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PT Session Guidelines Discussion
Old 10th November 2002
  #1
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PT Session Guidelines Discussion

For AES in 2001 a panel was scheduled with engineers Joe Chicarelli, Mick Guzauski, Tony Maserati, Roger Nichols, Dave Pensado, and myself moderating to discuss the topic of Improving PT Session Interchange Between Engineers. Su Littlefield of Digidesign worked hard to coordinate the event that was to take place at Digidesign's booth. As well, a paper I wrote was to be presented called Suggested PT Session Interchange Guidelines. After 9/11 when Digi chose not to attend, I still wanted to get the paper out to PT users, so June's Hard Disk Life simply became the guidelines.

The purpose of the guidelines is to eliminate much of the time wasted on familiarizing yourself with a session you were not the original operator on (or you've not opened for a while) before you're able to go to work. They essentially suggest standards that if followed can save users a lot of time. Focusing mainly on music production, there are guidelines for both Recording Sessions and Mixing Sessions (Console or PT). Some examples are:
  • Always label audio tracks before recording.
  • Check that all edits and punches are clean, put in crossfades if necessary, and make sure there are no clicks and pops.
  • All essential plug-ins should be printed to another track.
And so on. To read the guidelines (or glance at them again) click here.

In South Florida we're currently working to improve the guidelines by involving additional studios and engineers to create a more official document that we can use to improve our PT workflow. I would greatly appreciate the input of the members of this forum with this.

Specifically, I have a few questions I'd like to ask you:
  1. What do you think of the guidelines overall?
  2. Are there any specific guidelines that don't work for your working method + why?
  3. Do you have any suggestions for guidelines that weren't included + what are they?
  4. Would you like to see the final guidelines more broadly distributed?
Thank you in advance for your time and input.
Old 10th November 2002
  #2
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i believe that all of the guidelines that you included in the june issue would make the work much easier for anyone involved in working on a session. especially when it comes to consolidating the whole track into a continuous file, and printing effects to tracks. (would you also include the original uneffected track?) having proper labeling tracks and including notes in the comments area is very important also. that is what the comments section is for. i have opened way too many sessions with no comments, and loads of files in the audio bin labeled "audio 1..." i would like the guidelines to be followed by as many people as would follow them. continuity between multi session recording sessions would greatly benefit from this kind of work ethic. i have already put most of the guidlines to work in the studios i work in, and am trying to get the owners of the studios to adhere to them. its very hard for me to go in and guess what is going on in a mix, when i have only missed one session. i cant imagine coming in on the end of a session and trying to catch up without some of the hints that you have put forth in the list of guidelines. very often i also open up a mix that one of the owners was workin on, and the last mix he made had the drums on the right hand side of the mixer, now they are on the left, and the vocals are moved, and in between the lead and BG vox is a guitar track... you know where i am going with this so after all of this rambling, guidelines are always welcome when they help keep things tidy and make the workflow more simple. because, if the workflow is simplified, the job of mixing is made easier, and that can be your concern instead of organizing it all. DIG IT
Old 11th November 2002
  #3
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a simple one that seems to get overlooked -

provide ONE session file with ONE audio files folder and if needed, ONE fades file.

the amount of sessions ive got on my mac where theres 2 or more folders for 1 session is a bit silly... keeping backups is fair enough, but badly labelled, obsoleted folders which may or may not still be getting referenced from later session files is a bad thing.
Old 11th November 2002
  #4
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I am happily starting to implement most of these suggestions to better interface with MYSELF

Standardization is king... getting a disorganized PT session is as bad or worse than getting 2 reels of 2" with no tones and no track sheets and being told to mix in the dark.

With the monitors off...
Old 11th November 2002
  #5
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Charles-

THANK YOU for all the great info you are giving out here- it is a huge help. I just started digging in to your site and the Digizine.

I want to say that these guidelines have been a HUGE help to me just recently. I am an independent producer producing mostly independent acts, so I usually don't have to worry about giving a session to someone else, but recently I was asked to send a session to another engineer for mix.

When I called the guy, he had a list of things he wanted done to the session and thanks to your tips I had done them all, earning the response, "Finally, someone who knows what the f*** they're doing."

