Sound editing can be an unenviable job: against some sometimes absurdly tight deadlines, you have to work with complex, extensive changes to the film or TV show. Virtual Katy is a piece of software that integrates with Final Cut and Avid video editing and handles conforming — basically, taking all those changes and making everything fit. It’s not a wildly expensive piece of software, ranging from US$400 to $1000. But it’s surprisingly elegant, at least from my layperson’s point of view. If you’ve ever been curious how these things work, check out the short quick start tutorial.

VK is used professionally on some interesting and geek-pleasing projects, ranging from Lord of the Rings to South Park. Boy, those two projects need it, too: Lord of the Rings was infamous for its far-reaching, deep edits (composer Howard Shore talked about that), whereas South Park gets wrapped up literally a few hours before you see it air in the U.S. on Comedy Central. Naturally, VK loves to send out press releases about these projects.

This one caught my eye: VK is used by Douglas Sinclair, sound editor on the new, slicker Doctor Who. (More stories in VK’s press release PDF, with the sales pitch but interesting nonetheless.) The whole process happens in just two and a half weeks per episode. That’s more lavish than, oh, say, South Park. (They get a few days, but by contrast, South Park sound editor D.A. Young told me things like explosion sounds often don’t line up with the effects when the show first airs!). But just over two weeks is pretty tight given the cinematic level of sound and visual effects Doctor Who requires. Conforming comes in as visual effects are finalized and trailers and re-caps are generated.

And all of this gives me both another chance to talk about Doctor Who and an opportunity to run a picture of David Tennant for my girlfriend. Previous examples of me finding excuses to talk about Who:

Doctor Who Theme: Behind the Scenes, Hear the Themes
Doctor Who Theme, Remixed and Roasted

Note: Anyone who actually does use these tools — since I know nothing as I don’t do post production! — please feel free to say hello in comments, whether you’ve used VK or anything else. One person has already stepped up. I do prefer hearing from real people to hearing from press releases, as regular readers know. -PK

  • sandra

    scratching beneath the surface of press releases, ever wonder why VK isn't also raving about how it was used on KING KONG? no? well thats because it wasn't… VK works, but its not necessarily the best conformer available…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I was hoping someone who knew about conforming might chime in.

    Since you've opened this up, which tool do you prefer?

    There must be some level of preference / type of job in this, as well . . . conforming South Park isn't the same as conforming King Kong, surely. It speaks volumes that they switched from VK to something else between LOTR and Kong, though.

  • sandra

    Apparently they used Maggot Software's Conformalizer, the new version

    of which is fantastic at tracking VFX shot updates – you can literally

    play two quicktime movies side by side, frame by frame & check the

    picture changes as you step through the change EDL

    Maggot also make some very handy applications for reloading 24bit

    files when inheriting work from a 16 bit Avid, ediitng Metadata etc….
    http://www.maggot.co.nz
    But they also aren't the only option, there is also
    http://www.editrace.com/

    The most interesting question is does all this late decision making & last minute VFX changes actually make for better films?

    Frankly I prefer well thought out films with realistic schedules….

    And films by Bela Tarr that only have a dozen picture edits in the whole film!

  • http://www.maggot.co.nz maggot

    conformalizer is very flexible and can be used in a bunch of different ways dpending on the way your project is set up.

    NTSC, PAL, film or video, cutlists, EDLs or changenotes.

    apart from general robustness and ergonomics, the huge advantage with conformalizer is the picture window and the new SmartVFX tracing feature.

    If you ever have the opportunity to compare the results of the other packages, I reccommend doing so. You'll be surprised at the difference.

    conformalizer v1.3 will be out very soon and will include SmartVFX and a couple of other nice additions. keep checking the site.

  • http://www.virtualkaty.com Craig Tomlinson

    I worked on King Kong as a Foley Editor and used VK to conform all the Foley sessions… It worked perfectly – why rave?

    The crew may have been happy to experiment with Justin's free maggot software, but it was VK that Big Primate bought five full licenses for.

    Craig Tomlinson, VK Support Manager.

  • http://www.bangpostproduction.com Paul McFadden

    Hi, I'm Paul McFadden Supervising Sound Editor on Doctor Who and I have to say that VK2 saved our lives on numerous occasions.The show is a complete nightmare for recuts. Way to much for a TV show, VK gives us a workflow that allows us to comltet the audio post on schedule. It's a lifesaver.