If you’re here, you’ve probably seen this dreaded error message in your Session Notes: “Pro Tools does not support import of aaf/omf references to multi-channel audio files.” So, what does it mean?
AAF and OMF are file formats that exist to move media (like audio files) from one software to another. It’s a way to get from video software (like Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer) to audio software (like Pro Tools or Cubase). I cover more about how AAFs and OMFs work in Post-Production Basics: What Is An OMF Or AAF, And Why Does It Matter?
The file formats AAF and OMF were designed to allow for multi-channel audio files. It makes sense because video software and audio software can have multi-channel tracks with stereo files, 5.0, 5.1 etc. The video software is doing what it should be, the file format is designed to work with it, but Pro Tools doesn’t do it (for an unknown reason).
Another way to think of it is like Google translate. Translate acts as an interpreter between two languages. So let’s say we have a document in English that we want to translate to Spanish. According to Translate’s design (and it’s purpose), it should be able to do it. What is happening instead is it’s throwing out an error like “Translate does not support references to capitalized words.” Your reaction would probably be, “Huh? This seems to obvious. Why can’t it deal with capitalized words?” Pro Tools should be able to deal with this but it doesn’t. Instead they just say, “sorry, we just can’t do it.”
How do I get around it?
If you’ve received an AAF or OMF with this error, there’s not much you can do about it in Pro Tools [update 2019: Pro Tools changed its handling of multichannel files in AAF imports in version 2018. So, you may be able to get around this by upgrading to Pro Tools 2018. I tested on version 2018.12.0).]
In my experience, this problem consistently comes from editors working in Premiere. There’s a couple solutions:
- Ask the editor to reoutput with only mono tracks (In Premiere, this is an option in the AAF Export Settings (“Breakout to Mono”).
- If you don’t need the source media, ask the editor to reoutput the sequence with embedded media. This will lower file sizes a lot, too.
If that doesn’t work:
- Have the editor export a Final Cut Pro XML from Premiere. It can be opened in other software like Final Cut Pro 7 (the last version that allows AAF export), or X2Pro Audio Convert. Then, create a new AAF.
- Open the sequence in Adobe Audition and create an AAF from there. (Note: I personally have not seen this done but Premiere editors have told me this works.)
You could also try opening the AAF in other audio software but in my experience, AAF export from audio software can be buggy. It’s not a bad idea for troubleshooting to ensure that the problem is Pro Tools and not the AAF itself. AAF export isn’t a highly-used feature for audio software but it is for video software. That’s part of why I would punt this back to the picture editorial team for help. Their software is better equipped to handle it.
Since you’re here, you may also be interested in Common Audio AAF Issues With Premiere.