What do you do when you are trying to open a very old Pro Tools session with Sound Designer II files that were saved on a Mac? In this free tutorial, we are going to take a look at a range of possible solutions to help you choose which one is most appropriate for your situation.
What Is The Sound Designer 2 File Format?
The Digidesign's Sound Designer 2 file format was the native audio file format in much earlier versions of Pro Tools, also known as SDII or SD2 with a file extensions sd2.
Sound Designer II files were only ever supported on the Apple Mac platform. In the earlier versions of Pro Tools, you could save a PC compatible version of the session which would convert all the audio files from sd2 to WAV.
The Resource Fork
However there is a second issue, and that was prior to Mac OS X, Mac files had two parts, a data fork and a resource fork. It was pretty easy to lose the resource fork, especially if the file had a trip to a Windows machine or got burnt onto a DVD or CD, and it was this part of the file that had all the key information like timestamp, sample rate, bit depth etc. Without the resource fork, you are pretty well screwed unless you know the sample rate and bit depth at least. With this information, there are some conversion applications that you can use, where you and manually enter the sample rate and bit depth and then convert the SDII files to WAV files.
On Windows there is a neat little app called SdTwoWav from Rail Jon Rogut that can use to batch convert Sound Designer 2 (sd2) files to BWF (WAV) files, and since sd2 files on the PC are interpreted as RAW data files, this can also be used to batch convert raw data sound files to BWF files.
There is a low-cost Mac-only application called Audaptor which costs just $1.99 from the App Store but note it needs macOS 10.11 or above to run it. Audaptor can convert SDII files that still have their resource forks intact but also can handle SDII files that have lost their resource forks.
From Pro Tools 10 and above, Pro Tools no longer supports SD2 file, but Pro Tools 10 will open sessions with sd2 files and then automatically convert them to .wav. So your first option is to open the session with Pro Tools 10 and hopefully all will be well. However, if the project has been through a Windows machine or burnt onto a DVD then you may well have lost the resource forks. This will make it much more difficult.
However, even once you have converted your SDII files to WAV files, you aren't out of the woods yet. You now need to persuade Pro Tools to link to the new WAV files instead of the old sd2 files.
Force Relinking In Pro Tools Does Not Work Here
This is where your problems can really start. The Relinking and Force Relinking features do not work if the files you are re-linking are in a different format to the files the Pro Tools session is looking for.
Fortunately, all is not lost and I am going to show you a range of things you can do.
Option 1 - Use Pro Tools 10 On A Mac
In this free video tutorial learn how to use Pro Tools 10 to open and convert old Pro Tools sessions with Sound Designer II audio files to produce a session that can be opened in versions of Pro Tools that do not support the sd2 audio file format
The best option is to get a copy of Pro Tools 10 as that version of Pro Tools was the last version to be able to handle sessions with Sound Designer 2 audio files. You couldn't play the session, as soon as you open a Pro Tools session with Sound Designer 2 files Pro Tools 10 warns you that the WAV file is the native audio file format and that it will convert all the SDII files to WAV files as soon as the session opens.
Once it is done, you could just save it, but I recommend that you do a Save Session Copy In and save a copy of the session with all the WAV files and then closing the old SD11 without saving so you still have a copy of the old session completely intact in case you ever need to go back to it.
What If I Cannot Run Pro Tools 10 On My Apple Computer?
If you are running Pro Tools 12 or Pro Tools 2018 then you cannot install Pro Tools 10 on your macOS computer. Because Pro Tools 10 isn't supported to be co-installed onto computers using Pro Tools 12 and later and also because Pro Tools 10 isn't approved for Mac OS X 10.8 and above, the installer refuses to run as you can see in this image...
Time To Do Some Hacking
However all is not lost, it is possible to hack the Pro Tools 10 installer so that it ignores the Operating System check. I am not going to go through the details here as there are plenty of resources out there to help you.
However, some people got the idea to change the OS-version saved in the macOS system files. This is really a terrible idea and can potentially brick your computer. Don't do it. Also, other ideas involve using Terminal, again don't go there.
The information and techniques I used were here... Installing Pro Tools 10 on macOS Sierra which involves modifying files in the Pro Tools 10 Installer. That said, I will reiterate the disclaimer given on the mto.io site...
You will do the following steps at your own risk. I am not to be held accountable for any damage you cause to your system. And if you are following this guide correctly, there is no way any damage can occur.
I do not endorse hacking applications but since the check that prevents installing Pro Tools 10 on newer systems is mostly arbitrary and the program costs a lot of money the steps described are reasonable.
Reading a guide from start to finish before executing the commands is always a good idea and also: even if you can now successfully install Pro Tools 10 on your system, it is still not supported by Avid and may crash regularly, have other bugs or not run at all.
However, I worked my way through the steps laid out in their article and it all worked, and I was able to install Pro Tools 10 on my Mac Pro Cheese-grater running macOS 10.12.6.