On the flip side, I recently received a session to mix that included all 4 vocal takes on separate tracks, not playlists. All three b3 takes (three tracks each), more guitar takes than I can count and no less than 13 BGV tracks- with no comments as to which are the keepers, etc. In addition, there's a lovely click track that ISN'T mapped to a bars/beats grid, and since I'm only an 001 user, I don't have Beat Detective to help me out! I wish this dude had read your article.

Anyway, a long winded way to say that those tips are great- the ones I think are especially helpful (since you asked for specifics) are:

removing automation
muting regions rather than using the mute button
consolidate regions into one region with common start time for each track

thanks again,
joe
Old 11th November 2002
  #6
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Quote:
posted by Charles:
Specifically, I have a few questions I'd like to ask you:

1. What do you think of the guidelines overall?
After printing out and binding these guidelines, and reading through them, what I think is: I feel guilty that they are free of charge. IOW, thanks Charles!

Quote:
2. Are there any specific guidelines that don't work for your working method + why?
Nope, for a simple reason: One can just make a copy of a session, and apply all the guidelines to the copy, regardless of one's methodical preferences.

Quote:
3. Do you have any suggestions for guidelines that weren't included...?
Nope.

Quote:
4. Would you like to see the final guidelines more broadly distributed?
Yes!
Old 11th November 2002
  #7
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Charles I looked at your paper, I think it's excellent, straight forward, very practical...

I found it beneficial for various reasons of people on multiple systems to generate multiple session type files...usually only the current and then a session 5 file.

Also I will export a multichannel midi file...This is useful during preproduction or in the future after a project without having to pull files up or use PT...Having a tempo map as well...It seems it's an easy thing that can save effort in the future...and since it usually goes straight from the mix assistant to the label...it should probably be done before the mix is started....

Also, does this topic jump into the territory of what get's turned into the label?
I don't think that 40 CDRs is a great option...I don't think hard drives alone are a good option...and I don't think that AIT tape is a great option either...
DVD anyone? I think DVDs and CDs are two formats that will have the longest compatibility life and a good life span...

With media as cheap as it is, I think two different forms of backup should be turned in...(i.e. a hard drive and DVDs).
Old 11th November 2002
  #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by doug_hti
Also, does this topic jump into the territory of what get's turned into the label?
That should be a different thread if you wouldn't mind. There is actually a document created by George Massenburg + other members of the Nashville NARAS Producers + Engineers Wing that is a set of guidelines for all digital media called the Master Recording Delivery Recommendations (click link to learn more).


And To Everyone,

I really appreciate all your help and input. These are really great comments + suggestions. I will respond to them soon in more detail.
Thanks.
Old 11th November 2002
  #9
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As someone who mixes tons of records I didnt track in PT, I would love it if all files were just commited to using the Consolidate regions function. Sometimes it pisses me off when theres a better performance outside the fade line but hey I love commitmant. I also wish everyone would start their record in wav's so that interchangability wouldnt be such a bitch. I would love to see this protocal as well.
1. Save a new file
2. hit select unused regions.
3. Then remove em all
4. Then save a session copy make sure its mac/pc compatable in wav files and that you selected to save audio files.
5. Open this new session make sure it worked.
Old 11th November 2002
  #10
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What about tracks utilizing Amp Farm. As far as printing them? We have always left that plug-in open, so that the engineer can change the sound as needed. Your thoughts?
Old 11th November 2002
  #11
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from Charles's article

"All essential plug-ins should be printed to another track.
If the sound of a track must include the sound of any inserted plug-ins, you should definitely print them to another track. If, for any reason, the receiving system can't play back these plug-ins, an important element will be lost from the production. Do not assume that other Pro Tools systems will have even the most common plug-in if it is essential to your sound."

I agree with this method strongly...

I think this thread is great.
Old 12th November 2002
  #12
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Everyone,

Thanks for all the excellent suggestions I will take them this week to the meeting we are having regarding the more expanded guidelines. Your suggestions are exactly the kind we will be discussing.

