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Digital File Cabinets

by Phil Gates

Most of the guitarists that I’ve come across (including myself) have not been necessarily the most orderly and organized types of people.

I spoke about backing up your material, however, if the material is backed up in an unorganized fashion, it is still crazy to get to the tracks you want in an easy fashion. Same with your working hard drive.

Let me give you an example of a session I did recently for a producer friend of mine. He is totally new to software and this is a very common scenario for people just getting into working with computers. So this is not to bag on him, it’s more about a common situation that has to do with organization.

I got the call to perform transfers from Logic 7 to Pro Tools for a session to be compatible with another studio. I got to the studio, and the producer had the engineer hook up his drive where all of his files were, in order to import them into Pro Tools from Logic 7. The Logic files were already .aif types and both computers were MacIntosh, so this should’ve been easy. However, on the hard drive, the audio files for all eight songs were on the hard drive not in a folder, just “On” the hard drive, and labeled “Main Drive Audio #1, Main Drive Audio #2 all the way to Main Drive Audio # 538. There was no way for the Pro Tools engineer (or anyone else) to know what files were associated with what song. Think about how long that would take. Obviously there were alternate takes involved an unused audio as well. How do you even begin to figure all of that out? Play a file, decide it’s a cowbell part & say “What song does this go to?”

Also, what tempo was each song at? Or what’s the sample rate of the files & the Bit Depth? Not to mention that the clock is running in the studio at an hourly rate.

The producer wasn’t sure whether he had it set up correctly or not, hence the call to have me there.

I took a deep breath, and told everyone to take ten. Get all of the stress out of the room. Then I pulled out my laptop with Logic 7 loaded, hooked up his hard drive, and loaded up the first song that they were going to work on that day in Pro Tools. Luckily the files in the song were all contiguous. Each track ran from start to finish, no punch-ins. Otherwise I would’ve saved the songs as OMF songs to brought them into Pro Tools.

In Logic 7’s Audio Window you can see all of the files associated to the presently loaded song no matter where they are on the hard drive. On top of that, I can also select just the files that are actually “Used” in the song, not the extra takes, or the bad takes.

Once I selected the files that were actually used in the song, there is a command in Logic 7 that enables you to move those files to another folder of my choice, or the option to create a new folder, and move them there. This is the option I chose to use.

For each of the eight songs, I created a folder for the song, and inside each song folder, I created a folder named “Audio” where I then moved the associated files for that song into. I also wrote down the Sample Rate, Bit Depth, and the tempo for the song on a note pad, that I gave to the engineer.

Realizing that this organization and moving of files had to be done for all eight songs, I had the engineer copy the files for the one song to be worked on first to a local studio drive so that the producer & his artist could start getting to work. This way I could finish organizing the other seven songs “off-line”, while they went to work. After I was done with all of the songs, I gave the engineer the original drive back.

With the contiguous files in the right folders, all the engineer had to do was create a new Pro Tools song with the right Sample Rate, Bit Depth, and Tempo, then import the audio files from the correct folder into the song & get to work.

Now that the long way around has been explained, let’s get to how it all could’ve been avoided.

Think of your hard drive for your audio as a big Digital Filing Cabinet. Just like the ones used in an office. Hanging folders in a drawer with other folders inside the hanging folders. So if you had a hanging folder called “Jazz Sheet Music” then the folders inside might be called like “Miles Davis”, “Dizzie Gilespie”, “Charlie Parker” etc.

Instead, with the music on our computers it may be a folder on your hard drive called “My Rock Songs” with a folder inside called “My Rock Song #1” and yet inside that folder another called “My Rock Song #1 Audio”. This way you can save the song in the Song folder, and the Audio in the Audio folder. This makes it easy for both you to find & easy for your computer to find. If for some reason you had no idea where the audio for that song was you could open a “Find” window & type in Rock Song #1, and the computer would find it for you.

Another thing that helps tremendously is naming the actual files for what they are in the song. Such as “Kick”, “Snare”, or “Bass”, or “Strings Left” and “Strings Right” for two tracks in stereo.

In many programs, if you name the track first, changing it from say “Audio 1” to “Bass” , the audio file recorded on that track will be automatically named the same. On some programs that’s an option, and well worth using.

At the end of the day you’ll have all of the audio in a nice, neat folder and they’ll all be named for what they really are, and even if you never have to transfer a single track to another program, your life will be made so much easier by being organized like this. Trust me.

Have a great month!

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