Getting Pro Tools 10 To Run On My System
The next challenge was to get Pro Tools 10 to run on my system. Pro Tools 10 stalled as it was loading plug-ins when it got to loading the Nugen Audio Halo Upmix and Downmix plug-ins. I then remembered that with the old DAE versions of Pro Tools, it could be the next plug-in in the list that could be the problem. So I removed all the Nugen plug-ins to be safe, but with the next reboot it got further down the plug-in list but then I got this error message...
This is because Pro Tools 10 is a 32-bit application and can only use the first 3 gigs of RAM. At this point, I pruned my AAX plug-in folder right down to the key plug-ins and then Pro Tools 10 booted up and I was in, running Pro Tools 10.3.10 on a Mac Pro cheese-grater with macOS Sierra 10.12.6.
Open The Session
Now I could open one of my many Pro Tools sessions with Sound Designer 2 files. I chose one from back in 2002, but I have many more sessions going back into the 90s when SDII files were the native file format for Pro Tools.
The session opened fine and played OK. All the edits were there, plug-ins, mix automation, just like it was when I created it some 16 years ago. You may, of course, be less fortunate in that some of the plug-ins you used might not be available, but other than that all should be OK. To finish the process I did a Save Session Copy In to give me a clean session using the WAV files.
What If I Don't Have Access To Pro Tools 10?
Because I have been using Pro Tools since V2, when I upgraded from Pro Tools 10 to Pro Tools 11 and then to Pro Tools 12, I was able to retain licenses for Pro Tools 10 and Pro Tools 11.
If you have come to Pro Tools more recently then your Pro Tools license bundles won't include Pro Tools 10 licenses. If you are unable to legitimately acquire a Pro Tools 10 license then there are a couple of options, but these are less versatile, effectively you can only work with complete files.
Option 2 - Convert SDII Files And Use Match Alternatives Feature in Pro Tools 12 And Above
In this free video tutorial learn how to use a 3rd party application like Audaptor to convert sd2 audio files that can then be imported and used in Pro Tools to produce a session that can be opened in versions of Pro Tools that does not support the sd2 audio file format
You will need to use an app like Audaptor or sdTwoWav to convert your Sound Designer 2 files to WAV files. Once you have a folder of corresponding WAV files then you can import them into the Pro Tools session.
I recommend that you add them, if you try to copy them, Pro Tools will change the file names as there can't be 2 files with the same name in the same folder. By having the WAVs in a separate folder in the session folder then you can use the Import Audio window and Add them to the session. This way you will get them into the clip list with their original names.
Next, you need to pull out the clips to reveal the clip start. It is essential for this to work that you can see the original clip start. If you cannot get the clip start on the timeline in the Edit window this trick won't work.
Once you have opened out the clips, make sure that you remove any fades at the start and then right-click on the first clip in a track, choose Matching Alternatives and select the WAV with the same name and hey presto you will have the WAV audio in the correct place on the timeline. You can repeat this for every clip in the session.
You may need to duplicate tracks or playlists to enable you to peel back the starts of some clips on the timeline so as not to remove other clips on that track. Once you have all the WAVs in place, you can select all the offline clips and clear the offline clips which should remove all the unused sd2 files from the clip list.
Then you can tidy up the clips, add fades and get back to where you were with the original session. Hopefully, you won't have lost too much automation data and the plug-ins will all be there too, with the same caveats we had with the Pro Tools 10 technique in that not all the plug-ins that were around 15 years ago are still around.
Option 3 - Double Click On The Sound Designer 2 files Whilst The Appropriate Session is Open in Pro Tools Using A Mac Computer
In this free video tutorial learn how to use an undocumented feature in Pro Tools 12 and above to convert and import sd2 audio files in Pro Tools to produce a session that can be opened in versions of Pro Tools that do not support the sd2 audio file format
I discovered this trick whilst researching for this tutorial.
Open the session in the current version of Pro Tools. You will get this message reporting that the files could not be read and appear corrupt. This is because Pro Tools can no longer read Sound Designer 2 files which is why we are here. Click No to the detailed report and the session will open with all the clips based on sd2 files, displayed in sky blue as Pro Tools does with any clip that it cannot find the media for.
Now with the session still open, arrange a Finder window so you can see the folder of Sound Designer 2 files. Double click on the first sd2 file and watch what happens, the SDII file gets opened and converted and a WAV version gets added to the session's clip list. Now you can use the same technique as with Option 2 and open out the clips to the start of each clip and either use Matching Alternatives or hold down the Control key on a Mac as you drag the WAV file out on the timeline and drop it on the corresponding track. As with Option 2, work your way through the session and you will end up in the same position as Option 2.
Option 1 using Pro Tools 10 is always going to be the best way because everything is translated across, all the edits and clips will be the same. There will be no need to pull the clips out to the start etc.
But if you don't have a Pro Tools 10 license then you will need to look at Option 2 or Option 3 as the Relink workflow will not work because the files are different formats.