Please continue + thanks again.
Old 12th November 2002
  #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dr. J
What about tracks utilizing Amp Farm. As far as printing them? We have always left that plug-in open, so that the engineer can change the sound as needed. Your thoughts?
Like doug said, I would print it. If you've been using the same setting for a long time + everyone has grown used to hearing it (the artist, producer, label, etc... ) what happens if the engineer changes it too much and then can't get back to your original setting. It could really mess up your track.

OTOH, you could print it + include a clearly labeled dup of the track with AmpFarm on it so they can have the choice if they would like to tweak it.

BTW, it was actually AmpFarm that I had in mind when I wrote the guideline that doug quoted. (You're pretty fast there doug.)
Old 13th November 2002
  #14
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As far as losing the setting, we always save the setting in the farm, and label it the track name. Before I send it for a mix, I delete all other titles from that session. So if I have three farms open, and you go into the settings, you'll see three names, which correspond to three track titles.

That seemed easier for the mix engineer and on track count than burning all my tracks. The reason I say that is our order system.
We separate all parts in sections, so the guitars would be example:

Clear tone verses
Clear tone Pre-Chs's
Clear tone Chs's
Clear Tone bridge
Clear tone End
(and all those go to one farm)
then the same for heavy tone, and solos.
So rather than burn 15 tracks that you might say hey lets turn the gain down a little, or try a different cabinet, We just save the settings on the Farm, as Clear Tone, Heavy Tone, and Solo.

Did that make sense, or would you still want them burned?
Old 13th November 2002
  #15
I am desperate for OMF to work between Logic Audio & PT.

I understand there is some snag on Logic's side at the moment..



There is a lot of Logic used here in the UK - its a pure drag consolidating stuff mid project to share work between studios.

Please kick butt in that dept if at all possible!

Old 13th November 2002
  #16
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After reading the paper again, this has occurred to me:

An addendum for Digi001 users, with work-arounds for the bits about printing click tracks, effects and tunings to separate tracks.

The extra tracks are not always available, or if they are, sometimes we've maxed-out our processors.

•Click track: If the tempo map is meticulously documented, the remixer should be able to create a click track, so that doesn't seem much of an issue (???).

•Effects: This is a tricky one, but workable. For example, my local PT HD studio may not have the BF 1176 plug that I love on my singer's voice for this one track. It may not even be available for HD for that matter, but the mixer might have Waves instead, or whatever. So it's incumbant upon the 001 producer/engineer to document the compression settings that he used, so the mixer can reproduce those settings on his compressor of choice.

•Tunings: Same deal as with the effects: document those settings.

Any thoughts?
Old 13th November 2002
  #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
After reading the paper again, this has occurred to me:

An addendum for Digi001 users, with work-arounds for the bits about printing click tracks, effects and tunings to separate tracks.

Any thoughts?
Eric,
In response to your post:
If there are not enough tracks or power for the people putting the track together on a LE system...then maybe a better alternative would be to print (as already suggested in proposal) all tracks starting at same place and ending at the same place, then they can simply be imported into the session with the PT file that has tempo map and in the audio file folder.

click track: I don't think it's the mixers responsibility to print a click track or really his need. But I think that most would agree it's good to be present and printed as an audio file, even if it's not in the track (but at least in audio folders) for future reference

Effects: Unless I misunderstood you, I think the only effects that should be printed(or plugin inserted) are ones that are completely different from the norm (extra ordinary effects) and need to be printed.
(at least in my experience) Most sorts of compression, delays, reverbs, etc. are to be completely left to the mixer to handle. Mixers typically do their best when they can make the decision on a dry unprocessed track.

Tunings: (in my experience) the producer/engineer/PT operator should have already printed tuned and comped vocals. Tuning software from the mixers point of view may be used as effect, but the mixer shouldn't have to fiddle with tuned/tuning vocals.
Old 13th November 2002
  #18
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Eric,

I like the idea of an addendum for 001 (or PT|LE) users. I've been thinking about that as well, I realized after the fact that I did not think about the specific needs of certain types of sessions used on LE systems. I've been thinking about it from the perspective of sessions going from a TDM system to an LE system, what I call Slave Sessions—the PT equivalent of muti-track tape "Slave Reels"—where overdubs will be done on a musicians LE home studio + then brought back to the TDM system and imported.

