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NARAS P&E Wing Pro Tools Guidelines v2.0
Old 6th April 2004
  #1
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

NARAS P&E Wing Pro Tools Guidelines v2.0

The final version 2.0 of the Pro Tools Session Guidelines is now available. It has been completely re-written incorporating extensive changes based on the excellent suggestions from the national members of the NARAS Producers + Engineers Wing that were not included in any previous version. (Including the one currently available on the grammy.com website.) All other versions, including those on my website or Hard Disk Life (both version 1.0), and the PDF on grammy.com (protools209h.pdf, a beta version of v2.0), are out of date.

What are the Pro Tools Session Guidelines for Music Production?
Quote:
From the cover letter

A few years ago an engineer could open a reel of tape they’d never seen before, glance at the track sheet and begin working almost immediately, but more recently, with Pro Tools and other DAW's replacing tape machines on many recording projects, the amount of time between opening a session from another engineer and going to work has definitely increased. In some cases, mixing engineers hire separate operators and add a half-day to the mix just to make sense out of the session.

Why is this? And why was it so easy in the past? The answer is that over the years engineers developed a number of conventions with linear tape and track sheets. When they opened up the tape box they pretty much knew what to expect and after looking at the track sheet to confirm a few basics they could start pulling up the faders. Until now with Pro Tools no real conventions of this kind have been established. This is what the Pro Tools Session Guidelines for Music Production set out to do. When followed they can greatly improve the process of transferring sessions between operators.

These guidelines were created by the Technical Subcommittee of the Florida P&E Wing of The Recording Academy based on our experience with Pro Tools, along with many excellent suggestions received from the national P&E Wing members. To everyone who took the time to help, we’d like to say thank you. Your contributions have been greatly appreciated. It is our hope these guidelines will help everyone as much as they have helped us in improving our productivity when working with Pro Tools.

Eric Schilling
Tom Morris
Charles Dye

Pro Tools Guidelines for Music Production Committee
Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy®
August 27th, 2003
I really feel our committee did a great job improving the guidelines. And together with the contributions of the national members of the Producers + Engineers Wing, the guidelines had been reviewed and approved by some of the most experienced engineers and producers in the business. They are now endorsed by the Recording Academy's P+E Wing and you can download them here as a PDF:

The P+E Wing Pro Tools Guidelines for Music Production v2.0

I'd like to welcome all of you to read them, discuss them and please give me your feedback. We will be updating these guidelines annually, so any suggestions you would like to make I will bring to our next review meeting.

Additionally, though these guidelines were specifically written with Pro Tools in mind, most of them can be applied when using other DAW’s.

Thanks.
Old 6th April 2004
  #2
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Charles,

I was able to look at the PDF, but couldn't actually save it to my desktop.

???
Old 6th April 2004
  #3
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Eric,

Sorry. I don't know why that is happenning for you. I just tested it and it worked fine for me.
  • Mac OS 10.2.8 / Adobe Reader 6.0

    File > Save A Copy...
But in fact, it downloads to my desktop before it opens up in Adobe anyway.

If you can't get it to work I can email it to you.
Old 6th April 2004
  #4
Gear Addict
 

I actually disagree with a lot of the proposed guidelines - but since I doubt that there'll ever be acceptance, or wide use of any standard anyway.. I doubt it matters (I've had to clean up too many badly organized sessions).

Rail
Old 6th April 2004
  #5
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Hey, I'm an active member in the Florida Chapter, I know all three of yez, and ... <sniffle> nobody asked me.....

Well seriously, while I too can find places where I'd disagree or differ, it would be a wonderful world if standards like these were well-adopted. Much of this proposal is completely in-line with the session-prep requests that I've been didactically giving to my clients for years.... And yet I still get sessions in complete disarray grudge

Part of the problem for those of us receiving PT sessions to mix is that no matter how politely suggestions are made, if a gnarly session gets "cleaned up" and mixed once ... they'll always send it that way, expecting it to be okay again... Yet, if you take a stand, and send it back requesting proper preparation, you may alienate the producer/client.

Of course, this may reflect more on the problem with the ease of abuse in per-song or per project billing

But I digress.

Nonetheless, and any disagreements aside, I hope this document gets spread around aggressively, so that some of the good stuff in its core of ideas might trickle into the collective consciousness.



-dave
Old 6th April 2004
  #6
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Rail + Dave,

I'm curious, are your comments based upon one of the original versions of this document either from my website or Hard Disk Life (both version 1.0), or the PDF available on grammy.com (protools209h.pdf) which was a beta version of v2.0? My apologies for not being clear, but all of the those documents are out of date. Only the PDF in my original post above is the new + final version 2.0. It has been completely re-written incorporating extensive changes based on the excellent suggestions from the national members of the Producers + Engineers Wing that were not included in any previous version. (Including the one currently on the grammy.com website.)

