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Safety First: Into the Archives, Part 1

15/05/2020

I admit it. This is a truly boring topic. You're forgiven if you scoot down to something more interesting in this blog, but here's the deal. I always archive finished projects, because remixing older projects can sometimes give them a second life-for example, I've stripped vocals from some songs, and remixed the instrument tracks for video backgrounds. Some have been remixed for other purposes. Some really ancient songs have been remixed because I know more than I did when I mixed them originally.

You can archive to hard drives, SSDs, the cloud your choice. I prefer Blu-Ray optical media, because it's more robust than conventional DVDs, has a rated minimum shelf life that will outlive me (at which point my kid can use the discs as coasters), and can be stored in a bank's safe deposit box.

Superficially, archiving may seem to be the same process as collaboration, because you're exporting tracks. However, collaboration often occurs during the recording process, and may involve exporting stems-a single track that contains a submix of drums, background vocals, or whatever. Archiving occurs after a song is complete, finished, and mixed. This matters for dealing with details like Event FX and instruments with multiple outputs. By the time I'm doing a final mix, Event FX (and Melodyne pitch correction, which is treated like an Event FX) have been rendered into a file, because I want those edits to be permanent. When collaborating, you might want to not render these edits, in case your collaborator has different ideas of how a track should sound.

With multiple-output instruments, while recording I'm fine with having all the outputs appear over a single channel-but for the final mix, I want each output to be on its own channel for individual processing. Similarly, I want tracks in a Folder track to be exposed and archived individually, not submixed.

So, it's important to consider why you want to archive, and what you will need in the future. My biggest problem when trying to open really old songs is that some plug-ins may no longer be functional, due to OS incompatibilities, not being installed, being replaced with an update that doesn't load automatically in place of an older version, different preset formats, etc. Another problem may be some glitch or issue in the audio itself, at which point I need a raw, unprocessed file for fixing the issue before re-applying the processing.

Because I can't predict exactly what I'll need years into the future, I have three different archives.

Save the Studio One Song using Save To a New Folder. This saves only what's actually used in the Song, not the extraneous files accumulated during the recording process, which will likely trim quite a bit of storage space compared to the original recording. This will be all that many people need, and hopefully, when you open the Song in the future everything will load and sound exactly as it did when it was finished. That means you won't need to delve into the next two archive options.

Save each track as a rendered audio WAV file with all the processing added by Studio One (effects, levels, and automation). I put these into a folder called Processed Tracks. Bringing them back into a Song sounds just like the original. They're useful if in the future, the Song used third-party plug-ins that are no longer compatible or installed-you'll still have the original track's sound available.

Save each track as a raw WAV file. These go into a folder named Raw Tracks. When remixing, you need raw tracks if different processing, fixes, or automation is required. You can also mix and match these with the rendered files-for example, maybe all the rendered virtual instruments are great, but you want different vocal processing.

Exporting Raw Wave Files In this week's tip, we'll look at exporting raw WAV files. We'll cover exporting files with processing (effects and automation), and exporting virtual instruments as audio, in next week's tip.

Studio One's audio files use the Broadcast Wave Format. This format time-stamps a file with its location on the timeline. When using any of the options we'll describe, raw (unprocessed) audio files are saved with the following characteristics:

No fader position or panning (files are pre-fader)

No processing or automation

Raw files incorporate Event envelopes (i.e., Event gain and fades) as well as any unrendered Event FX, including Melodyne

Muted Events are saved as silence

Important: When you drag Broadcast WAV Files back into an empty Song, they won't be aligned to their time stamp. You need to select them all, and choose Edit > Move to Origin.

The easiest way to save files is by dragging them into a Browser folder. When the files hover over the Browser folder (Fig. 1), select one of three options-Wave File, Wave File with rendered Insert FX, or Audioloop-by cycling through the three options with the QWERTY keyboard's Shift key. We'll be archiving raw WAV files, so choose Wave File for the options we're covering.

Figure 1: The three file options available when dragging to a folder in the Browser are Wave File, Wave File with rendered Insert FX, or Audioloop.

As an example, Fig. 2 shows the basic Song we'll be archiving. Note that there are multiple Events, and they're non-contiguous-they've been split, muted, etc.

Figure 2: This shows the Events in the Song being archived, for comparison with how they look when saving, or reloading into an empty Song.

Option 1: Fast to prepare, takes up the least storage space, but is a hassle to re-load into an empty Song. Select all the audio Events in your Song, and then drag them into the Browser's Raw Tracks folder you created (or whatever you named it). The files take up minimal storage space, because nothing is saved t
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