Exporting OMF from Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 for Protools

This comes from personal experience working on the short film Sunset in McDade (which was shot in McDade, Texas, 30 minutes outside of Austin, Texas).

The editor, Joe Handley, worked in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 with the Mercury Playback Engine — and he loved that, by the way.

When it came time to send the project to our Sound Engineer and Sound Designer, Scott Reynolds, who is using Protools, we ran into a few glitches.

First of all, Scott had to upgrade to Protools 9 in order to properly read the .OMF files generated by Premiere. OMF is a format that tells protools where each audio clips goes on the timeline, and into which you can encapsulate the audio files, so the whole thing fits in a single file. You then also have to export a .MOV or .MP4 video file so you can sync to picture — Protools only understands those 2 formats (no .WMV or .AVI)

Once that hurdle was crossed, Scott was still unable to get all the audio in the OMF… some bits of the dialog were missing.

No matter what we tried, and all the crazy combinations we tried to export the .OMF file,  Scott was simply not able to get all the audio clips to show up. So, after a lot of back and forth, we eventually found out that when you have nested sequences (i.e. you have the audio and video in another sequence — for sync purposes — and are using the nested sequence itself in place of the raw audio/video) Premiere must not know how to export those properly, because that was the issue.

You can identify nested sequences by the gray color. Video clips are light blue in color, but sequences are gray. You can change these default colors, by the way, and I found that changing them to more vivid colors made it easier (for me) to tell each type of media apart, especially sequences and clips, which we had to manually replace on this project.

When we went back and created a single sequence/timeline with nothing but raw audio/video, the OMF exported fine and Scott was able to read it.

So, a tiny word of caution: if your sound designer is going to use Protools and s/he expects an .OMF file from you, be sure and NOT have any nested sequences in the timeline you’re exporting… otherwise you may run into trouble.

Just as an aside, Joe is running Premiere under Windows 7, and Scott is running Protools under Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6.

Protools is the “standard” sound design tool, although I personally use Premiere to layer all the sounds, and Ableton Live to compose music or sound effects.

Big thanks to Joe and Scott for persevering on this and seeing it through to completion!

Good luck,

Val Gameiro

UPDATE: For those of you who do not already know, Protools can ONLY read .MOV files, and you need the video to sync foley to the dialog, etc. A .MP4 file will not work. I also had to export the audio files separately in the final package I sent Scott. I sent the  full audio files so he’d have room to play around, find “room tone” etc.

18 Replies to “Exporting OMF from Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 for Protools”

  1. Ray

    Was it a requirement to have Pro Tools 9 to make the ONF trip work correctly or was the “un-nesting” the key to success?

    Have you run into any problems with file sizes over 2GB? There seems to be a lot of chatter about that as well.


  2. admin

    According to Scott, he had to upgrade to Protools 9 to get it to read the .OMF, but even then, I had to unnest everything ‘cos the nested audio clips wouldn’t come out.

    Our project, a short film, wasn’t that large, so I haven’t hit that issue yet.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Bonce

    A good warning for Premiere users, and cathartic for those of us tearing our hair out.

    Tip: Export to FCP xml, then import straight back. I had two mono tracks from HDV footage (boom, lavs) and OMF export would hang unless the second mono track was disabled. Re-importing worked a treat.

  4. Bonce

    re-import FCP xml trick … I should clarify – after exporting OMF revert back to the project without the re-import, don’t keep the imported bin (FCP imports can cause problems and “container” crashes for Premiere) – I’m using CS5.

  5. admin

    Very good to know. I generally only edit video from my HVX200 or my wife’s 7D, so never encountered this issue… but very good to know. Thanks for the tip 🙂

  6. Bonce

    FCP trick update: export-import xml did get me some OMF, but due to the clip data in my creaking project file (and Premiere being useless at OMF export), the OMF was seriously messed up. After many hours of tinkering, I got things going, hence a few more tricks:
    1) Make sure your source tape assets have timecode set to start at Zero (my HDV was offset 14 frames). Use “Modify”->”Timecode”. Premiere is not consistent in handling these offsets (and it’s nice to talk the same timecodes between edit and audio).
    2) If you are using subclips, convert them to master clips before export (but revert to an earlier save after). Use “Edit Subclip”->”Convert to Master Clip”. Otherwise Premiere may use the offset into the Subclip twice in the OMF. For audio-only assets, don’t subclip them (trim them on the timeline/insert only).
    3) If your audio channel mapping gets messed up (my HDV footage seemed to have metadata about it being single channel which causes real problems, like “the selected file cannot be linked because…”) and thus some of your OMF is silent, then use full separate audio (referenced) OMF, and replace the silent AIF with your own extracted audio (I used “Audio Options”->”Extract Audio” and made separate AIF from OMF exporting that).