If you've not had a chance to read this new document (ptguidelines2.0.pdf) I'd like to recommend it. The new changes may have addressed some of the guidelines that you did not agree with previously. Here's another link to the final PDF:

The P+E Wing Pro Tools Guidelines for Music Production v2.0

Whether you were referring to the final version 2.0 guidelines or not, we'd love to benefit from your experience in this area. Our committee knew going into the creation of this document that universal agreement would be impossible (hence the guidelines moniker) and we worked hard to leave flexibility for interpretation in any area where there may be two or more opposing views. We also knew that the guidelines could always be improved upon and that is why we would appreciate your input

Please share with us the guidelines you disagree with, your reasons, and suggestions on what you would recommend instead.
Quote:
Originally posted by dave-G
Part of the problem for those of us receiving PT sessions to mix is that no matter how politely suggestions are made, if a gnarly session gets "cleaned up" and mixed once ... they'll always send it that way, expecting it to be okay again... Yet, if you take a stand, and send it back requesting proper preparation, you may alienate the producer/client.
And this is precisely one of the reasons we put together these guidelines. If we can come to a closer agreement on what would be best + spread the word, hopefully it would make your job easier next time. The intent is that in the future you would be able to send this document to your clients and simply explain that this is the standard expected for delivery of a PT session to any mixer. This would eliminate you from the equation, it's not you asking them to do it, your simply helping them out by informing them of the NARAS mix session delivery guidelines. (Aren't you such a great guy? heh)

Many major label mixers were consulted and asked what standards they would like to see sessions held to when they are delivered to them. We listened and included all of their suggestions. We'd really appreciate it if you would add any others you have. It would make your life easier, and help all of us at the same time as well.

Thanks both of you for your time.
Old 7th April 2004
  #7
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It's really just straight-up common sense and I'm not really sure why anybody would disagree. I've been following these guidelines before they were even official

Hopefully, it'll catch on.
Old 7th April 2004
  #8
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Jan,

Nice website and goodlooking studio.
Old 7th April 2004
  #9
Gear Addict
 

I'll have to formulate a cohesive response.. but the things that hit me off the top of my head:
  • Instead of creating a new track for printed effect tracks, I believe it's better to create them as a playlist with a comment indicating the uneffected track is in the playlist.

    Since the majority of studios use Macs, I like to use special characters in my track names to denote certain things for the mixer (or myself) - so I usually will not check the Mac/PC option, I'll create a separate Mac/PC version however (just in case) (I use HD Accel, Mix, 002 and MBox on both platforms and MacDrive5 for using HFS+ drives on my PC BTW). For master tracks I preface the track name with Option+8 (the solid dot), for alternate tracks I preface the track name with Option+Shift+8 (hollow dot), for tracks which may not be used in the mix, I preface the track name with Option+V (check mark) etc... This way a mixer can look at the track names and instantly see which tracks are the master tracks and which are optional or something which the mixer can discard. I have also been known to use other symbols like Option+K and Option+Shift+K for subgrouped tracks. Master Aux tracks should be capitilized as in "DRUMS"... I could keep on going....

    I name Mix sessions Song Name.Mix and prefaced with a solid dot (Option+8) so it's obvious which is the master mix.. I personally also save each itteration of the mix with a ".n" suffix, so the highest numbered version would be the final mix - as in "Song Name.Mix.5".

    All I/O must be numbered consecutively from 1, stereo outputs and inputs must be labelled in the format "1 - 2", "3 - 4", etc. I don't believe in naming sends the name of the plug-in or effect.. I'm used to working in the analog domain and can see numbers much faster than reading a description which may be truncated on a work surface or in the software.. I want my busses labeld "bus 1" and up.

As I said, this is just a few of the things I expect of a session.. and I can't expect everyone else to agree with me.

Personally I'd like the NARAS folk to spend more time in getting a good health care package together and do something which will benefit the members in a concrete fashion, rather than spend time making lists like this (which as you say are unlikely to be adopted by the mainstream).. I find it hard to justify the expense of being a NARAS member when the only benefits are cheaper CD's and being a Grammy voter.. especially when the rest of the world isn't buying CD's.

Regards.

Rail
Old 7th April 2004
  #10
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Rail,

Thanks for your comments + input.

