The Sony Vegas Pro to Resolve Round-tripping Workflow (Part One): To Resolve

This article explores the round-tripping workflow from Sony Vegas Pro to Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve and back. It builds on the following articles:

I’m using Sony Vegas Pro 12 and DaVinci Resolve 10 for this tutorial. Older versions might not support the same workflows.

What file formats are supported?

Judging by the specs, one would assume that there are potentially four ways to travel from Sony Vegas Pro to DaVinci Resolve and back:

I’ll tell you right away that FCPXML doesn’t work, and EDL isn’t a friendly option either. Resolve, like FCP-X, uses FCPXML version 1.2, while Sony Vegas Pro 12 supports version 1.1. If you try to export an FCPXML file from Vegas Pro and import it into Resolve, you get the following warning:

FCPXML Error Vegas Resolve

Clicking OK just gives you an error: “No valid sequences are present in the file.” To know more about FCPXML versions, click here.

Furthermore, for the roundtrip, you must be able to import FCPXML back into Vegas, but that option is greyed out by default. It makes you wonder why it’s there in the first place!

What about XMEML?

To get this option, you’d export File > Export > Final Cut Pro 7/DaVinci Resolve (*.xml)…

This works, but not like you want it to. The biggest frustration I had was if I exported multiple tracks, the tracks are reversed when imported into Resolve! There are no settings in Vegas Pro or Resolve that can be checked or changed to get it the right way up. This means, before exporting XML, you must flatten your timeline.

Secondly, even with a single clip export, the media files are not imported into the media pool, even if you select Export Media Pool in Sony Vegas Pro. Sometimes, if Resolve is confused, clips are eliminated entirely, though their audio files remain!

If this is the case for the most basic of workflows, I can’t imagine the agony of working on a complex project with multiple frame rates (it works, by the way – just so that you know), and correcting clips one by one.

For these reasons, I highly recommend you don’t use XML to transfer large project files from Vegas Pro to Resolve. Small projects can be workable, though.

This leaves AAF as the only viable option. If you’re going to learn one workflow well, you might as well learn one that is dependable. The rest of this tutorial will be confined to this workflow only.

Note about Resolve on Windows: Some users (like me) will bash their heads against their monitors because no folders are visible in the Library. Having used Resolve on Macs most of the time, I couldn’t understand why no folders were showing up. The problem is that the Windows version has a bug (if you want to call it that, because it bugs everybody) that forces you to manually add every single folder/volume the first time. Now, you might think it’s not so bad to add one volume (like D://, etc.), but if you have a lot of media in it, then it’s going to get real slow hunting for clips. It’s better to add folders individually.

Note about Resolve 9 ‘Handle Mixed Frame Rate Material’ check box: In Resolve 9, you had to select this option prior to importing mixed frame rate media. It was a crazy step everyone missed the first time. Thankfully, Resolve 10 makes do without it, and calculates mixed frame rate media on its own. However, the updated (not really) Resolve 10 beta manual still references this old check box.

Which codecs and effects are supported?

DNxHD almost always works, so if your project is in 1080p or lower, it might be best to export a high-quality DNxHD file for color correction. From page 290 of the DaVinci Resolve 10 manual, here are the supported codecs via AAF:

XAVC is supported, but AVCHD isn’t. The ideal workflow usually involves working native until the very last moment, but if you’re using codecs that Resolve doesn’t support natively, then you will be better served by transcoding or rewrapping your files.

In this great tutorial, Douglas De Young shows us how to rewrap AVCHD files into a MOV container that can be edited by Vegas Pro and imported into Resolve without transcoding:

If you prefer to transcode, which codec do you transcode to? For a list of available codecs for export, click here. You can’t export Prores because you’re on a Windows machine. The only other option is DNxHD. If you’re using Resolve Lite, DNxHD is fine. What if you’re working on 4K material?

Let’s look at both options.

DNxHD workflow

Sony Vegas Pro doesn’t support DNxHD natively. But there is a workaround. Once you have the DNxHD Quicktime codec installed, you will be able to find it under the Quicktime export settings. For a good grading experience, I recommend DNxHD 220.

When should you export?

  • If you are positive you won’t re-edit after your grading (or if the re-edits are going to be minor at worst), then it is best to render your entire Vegas Pro timeline into DNxHD. There is no point in using an AAF workflow and complicating your life unnecessarily.
  • If you anticipate re-edits as a way of life, then you will be better served by rendering your source footage into DNxHD first, before you edit, and then continue with the AAF workflow. This will give you the leeway necessary for complicated re-edits.

What would I do? I wouldn’t use DNxHD at all. I would export the completed timeline to either PNG or TIFF image sequences (Preferably the latter). If I know I’ll be re-editing a lot, I wouldn’t be using a codec that I know will cause problems later. It is so much easier to just get a camera and/or external recorder system that records to a codec that supports your post production workflow. Of course, most editors don’t have this luxury. The answer? Buy more hard drives.

2K and 4K workflow

Here, you don’t have a choice. You can either purchase Cineform (not recommended unless you are using a GoPro) or export to TIFF or DPX images sequences. The simplest way, though, is use a codec (like XAVC, R3D, Sony RAW, etc.) that both applications support natively.

Exporting your project

Once your edit is locked, I strongly recommend you render your audio into one WAVE file prior to export. Audio isn’t Resolve’s strongest suit. Audio is rendered as AIFF on export, but it’s never what you had on the timeline in Sony Vegas Pro!

The ‘layering’ of video tracks is in the correct order with AAF, so that’s a huge relief. Having said that, it is always a good idea to flatten your video tracks prior to export. As I mentioned here, the track orders are not preserved on AAF export, so I can only assume that a double flip takes place – or I was very lucky!

The following effects are supported by DaVinci Resolve via AAF:

Basic transitions and speed ramps are preserved. Export an AAF file as shown here.

If you have chosen your settings correctly in Resolve, you should have minimal problems with mis-matched clips upon conforming. To do this, go to your Master Project Settings in Resolve before you import the AAF file. Make sure the timeline and conform frame rates match your Sony Vegas Pro timeline frame rate.

Regarding timecode: DSLR footage sometimes doesn’t have timecode, and the NLE usually assigns the ‘timeline’ timecode to the exported AAF. You can leave the ‘Embedded in the source clip’ option checked (under Use Timecode, which is in the Conform options section). The Canon 5D Mark III is a special case. Resolve almost finds it impossible to relink or import its files into the media pool, via AAF (Direct import is fine). This is probably due to the camera’s ALL-I H.264 implementation, which does not follow any particular standard. You’ll need to force conform these clips.

Basically, with Resolve 10, a lot of the mixed frame rate confusion has been eliminated, and it makes moving AAF sequences into Resolve a whole lot easier.

In Part Two we’ll look at the Resolve to Vegas Pro workflow.