    I know, I should write this up in the Adobe forums, and will when I’ve got more time (April?).
    Cheers, Bonce.

  7. admin

    Thanks Bonce… Yeah, I should write that a couple of other things with which I’m having trouble (Bridge crashes when I drag and drop a file into it). I’d also like to know why Bridge can’t use a sidecar file to add metadata to files that don’t support it. I’m using for Sound Design, and have to convert everything to .WAV so I can add searchable metadata.

  8. Tinch

    I’m having a differente problem but not too distant from this.
    I’ve two projects in CS5: one has r3d (red one files) which have four channels of audio in them. The OMF only exports one of those channels and repeats its content on the other three tracks.
    The other project has multi-channel waves files (4 tracks most of the time) but it does the same: exports the first of the tracks and misses the others. I’ve tried linking o unlinking the files, it keeps processing it wrong.

    I’ve tried to export this projects as XML and then create an OMF file from Final Cut, but there I found… sync problems!!!!

    Any help will be most welcome!!!!


  9. Tinch

    I’ve tried the encapsulated OMF, 24bits, trim files, 240 seconds of handle…
    Well I’ve also tried with less time of handle, and other things, but couldn’t get to a better destination.

  10. admin

    Just had a thought… grasping at straws here… Are your audio tracks linked or unlinked? Try playing with that. And, I’m assuming you have no nested clips on your timeline. Also, have you tried different versions of OMFs?

    By the way, if I’m doing my own sound design, I’ll do it straight in Premiere so I have more control at the final stages… not as good as Protools, I know. If I have to, I’ll bounce an audio track to my DAW (Ableton Live), process it there (individual clips or the whole sequence), then bring it back to Premiere for mixing.

    Let me know how it goes!

  11. Steve

    We had a different experience and were able to get OMF’s out of Premiere Pro CS5 and into Protools 8, both running on Mac. We didn’t have any nested sequences (I removed them after reading this blog entry, thanks for the heads up!), and weren’t able to encapsulate due to a 2gb file size limit. Everything else seems to work fine though.

  12. admin

    That’s good to hear. Glad it helped. I wonder if anyone who has upgraded to CS5.5 has tried or can try this, to see if it’s been fixed!

    Were you exporting to a FAT32 drive, hence the 2GB file size limit, or was that a limitation with Premiere?

  13. Steve

    We were exporting to a mac drive (HFS), so it wasn’t the filesystem. Premiere worded the error like it was the OMF format’s fault, but who knows with Premiere 🙂

    We’re getting 5.5 whenever Adobe ships it out, I will try it again. There was a video from NAB with a guy specifically touting the OMF export to Protools on Audition 5.5, so I HOPE they have improved it.

  14. Chris Bishop

    Over a year old blog post I found in a Google search, but I had to leave my 2 cents to let you know that ProTools works with formats aside from .MOV and .MP4.

    I use .DV all the time. In fact, in the PT Preferences, it has a specific checkbox for higher-res quality for those using DV25 codecs (.DV). In fact, it’s best to use an INTER-frame codec rather than an INTRA-frame codec, as it’s less CPU-intensive.

    Just so ya know…

  15. Nic

    Thanks for posting this. I actually found my answer from reading one of the comments. Good stuff. Now if I can only figure out how to export stereo stems in Premiere Pro.

  16. admin

    Have you tried using Audition? You can send your audio tracks there and from there have more options! If you’re trying to export each track separately as a stereo stem, they need to be stereo to begin with. Otherwise if you export to WAV, it should come out as a stereo file of your combined audio tracks.

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