I would like to clear up a few points though. In regards to the guidelines I didn't say:
Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
...which as you say are unlikely to be adopted by the mainstream.
The "mainstream" implies most people and if I believed that I wouldn't have invested the time to help create this document. I said, that universal agreement would be impossible, meaning that not everyone will agree with every guideline.

It is our goal to have a set of guidelines with enough flexibility to allow an operator the freedom to maintain their individual style (which your comments seem to be centered around), while at the same time guiding them in creating a session that will be easy for the next person to begin work on quickly. Eliminating the wasted hours when confronted with a poorly managed session, deciphering + cleaning it, instead of doing the work you were there for in the first place.

Another purpose was to aide operators who are newer to Pro Tools in creating sessions that can easily be understood by other operators. Not to tell operators who have years of experience putting together well organized sessions how to do their jobs. Quite the contrary, it was to make your job easier when you receive a session from a less experienced operator.

As to your question re NARAS resources. There really is no relationship between health care + the PT Guidelines (though I do share you health care concerns). The guidelines were put together by a group of volunteers whose goal it was to help the engineering community. The better health care is a responsibility of the corporate office and that is where your dues are going. Not to anyone who I was on a committee with.

The general timbre of your response to the guidelines seemed negative, but I'm not certain if you disagree with most of them, or only some. Were there any particular ones that stood out that you support + would like to see wider use of?

Thanks again for you time + input.
Old 7th April 2004
  #11
Gear Addict
 

Sorry, didn't want to come off as argumentative. I agree that less experienced Pro Tools users have to be educated in good engineerig and Pro Tools usage, that's the main reason I've dedicated as much time educating users on the DUC as I have.

The main item I agree with is that they learn to delete unused playlists and unused tracks, then remove unused from the session and use Save Session Copy In... -- in fact I wouldn't have that as a suggestion, but a stringent requirement. Also if delivering a session on CDR or DVD to deliver it in duplicate.

Bottom line, I'd be very, very upset if I was given an edict by a record label to adhere to a guideline I think is inferior to my normal operating procedure.

Regards,

Rail
Old 7th April 2004
  #12
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I downloaded it, it will be helpful for me in training my new assistant. I've been doing it in a folklorical manner untill now.
I happen to agree with the cross platform compatibility especially as DD seems to be favoring the PC side, as they've just released that V10 thing for PC only and Apple may be soon threatening them with direct commercial competition. How many years is it since AVID dumped Apple?
I still prefer numbers over names for lots of things and with control surfaces how they are numbers are more efficient. If I name my aux tk that's enough for me, I can look at the mix strip ti see any thing i need to, in fact, if I named my busses I might really get confused.
98% hits the mark.
I'm not usually sending or recieiving much stuff but I already use many of these techniques.
I'm going to start doing some scoring and post work and I wonder if somebody has thought of the guidelines one must follow for post so I can read it before I get into trouble.
Good Work. I appreciate it.
Old 7th April 2004
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Thanks for the kind words Charles.

Rail, I don't think that you were the intended target of the guidelines, so to speak. I'd imagine that if I got a session from you, I'd be up and running without a lot of grief.

But I can tell you that I've gotten sessions that have taken some serious time to make sense of, as I'm sure we all have. Frankly, as long as everything is documented, I'm usually good to go. But I can see the guidelines being helpful.

Another thing that I'd like to see would be plug in settings as document files. Whereby you'd be able to recall the eq settings of a track without necessarily having the same plug-in. In the analog domain you can substitute a piece of outboard with another providing you know the settings which are usually provided with the track sheet. This should probably be a digi thing as opposed to NARAS, but I'd see it as being helpful in a recall.
Old 7th April 2004
  #14
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

7rojo7,

Thanks for your kind words.
Quote:
Originally posted by 7rojo7
I happen to agree with the cross platform compatibility especially as DD seems to be favoring the PC side.
I've noticed the same about the PC support. My personal take on the Mac/PC Compatibility is that it's important we begin to make the shift over to being compatible now, so we'll be ready when the numbers require it. My gut says that one day there will be more PC based PT systems than Mac. Not that I ever want to switch platforms, but I do want my sessions to be compatible with all systems.
Quote:
Originally posted by 7rojo7
I still prefer numbers over names for lots of things and with control surfaces how they are numbers are more efficient. If I name my aux tk that's enough for me, I can look at the mix strip ti see any thing i need to, in fact, if I named my busses I might really get confused.
That's interesting. I'm glad you + Rail shared this. Up until now I thought people didn't label their busses because they saw it as a waste of time, not that they preferred the numbers instead.
Quote:
Originally posted by 7rojo7
I'm going to start doing some scoring and post work and I wonder if somebody has thought of the guidelines one must follow for post so I can read it before I get into trouble.
That would be great if someone did. Maybe you can organize a group of post people and create a set of guidelines. They don't need to cover every detail from the start, just something to build upon. A framework.

