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Into the Archives, Part 2

22/05/2020

After last week's thrilling cliff-hanger about how to preserve your WAV files for future generations, let's look at how to export all your stereo audio tracks and have them incorporate effects processing, automation, level, and panning. There are several ways to do this; although you can drag files into a Browser folder, and choose Wave File with rendered Insert FX, Studio One's feature to save stems is much easier and also includes any effects added by effects in Bus and FX Channels. (We'll also look at how to archive Instrument tracks.)

Saving as stems, where you choose individual Tracks or Channels, makes archiving processed files a breeze. For archiving, I choose Tracks because they're what I'll want to bring in for a remix. For example, if you're using an instrument where multiple outputs feed into a stereo mix, Channels will save the mix, but Tracks will render the individual Instrument sounds into their own tracks.

When you export everything as stems, and bring them back into an empty Song, playback will sound exactly like the Song whose stems you exported. However, note that saving as stems does not necessarily preserve the Song's organization; for example, tracks inside a folder track are rendered as individual tracks, not as part of a folder. I find this preferable anyway. Also, if you just drag the tracks back into an empty song, they'll be alphabetized by track name. If this is an issue, number each track in the desired order before exporting.

SAVING STEMS Select Song > Export Stems. Choose whether you want to export what's represented by Tracks in the Arrange view, or by Channels in the Console. Again, for archiving, I recommend Tracks (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The Song > Export Stems option is your friend.

If there's anything you don't want to save, uncheck the box next to the track name. Muted tracks are unchecked by default, but if you check them, the tracks are exported properly, and open unmuted.

Note that if an audio track is being sent to effects in a Bus or FX Channel, the exported track will include any added effects. Basically, you'll save whatever you would hear with Solo enabled. In the Arrange view, each track is soloed as it's rendered, so you can monitor the archiving progress as it occurs.

In Part 1 on saving raw WAV files, we noted that different approaches required different amounts of storage space. Saving stems requires the most amount of storage space because it saves all tracks from start to end (or whatever area in the timeline you select), even if a track-only has a few seconds of audio in it. However, this also means that the tracks are suitable for importing into programs that don't recognize Broadcast WAV Files. Start all tracks from the beginning of a song, or at least from the same start point, and they'll all sync up properly.

WHAT ABOUT THE MAIN FADER SETTINGS? Note that the tracks will be affected by your Main fader inserts and processing, including any volume automation that creates a fadeout. I don't use processors in the Main channel inserts, because I reserve any stereo 2-track processing for the Project page (hey, it's Studio One-we have the technology!). I'd recommend bypassing any Main channel effects, because if you're going to use archived files for a remix, you probably don't want to be locked in to any processing applied to the stereo mix. I also prefer to disable automation Read for volume levels, because the fade may need to last longer with a remix. Keep your options open.

However, the Main fader is useful if you try to save the stems and get an indication that clipping has occurred. Reduce the Main fader by slightly more than the amount of clipping (e.g., if the warning says a file was 1 dB over, lower the Main channel fader by -1.1 dB). Another option would be to isolate the track(s) causing the clipping and reduce their levels; but reducing the Main channel fader maintains the proportional level of the mixed tracks.

SAVING INSTRUMENT AUDIO Saving an Instrument track as a stem automatically renders it into audio. While that's very convenient, you have other options.

When you drag an Instrument track's Event to the Browser, you can save it as a Standard MIDI File (.mid) or as a Musicloop feature (press Shift to select between the two). Think of a Musicloop, a unique Studio One feature, as an Instrument track channel strip -when you bring it back into a project, it creates a Channel in the mixer, includes any Insert effects, zeroes the Channel fader, and incorporates the soft synth so you can edit it. Of course, if you're collaborating with someone who doesn't have the same soft synth or insert effects, they won't be available (that's another reason to stay in the Studio One ecosystem when collaborating if at all possible). But, you'll still have the note events in a track.

There are three cautions when exporting Instrument track Parts as Musicloops or MIDI files.

The Instrument track Parts are exported as MIDI files, which aren't (yet) time-stamped similarly to Broadcast WAV Files. Therefore, the first event starts at the song's beginning, regardless of where it occurs in the Song.

Mutes aren't recognized, so the file you bring back will include any muted notes.

If there are multiple Instrument Parts in a track, you can drag them into the Browser and save them as a Musicloop. However, this will save a Musicloop for each Part. You can bring them all into the same track, one a time, but then you have to place them properly. If you bring them all in at once, they'll create as many Channels/Tracks as there are Instrument Parts, and all Parts will start at the Song's beginning not very friendly.

The bottom line: Before exporting an Instrument track as a Musicloop or MIDI file, I recommend deleti
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