Common Audio AAF Issues With Premiere

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

Adobe Premiere Pro is known among sound editors and mixers to be problematic when receiving audio by AAF (or OMF). There’s bugs, features that aren’t compatible with the AAF/OMF formats, and very little information from Adobe about any of it.

I recently worked on a project that had four major bugs that required in-depth troubleshooting. I found very little about some of these issues online.

I’ll refer to two types of AAFs: “Embedded” and “link to source” (in Pro Tools terms);  “Embed Audio” and “Separate Audio” (in Premiere’s terms).

  • Issue 1: Distortion/Garbage audio when exporting embedded AAF from Premiere Pro
  • Issue 2: AAFs are corrupt/missing tracks if the Premiere sequence contains nested clips
  • Issue 3: Premiere cannot export an AAF with transition effects
  • Issue 4: When an AAF links to source media, Premiere points to multi-channel audio files (not supported by Pro Tools). Side effects:
    • Files will be missing in Pro Tools and won’t relink (despite having the files)
    • Clips may be truncated or missing completely from the timeline.
    • The Pro Tools Import session notes will show “Pro Tools does not support import of AAF/OMF reference to multi-channel audio files” and likely other errors

Issue 1: Distortion/Garbage audio when exporting embedded AAF from Premiere Pro

This is a known bug that was fixed in Premiere version 12.0.1 (January 2018) however it’s a problem for any sequence that was used in previous versions of Premiere.

In simple terms: when Premiere exports an AAF (with embedded media) it messes up some of the audio, making it unusable.

In tech terms: It incorrectly processes audio that exceeds zero (which shouldn’t be allowed anyhow) as it goes into the AAF wrapper. It may have a brick-wall limiter programmed in but it’s not working correctly – it interpolates the audio back to the zero crossing point. The result is a bizarre distortion that can’t be repaired with audio correction tools. Here’s what the audio looks like in Pro Tools with the bug (upper/blue track), what it should look like (lower/red track), and the distortion up close:

Premiere AAF bug seen in Protools with and without error

AAF Premiere bug distortion closeup
Cause of the bug: Attribute data in some audio clips (I suspect it’s volume or channel volume specifically but didn’t test each parameter individually).

What doesn’t work to fix it:

  • Other versions of Pro Tools or other DAWs (tested in Logic and Nuendo). The problem occurs in the export from Premiere.
  • Opening the sequence in 12.0.1 or later.
  • Repairing attributes in Premiere 11.

Solution:

  1. Open the sequence in 12.0.1 (or later)
  2. Select clip (or all clips)
  3. Right click on the clip
  4. select “Remove Attributes”
  5. Deactivate all the audio options (pan, volume, channel volume, and any other processing).
  6. output AAF with embedded media

Issue 2: AAFs are corrupt/missing tracks if the Premiere sequence contains nested clips

In simple terms: When opening an AAF, you’re expecting to see a lot of tracks and instead there’s only 2 (1 video and 1 audio). Other session data may not look correct.

In semi-tech terms: Some Premiere editors use “nesting” in their sequence as an organization tool. A good analogy would be file folders in a filing cabinet. Unfortunately, the AAF format isn’t as sophisticated and only understands a filing cabinet with a bunch of papers in it – it doesn’t know what to do with the folders. Instead of providing a warning, Premiere just outputs a junk AAF.

Solution: Remove all nesting from the sequence.

Left: Pro Tools AAF import window from a sequence with nesting; Right: With nesting removed. Note the name, start time, timecode format, and video frame rate are different.

Track count only shows 1 video and 1 audio track when it should have 24 audio tracks:

  • Premiere’s help site (for version 12) does mention this issue but it’s not very clear the consequences (“Avid Media Composer does not support linking to the nested sequences. Therefore, in the AAF file, there’s no linking between the master composition and the nested sequences.”)

Issue 3: Premiere cannot export an AAF with transition effects

This is a widely known issue with Premiere editors because it’s impossible to miss it: the AAF export fails. The problem is technically “overlapping transitions” and the only known workaround is to remove all the transitions. It’s a pain for everyone – editors removing their work, audio people getting material without fades – but it’s a problem that comes from Adobe – one they have chosen not to fix.

(I didn’t get a chance to troubleshoot this myself since it’s an issue I already knew about – if you know know a workaround or how to detect the “overlapping transitions” that stop the export, please contact me!)

Issue 4: When an AAF links to source media, Premiere points to multi-channel audio files, which Pro Tools doesn’t support

There’s a few symptoms to this problem:

  1. The Session Notes will show “Pro Tools does not support import of AAF/OMF reference to multi-channel audio files” and likely other errors
  2. Files will be missing in Pro Tools and won’t relink (despite having the file it’s referring to)
  3. Clips may be truncated or missing completely from the timeline.

In simple terms: This is sort of like playing a game of Charades. You know the word and you know the person you’re playing with knows the word, too. But, for whatever reason they just don’t say the actual word and you can’t tell them what it is. You probably have the file you need but Pro Tools doesn’t recognize it because it’s coming in via AAF/OMF. (If you were importing the file on it’s own it would work fine.)

In technical terms: We’re working with different software that independently can work with multi-channel audio but once it goes through an AAF wrapper, Pro Tools doesn’t recognize it (and is unable to use it). It’s confusing for a few reasons. The Session Notes will say “Pro Tools does not support import of AAF/OMF reference to multi-channel audio files” but it still will show all those files in the relinking window. If you try to manually relink and point it to the file you need, Pro Tools won’t find any file candidates. In the relink window, if you select an offline file then drag the source file to the relink window, it will give you a warning: “One or more files are incompatible in format, sample rate or bit depth with the audio file that you are trying to relink.”

It appears as a relinking/missing media problem that can’t be fixed. You can have the same drive as the editor with all the same media and it won’t relink. The key is in the session notes – is there an error about multi-channel audio files?

Protools error opening AAF incompatible files

The other errors:

“some clips had invalid bounds and were adjusted or deleted”

“Some OMF parsing errors occurred”

“Some renderings were missing”

“Some elements were dropped because they are beyond the maximum session length”

 

How it looks in the Pro Tools timeline

When this multi-channel issue happens, it may reflect in the timeline as well. In the below example, all 7 tracks should look exactly the same (in terms of region  placement and length) but instead looks like this:

One known workaround is to export a Final Cut Pro XML from Premiere. It can be opened in Final Cut Pro 7 (the last version that allows AAF export), or X2Pro Audio Convert. Another workaround is to export an AAF with embedded media, not link to source media.

Takeaways for Premiere editors (if you’re exporting to a sound mixer or editor):

  • Don’t use nested clips.
  • Don’t use merged clips.
  • Audio transitions may need to be removed (if your AAF/OMF output fails)

This information was tested January 2018 and with Premiere cc2018, 12.0.8, Pro Tools 12 & 2018, and Nuendo 8. Premiere may address some of these issues in future releases. 

Like this? Check out some of my product recommendations for editors and filmmakers to get better audio.

Related Post

Leave a Comment