Your idea is a good one also, sessions going from LE to TDM. I'm not sure if I understand all your suggestions though.

Regarding:

Printing the Click Track: This guideline was for Recording Sessions and not Mixing Sessions. Its purpose is so when you pass your session along to someone else and a musician is doing an overdub they have the click track if they need it for timing reference, count-ins, etc..., and the overdub engineer isn't stuck with quickly creating a click track while the musician waits. If you're short of tracks you could put the click on a playlist. With PT6 there will be a click plug so we'll no longer need to print clicks. (yeah!)

Printing Plug-Ins: I really don't understand what you mean. I agree with what doug said above. I didn't mean you should print all the compressors (or EQ's) that you have on tracks over to new tracks. I meant if you have a plug-in that is essential to the sound of that track, in other words if your plug-in(s) have radically processed the sound from the un-effected track and that sound has become integral to what that track now is—you should print it. Some examples would be AmpFarm, Virus, GRM Tools, Bruno/Reso, Sci-Fi, Lo-Fi, Recti-Fi, ReDSPider, SoundBlender, PitchBlender, EchoFarm, or simply a chain of a compressor + EQ that is so aggressively tweaked that it has drastically altered the sound of the original + this new sound is what everyone considers to be the sound of the track—then print it. (If in doubt leave a clearly labeled unprocessed version.) See what I mean?

The guideline after the "print the essential plug-ins" one said:
Quote:
Leave in only nonessential plug-ins that the producer would like the mixer to reference and remove the rest.

These you should not print. If the mixers have these plug-ins in their system, they can reference them and afterwards deactivate them. The rest of the plug-ins should be removed, because, after all, this is what mixers are hired to do.
This was essentially saying: yank all the EQ's + comps. As doug said, the mixer will have very specific preferences for the compressor they want to put on the singer, etc...

Printing Tuned Tracks: There must be something about LE I don't get. You say that you either don't have the tracks or you don't have the processors. Can you explain further? What I'm saying is to print the tuned tracks, and with the exception of the lead vocal, don't leave the un-tuned tracks in the system. That shouldn't take up more tracks. As well, I've gotten songs from LE systems with 48 or more tracks split between two or more sessions. Then I just assemble them all into a single session. You could do that if you run short of tracks. Right?

As far as not having the processors, here's a sincere question (I really don't know the answer): Can you make plug-ins Inactive and then Activate them? If so, couldn't you just deactivate some stuff to give yourself the processing juice you need to do the tuning.

One more perspective about tuned tracks (mine):

Please... I beg of you... print the tuned tracks. Do not leave this time consuming task for the mixer. It is not their job. A vocal tuning session is a very specific and different task from mixing. Don't distract your mixer with a job that you didn't hire them for. (Thanks!)

I may have misunderstood your post, so please help me out if I did. And please continue to make suggestions. I would like to make the guidelines applicable to all PT systems.

Thanks.
Old 13th November 2002
  #19
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Quote:
Printing Tuned Tracks: There must be something about LE I don't get. You say that you either don't have the tracks or you don't have the processors. Can you explain further?

What I'm saying is to print the tuned tracks, and with the exception of the lead vocal, don't leave the un-tuned tracks in the system. That shouldn't take up more tracks. As well, I've gotten songs from LE systems with 48 or more tracks split between two or more sessions. Then I just assemble them all into a single session. You could do that if you run short of tracks. Right?
I'm going to respond to this not in place of Eric, but as another LE/Digi001 user.

We get 32 tracks maximum with LE, but that depends on hard disk speed and processing power.

I guess LE users could get more tracks by splitting up a session, but I wouldn't do it myself because I wouldn't be able to hear all 48 tracks (for example) at once. It can be done, no doubt, but it would take someone more talented than myself to pull it off, unless....

Unless the second session was devoted only to printed tracks. Hmmmm. Yeah, I could definitely make that idea work.

This concept of multiple sessions for one recording in LE never even occurred to me, but then I always do my own mixing.

Jasper
Old 13th November 2002
  #20
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Mike,

What the LE users do that I'm referring to is create a submix of their first session (or a few--drums, keys, gtrs, etc...) and then start a new session, Import Audio of the submix(es), and continue to overdub BG's, vocals, etc... They then give me both sessions and I assemble + mix from there.