The music production guidelines have been around for awhile. I completed the first draft in August of 2001. But they basically began long before that as slips of paper I kept stuffing in my bag as I went from studio to studio doing sessions. I would keep a piece of paper next to me as I worked and just wrote things down as I came across them. I then called many other mixers + engineers and asked them what their PT pet peeves were and that's how it started. Later we got together as a committee and began to refine them. You could do the same if you'd like.
Old 7th April 2004
  #15
pan
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Great thing!

The guidelines should be first read for every studio assistant/intern.

I think it is not about following the guidelines exactly, but becoming aware of compatibility issues and reproducability on different systems.

Most projects cause irritation because of bad documentation. Just work bearing in mind you could have an accident and someone else should be able to continue the session without having to get you back from coma.
Don't take this serious - take it damn serious!


n
Old 7th April 2004
  #16
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Rail, I don't think that you were the intended target of the guidelines, so to speak.
Hi Jan

I know.. it's unfortunate that the we have to cater to the lowest common denominator.. which means we all could be forced into using a system made to accomodate a novice by a major label by a dept. who have no idea of what a Pro Tools session even looks like.. because they're told that this guideline will make things better.

Standards can be a good thing.. as long as I don't have to lower mine.

Rail
Old 7th April 2004
  #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
Standards can be a good thing.. as long as I don't have to lower mine.
That's a great quote Rail, I may reuse it
Old 7th April 2004
  #18
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
...Bottom line, I'd be very, very upset if I was given an edict by a record label to adhere to a guideline I think is inferior to my normal operating procedure....
A LOT of people feel that way which is exactly why the P&E wing wants us to create any standards collectively rather than having them dictated to us by somebody less knowledgeable at some point in the future.
Old 7th April 2004
  #19
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
Sorry, didn't want to come off as argumentative. I agree that less experienced Pro Tools users have to be educated in good engineerig and Pro Tools usage, that's the main reason I've dedicated as much time educating users on the DUC as I have.
Rail,

I don't see it as argumentative. I'm learning. Everybody has their own style of working and that's cool. I read your posts on the DUC all the time + I think it's great when experienced engineers like yourself take the time to help younger guys out.
Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
The main item I agree with is that they learn to delete unused playlists and unused tracks, then remove unused from the session and use Save Session Copy In... -- in fact I wouldn't have that as a suggestion, but a stringent requirement. Also if delivering a session on CDR or DVD to deliver it in duplicate.
I totally agree with you. I'll bring your suggestion about duplicate CDR/DVDs to our next review meeting. I also always ask my clients for duplicates.
Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
Bottom line, I'd be very, very upset if I was given an edict by a record label to adhere to a guideline I think is inferior to my normal operating procedure.
I think there's been a misunderstanding. Record labels have absolutely nothing to do with these guidelines. They are intended only to help engineers working with other engineers. You may be thinking of the Master Delivery Recommendations which are also endorsed by NARAS and can be downloaded from the same page on the grammy.com website as the PT guidelines. The Master Delivery Recommendations are a comprehensive set of recommendations about how master recordings should be delivered to the record label. They were put together by George Massenburg and other members of the P + E Wing's Nashville Technical Subcommittee and have already been adopted by at least one major label as a minimum requirement for the delivery of masters. But as far as the PT guidelines go record labels were never involved in the creation of the guidelines + I don't see any reason why they would want to be involved with them in the future.
Quote:
Originally posted by Rail Jon Rogut
I know.. it's unfortunate that the we have to cater to the lowest common denominator.. which means we all could be forced into using a system made to accomodate a novice by a major label by a dept. who have no idea of what a Pro Tools session even looks like.. because they're told that this guideline will make things better.

Standards can be a good thing.. as long as I don't have to lower mine.
The guidelines aren't standards, they are simply guidelines. Suggestions. The guidelines don't suggest that you lower your standards, and no one wants to force you to use them.

It may be useful to see the guidelines from a different perspective: as a minimum, not a maximum, of what we are suggesting could be helpful if followed. We felt by being very strict with the guidelines they would be much less useful, because people would feel they were too limiting and possibly not even use them. The guidelines are the way they are for the precise reason of leaving experienced engineers like yourself the flexibility to work the way you always have.

Look at it this way, as an industry we had a set of general practices (tracksheets, tapebox labels, recall notes, track order, etc.) that made it very easy for us to work together. An understood short hand which we passed down from engineer to assistant to next generation. And then... our process was assaulted. Turned on its head so fast that the graceful way our practices used to evolve in response to new technologies simply couldn't keep pace. All of sudden our common language was gone. There was a vacuum. And the affect of PT was so pervasive that not only did it impact how we made records--it changed where.

