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Get More Out Of Your Pro Tools Life With Organization

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Proper Pro Tools File Maintenance Improves Your Workflow…And Saves You Headaches

By Cus

As a mix engineer, one of the biggest problems that I commonly come across when dealing with Pro Tools sessions is the location of “missing” files. Specifically, the issue is where clients files are saved and to what folders they are sent to when recording. Thus, I wanted I wanted to make a few recommendations to those of you who use Pro Tools as your DAW.

Pro Tools Sessions and Multiple Computers

Unless you plan only to record and mix sessions on one dedicated computer, which for most of my clients is impractical, I recommend that you pay close attention to what I’m about to say: File organization is a must! (And even if you do work from just one computer, I still believe that file organization is a must.)

In any given session, the things that you add or subtract from that session may seem harmless enough. After all, you’re doing different tweaks and probably saving as you go. Every time you open this session on your computer, all of your files pop up, whether they are in the correct folders or not. This happens because your computer knows where everything is for that particular session. This will remain a constant for Pro Tools to identify each file for the song and open right up with no problems at all. However, the moment you burn that session to a disc or drive, to be opened on a different computer, the story changes. I can not tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Where are my files?”

Because the session has been brought to another computer, this new computer doesn’t know where the files are for the particular song that you’re referencing. So when you open the session on the new computer, you may get blue globs of nothing, in place where your waveforms once stood. And this problem can’t be corrected until the actual files from the original source (from the computer where the files initially worked) are retrieved.

Organization Is King

Hence, when doing sessions in your DAW, you should place special attention on organization—from start to finish. First off, the start of a new session should begin with its own folder, and not be intertwined with another session. Give a new session it’s own folder, so that it can its own space and avoid so “mixups,” which often results missing files. Next, make sure your audio files are clear. When you start a new session in Pro Tools, an ‘audio files’ folder automatically appears for the session. So make sure that all the files are properly entering this folder. One way to check is to look under ‘setups’ menu and find ‘disk allocation.’ This will show you exactly where the files for this particular session are being stored. It will also show you the complete path: from what drive, to what artist, to what project, etc.

And remember, things can get messy when you begin importing audio files from other sessions or from other sources, such as a CD or an alternate drive. This is because a file may exist in one session (e.g. session 1), yet be only “on file” in yet another session (e.g. session 2). One way to ease this pain is to save the session—when opened—in a different manner.

Go under ‘files’ and ‘save session copy in’. (THIS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE!) When the box pops up, click ‘save all audio files’ and then name the session with a location for it to go. After Pro Tools finds every file (currently in that particular session) it stores the new session where you’ve chosen under the name: copy of “whatever the session was called.” Now when that session is opened, you will find the exact same session, with all the files. Only difference now, is the ‘audio files’ folder in that current session folder holds any and all files it had in the session; no matter where they were on the computer or whatever drives they were a part of. Now, you can take this session folder and burn it to disc or save to an external drive to use on another computer.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album ‘The Best of Times.’ Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • Nice Cat

    Niceone, Thanks for tips!