It's basically the 4 track bouncing concept, with the added ability to always go back and make changes to the bounced tracks.

Endless tracks--GREAT for producers... SUCKS for mixers.
Old 13th November 2002
  #21
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Quote:
What the LE users do that I'm referring to is create a submix of their first session (or a few--drums, keys, gtrs, etc...) and then start a new session, Import Audio of the submix(es), and continue to overdub BG's, vocals, etc... They then give me both sessions and I assemble + mix from there.
Huh. I see that now. And I guess I have done that to a point, but only with submixes I've intended to keep, such as drums. I'm thinking that overdubbing to a temporary submix could skew the perspective, but you know? I tend to think too much.

Also, I need to remember what this all about -- passing the tracks on to someone else to mix, ostensibly someone with a better system than my Digi 001 setup. Definitely sounds like the multiple session strategy could work to standardize LE recordings. Eric?

As to finding tempo on LE, I have no idea. We don't have Beat Detective, you know. What I do is make my click track on a shareware program called Virtual Drums. It gives me something more versatile than click, click, click and it also tells me the tempo. I save the result from Virtual Drums as an audio file, then paste it into the first track. It's a bit Rube Goldberg, but it works.

Jasper
Old 13th November 2002
  #22
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Charles and Mike,

Thanks for your replies. Perhaps I wasn't approaching the issue from the best possible angle.

Mos def, the multiple-session submix approach seems the way to go. Just some added documentation in the comments windows to keep the mixer pointed to which tracks were which...hell, why didn't I think of that?

The one good think about feeling stupid is I know I just learned something.
Old 15th November 2002
  #23
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Re: The Multiple LE Session Concept.

I guess I should have also explained that it's the exact same concept that has been used for many years with tape (analog + dig). It was used with 24 track 2" (and probably earlier—don't know) after tape synchronization was possible.

Once they filled up the first 24 tracks, they would create a Slave Reel and continue working on a second reel of tape. Then at mix they would lock-up the Master Reel + all the Slaves. Or they would sub-mix the Slaves down and print the sub mixes to the Master + mix. Or another gazillion variations on that approach.

The point is that in these large productions they had a stage that was called Creating the Slave Reels when great care was put into doing sub mixes that all the musicians down the line would be basing their musical decisions on. And time was also spent on giving the future engineers the flexibility to re-blend the subgroups in ways that would help the musicians groove with the elements they needed when recording (drums, perc, bass, gtrs, keys, etc...) So, with your projects you don't need to see these sub mixes as permanent, just as temporary to continue working. All the time knowing that once you finish + hear all the instruments you will definitely be re-mixing them.

BTW, this wasn't really the dark ages of recording as I may have portrayed it, it actually went on just a couple of years ago, and is still used today. It's just that Pro Tools/DAW's have changed the way we approach it to some extent.
Old 15th November 2002
  #24
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Next time you do your submixes, think about when the Beatles were doing it on 4 tracks and what they were able to achieve...

Makes me want to sell all that studio crap and and become a ski monitor...
Old 15th November 2002
  #25
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Charles,

I remember in the 80's, my engineer at Sigma told me about the analog submixes they would sometimes do, but I never recorded anything bigger than 32 tracks there, so I never got to see it happen.

And they wouldn't have had me around to see it anyway. I was just a shtoopid guitarist in those days.

Anyway, back to the topic...

As I've been working on mixes these past two days, the whole submix concept has been clicking in my head, and I'm seeing the possibilities. It's one of those "eureka" moments when you realize, "Hey, I can create MASSIVE mixes on the 001!"

Even if I end up mixing my own tracks, these guidelines have done wonders for cleaning up and organizing my mixes. I couldn't believe how much clutter was in there, hogging CPU power.

Awesome thread.
Old 15th November 2002
  #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mike Jasper



As to finding tempo on LE, I have no idea. We don't have Beat Detective, you know.
That's easy to do. Put the cursor at the start of a measure and use the Identify Beat command. Then go to the next measure and do the same thing of the first beat. Pro Tools will adjust the session tempo for you. An easier way to find the very start of the measure is to use the tab to transient function.

