This article was edited to add new info 5/2007]
AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) is a session interchange standard for audio and video workstation metadata. It is an open standard, but is being developed by a consortium of companies and not by a standards body such as the AES.
I'm putting together info on real-world experiences with AAF, which can potentially save engineers a a lot of time and hassle... First, a quick intro:
AAF is a "session file format," NOT an "audio file format." Other examples of session file formats are Pro Tools, Logic, Digital Performer, and Cubase. Session files contain the mix info, such as the arrangement of audio regions/soundbites, track names, levels, edits etc. Session files are created by Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and are usually not compatible with other DAWs.
This is not the same as the "audio file format." Examples of uncompressed audio file formats are WAV, SDII, AIFF etc. In particular, note that "AAF" is NOT the same as "AIFF". Audio files are independent from session files for very good reason, since session files are not an open standard. Open, uncompressed audio file formats such as WAV and SDII are widely adopted and interchangeable.
It seems that versions of Pro Tools 6.1 or greater (LE and HD) can handle AAF, but ONLY IF you purchase the optional DV Toolkit ($1295) or DigiTranslator ($495)., hereafter referred to as "DT/DVT". Once you buy one of these add-ons, PT obtains import/export of AAF, OMF etc. (And note that "Pro Tools M-Powered" does not support DV Toolkit or DigiTranslator.)
DigiTranslator is often on EBay (click here to search). EBay also sometimes has DV Toolkit (click here to search). But double-check the version #. Buying these used usually involves transferring a license to your iLok key. Or, you can go to any Digidesign dealer.
re DigiTranslator 2.0:
Quote:• Supports import and export of OMF media files and sequences directly into Pro Tools 6.x (Pro Tools TDM and Pro Tools LE), 5.3.x (Pro Tools|HD), or 5.1.3 (Pro Tools|24 MIX) sessions without launching a separate application
• Pro Tools 6.1 and higher software supports import/export of AAF sequences, the new advanced standard in media sequence interchange
• Pro Tools 6.9 software supports import of MXF video, as well as import and export of MXF audio
• With Pro Tools 7.0 and higher, you can import or export AAF files with embedded audio
In most situations, non-embedded AAF is preferred over embedded AAF because non-embedded AAF keeps audio files independent, in case the next engineer can't import the AAF session.
It's worth noting that Digidesign's early implementations of AAF import/export had a few problems that were corrected in later versions.
Now that Digital Performer, Logic and many more apps can "save as/export" and "open/import" AAF, maybe we finally have real session interchange. As long as it's better than the half-baked OMF (aka OMFI)...
The question is, does AAF work well? More to come...
Background on interchange of AAF:
Here's a good overview of AAF, AES-31, MXF, OpenTL and OMF from 2002 (by Ron Franklin):
...and part one of that article goes into the history of OMF (aka OMFI),
A fairly old collection of info from 2000 on various interchange formats, outdated but has some good background:
MOTU's Digital Performer 4.6 added AAF capability:
Quote:When you transfer a session between Digital Performer and Pro Tools, all of your audio tracks are preserved, complete with volume and pan automation - even with applications that use a clip-based automation model. Digital Performer provides numerous interchange options to accommodate different versions of Pro Tools and other audio and video applications. Convenient options are provided for DigiTranslator 1.0, DigiTranslator 2.0, Avid Xpress and Logic compatibility.
8/2003 EMediaLive article, "AAF Gets Traction" by Phil De Lancie
The AAF interchange spec has versions (good news: future / bad news: present)...
Quote:"Logic Pro 7.1 uses an implementation of the Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) specification, which may affect its exported file compatibility with certain applications.
Due to changes in the AAF specification, AAF files exported from Logic Pro 7.1 will not work with ProTools 6.4 or 6.4.1, though they will work with ProTools 6.7. However, Logic can open AAF files exported from ProTools 6.4, 6.4.1, or 6.7."
To add insult to this injury, there's no nomenclature, like "AAF v2", so we can figure out which apps speak what version!!
A few Digidesign support notes which give a tiny clue to AAF support:
Next, my soapbox:
I feel it's important to hold the manufacturers' feet to the fire regarding interchangeability. The real world in today's studios is full of interchange headaches and incompatibilities. Those manufacturers who don't address this, or worse, make their customers do the legwork, will lose market share in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Digidesign, as the arguable market leader in audio production, faces more and more competition from software-native apps and Firewire/USB 2 interfaces. Today's computers have plenty of processing power for day-to-day tasks in small studios, so Digi's hardware-based processing is less and less necessary. (And innovative ideas like Apple's node processing are accelerating this gap.) So Digi makes up for it with top-notch software.
Much like Apple's awesome OS sells Mac hardware, Digi's PT app sells their hardware. Both companies make more money on the hardware, less so from the software. So it is in each company's best interest to force people to buy their hardware.
But if the manufacturers ignore the fact that all of us in the trenches inevitably have to exchange sessions (not just raw audio) with other studios, we will instead buy those systems which can import and export sessions most easily.
Mon, 05/14/2007 - 23:41#4
Thanks so much for being so thorough and typing all this up. It's a great thread!
I'm working in DP 5.12 and my mixer is working in Logic and I've been trying to figure out how to get from DP to Logic as seemless as possible. I'm going to try some of the things you suggested above. If you run you're own experiment I'll be very interested to read what you found out. I don't have Logic myself so it'll be a little tough to tell other than what my mixer can pass along to me.
Wed, 05/16/2007 - 14:37#7
yeah, too bad ProTools makes you pay for all that exporting ability. I recently exported in AAF from Digital Perform 5 and had my mixer import in Logic and there wasn't a problem at all.
Enfore Logic Compatibility
Consolidate Sound files 200 milliseconds
Export audio data as AIFF
For such an de facto industry standard, ProTools seems to nickel and dime people to death for stuff like this. It's all built into DP 5 so I'm lucky I did the project there. :)
Sun, 06/10/2007 - 11:09#8
I read this thread with very great interest.
One of my associated companies is..
RPPtv which is a developer member at..
My mainstream activity is in the Professional Video/Audio Post production sector here in the UK.
AAF has not been widely adopted here yet and we mainly get OMFs from the other post pro facilities which we have to promptly "lob" at AV Transfer.
To try and sort them out prior to them being ingested in to our workflows.
I will point a couple of the chaps at the AAF association this thread as you guys have identified a lot of "real world" working problems.
Cheers to all,
Sat, 05/22/2010 - 17:44#9
Hi from London
Thank you for an excellent resource. I have posted on MOTU list regarding some issues that remain when saving a Digital Performer project (DP7) as AAF and importing into Pro Tools (HD7).
Everything seems to work fine and I am not using any automation, however the soundbites (in DP speak) are not automatically found by PT and also 'Group' files are created which appear as fade files at start and end of each soundbite. These have to be removed manually.
It seems quite difficult to locate people who actually use this process for transferring from DP to PT.
MOTU UK have been helpful but have not offered a solution. I have tried various combinations of preferences on saving in DP, but obviously have not yet found the right one.
If you have a moment to comment I would be most grateful.
Thank you again