As we saw it, there were no general practices for PT sessions, session track counts were doubling every two years, and the decentralized studio had nearly eliminated the mentoring environment that fostered the passing along of practices we had taken for granted. And the practices of some lesser experienced users were creating more clean up work than productivity and beginning to be accepted as standard. We thought it would be a good idea to put together these guidelines. Our hope was simply to put them out there to help those users who wanted to know what was expected of them, but had no one to ask.

Again Rail, thanks for your input. You're being very helpful because we are very interested in hearing as many opinions as we can. Positive or negative. After posting the beta version of 2.0 on the grammy site we received many emails. Some critical, some suggestions, and some approval. And every critical email + suggestion was incorporated to make the guidelines better.

Best regards.
Old 7th April 2004
  #20
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
I think there's been a misunderstanding. Record labels have absolutely nothing to do with these guidelines. They are intended only to help engineers working with other engineers. You may be thinking of the Master Delivery Recommendations which are also endorsed by NARAS and can be downloaded from the same page on the grammy.com website as the PT guidelines. The Master Delivery Recommendations are a comprehensive set of recommendations about how master recordings should be delivered to the record label. They were put together by George Massenburg and other members of the P + E Wing's Nashville Technical Subcommittee and have already been adopted by at least one major label as a minimum requirement for the delivery of masters.
Yes.. and George and I had very intense conversations about that document too.. (good thing we're friends).. my concern with that paper was that it didn't allow for the use of DDS4 and I personally have had nightmares using AIT (never a single bad DDS tape going back to DDS2).. and even though it has the word "Recommendations" in the title.. by your own admission, at least one label has now made it a "minimum requirement" (I had other concerns about the Master Delivery Recommendations related to outtakes.. but that's a whole other thread ) -- in this biz it's a hop, skip and a stumble from someone making a suggestion to it becoming The Law.

Maybe I'm paranoid...

Peace

Rail
Old 8th April 2004
  #21
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I , for one will be sending either the full version of this or a cliff notes version to every home PT user who is sending me session to mix...
Old 8th April 2004
  #22
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Waylon
I , for one will be sending either the full version of this or a cliff notes version to every home PT user who is sending me session to mix...
Waylon,

I'm glad we could help.

FYI--the guideline's Appendix is essentially a "cliff notes" version. We call it the Quick Reference Guide. It's a short list of every guideline, without the brief explanation that follows each of them in the main part of the document. It's seven pages long instead of 27.

Thanks.
Old 8th April 2004
  #23
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by Rail:
it's unfortunate that the we have to cater to the lowest common denominator
HEY!

I resemble that remark!!

PS to Charles: If you could email me that PDF I would be greatly indebted. Thanks!

[email protected]
Old 8th April 2004
  #24
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Charles,

Got it wit' da quickness.

Thanks!

Gotta luv the internet, yo?
Old 8th April 2004
  #25
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tommyd's Avatar
 

Charles,
This guide makes a reference to a "Pro Tools Session Info Document" twice. Is this a template of sorts that the group came up with? And if so, where might I get my hands on this?
I'll definitely be passing this along to engineers and studios that I work with / for. It sometimes takes hours to decipher some sessions.
Great start!
TommyD
Old 9th April 2004
  #26
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by tommyd
This guide makes a reference to a "Pro Tools Session Info Document" twice. Is this a template of sorts that the group came up with? And if so, where might I get my hands on this?
Actually, there is no "Pro Tools Session Info Document". We just threw that in there to see if anybody was really gonna read it. You win!















Kidding.

For real, it's exactly what you said. Roger Nichols did a great job putting it together. It's a template designed as a FileMaker Pro stand-alone application (it doesn't require FileMaker Pro software be installed on your computer). Only one problem though. We discovered only after we completed the guidelines that it doesn't work on Mac OS X or Windows 2000 + XP. (It was created on Mac OS9.) So, we're working on a solution and we'll distribute the Session Info Document as soon as we can.

Glad you liked the guide though.

Thanks.

BTW--Dig your avatar. Very funny.
Old 9th April 2004
  #27
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Hi Charles, I started using your session guide when you first posted it on your website a few years back(time flys heh). It has helped greatly and speeds things up. The mixing engineers that got my tracks were thankful. They could mix right away and not be editors. Great to see it updated. I'm sure it will improve over time. I will be giving it out to the guys in my studio. Cant wait for the Session info doc.

Shane
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