As for LE slaves. I did that on my last record. If you're going to do this, you just have to keep things really organized so that when you do reimport everything for a mix, you make sure you get everything.

Dave
Old 15th November 2002
  #27
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Quote:
Put the cursor at the start of a measure and use the Identify Beat command. Then go to the next measure and do the same thing of the first beat. Pro Tools will adjust the session tempo for you. An easier way to find the very start of the measure is to use the tab to transient function.
Thanks for the tip, Dave. I'll try that.

What's the "tab to transient" function? How does that work?

Jasper
Old 16th November 2002
  #28
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Quote:
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
After reading the paper again, this has occurred to me:

An addendum for Digi001 users, with work-arounds for the bits about printing click tracks, effects and tunings to separate tracks.

•Click track: If the tempo map is meticulously documented, the remixer should be able to create a click track, so that doesn't seem much of an issue (???).
Any thoughts?
unless you are sending the mix to someone who is not using PT to mix ( whoops not on topic..) or in the off chance that the session file is corrupt, or they have a non compatable version of PT.. consolidating the files saves ass in all of these instances, but if you have to rely on a tempo map that isn't there... hope you have a pretty pooch handy
Old 16th November 2002
  #29
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You can still extract the tempo from drum tracks.
Old 18th November 2002
  #30
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Tim Glasgow's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by bobulatorm
a simple one that seems to get overlooked -

provide ONE session file with ONE audio files folder and if needed, ONE fades file.

the amount of sessions ive got on my mac where theres 2 or more folders for 1 session is a bit silly... keeping backups is fair enough, but badly labelled, obsoleted folders which may or may not still be getting referenced from later session files is a bad thing.
i partly agree agree with you on that one. i'm really over anal-retentive about organizing my PT sessions, and in some cases i've started using multiple Audio Files folders within one session - all in the same session folder though. For instance, i always bounce my rough mixes to disk and re-inport them to a new track, but i keep them in a separate folder called "Audio Files - Rough Mixes" so i can get at them for a quick listen in SoundApp or an easy CD burn when Pro Tools is not booted. i'll keep another folder for files that were brought in from somewhere else (like those demo parts recorded on the guy's Mbox that we imported the final version when we started tracking). i've developed a pattern of folder naming that i use all the time now. Here's another example:

For a recent song, we tracked the drums and guide bass/guitar at a big studio. These files were backed up to tape drives and the folder was renamed "Audio Files - Big Studio". Later, we took an iBook, an Mbox, a Prism A/D, some mics and Neve pre's to this remote cottage in northern Ontario with no phone and did most of the bass/guitar/vocal overdubs (which is a story in itself). The new folder was renamed "Audio Files - Cottage", and backed up. Weeks later we came back to my friend's project studio to do piles of synth overdubs with his monster analog collection and returned to my humble psteudio for more odds and ends and mixing. We'll probably re-track the vocals, and they'll get their own folder as well.

That song's folder looks like this:

(song title) Folder:

. . . . (song title) Version 4.7 <--(the current session file)
. . . . Session Files - History folder <--(where all the older versions of the session file are kept, in case i want to go back three generations, or perhaps re-import an earlier incarnation of a track)
. . . . Session File Backups folder <--(Pro Tools auto-save files)
. . . . Audio Files - (big studio name)
. . . . Audio Files - Cottage
. . . . Audio Files - Submixes <--(when i do vocals with LE, i'll do stereo stems of drums, bass, everything else, so i have 20 or 28 tracks open for the vocals)
. . . . Audio Files - Rough Mixes
. . . . Audio Files <--(the current audio files)
. . . . Fade Files

Note that all the Audio Files folders start with "Audio…" and session stuff starts with "Session…" so when you look at the folder in list view alphabetically, everything stays together. i find using this system makes it way easier to find stuff and keep track of backups, and if the session gets shared with other people (the drummer wants to do some drum machine programming at home), it makes it quite manageable.

--t
[london, canada and echo cañon, nyc, where the old Neve is still FS :-]

p.s. is there any way to indent text on this BBS without having to use spaced periods?
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