There is a lot of talk about collaboration, from the makers of the main DAWs as well as third party companies offering collaboration tools. However there's a lot you can do to effectively collaborate with other writers, musicians, producers, engineers and film editors that doesn't depend on using proprietary software. The reason we say this is that the chance is you are going to working with other people who don't use the same DAW, plug-ins or instruments so you need to make sure you don't find the creative flow grinding to a halt.
Agnostic Is The New Standard
Yes that sentence makes no sense, but in reality with more and more ways to create music and edit picture, depending on one system is likely to limit your options when wanting to share the process with others. One of the early criticisms of Final Cut X was that it gave few options to have an effective team workflow, it has improved but it's still not great if you want to share with other platforms. So our first tip is that although you might love using your favourite DAW make sure you think agnostically if you are going to work with other people. That doesn't mean having to give it up, simply having strategies and workflows that consider collaboration outside of that ecosystem.
Here are 5 tips for effective collaboration.
1. Don't Use Plug-ins That Are Limited To One Platform
This carries on the agnostic theme, but if you are going to work on various applications then make sure you choose plug-ins that work across all of them. Don't buy a plug-in that is limited to one DAW, or not able to work in every DAW, or is limited to one platform. Daily I routinely jump around from Pro Tools, Studio One, Final Cut X and iZotope RX... to name just 4 applications, I'm not unique. I need to be able to use the same plugin in all of them if possible so I try and make plugin choices based on them working in as many platforms as possible. I'm so glad AIR Music Tech unlocked many of their VIs from Pro Tools as I have spent so many years using them it's nice not to have to relearn other plugin suite.
2. Save Presets In The Plug-in
All DAWs will allow you to save presets and in some cases chains of presets in their native application, however it's good to get into the habit of saving presets in the actual plugin system. This means the presets will open in any application the plugin will run in.
3. Freeze All Instruments As Copies
If you re working with VIs, as a composer or music producer that's highly likely, then get into the habit of freezing the audio stems of all of those VIs. Once frozen then you can either choose to mix with the audio or hide it just in case it is needed by someone collaborating with you. If you are using Pro Tools then for now that means creating offline bounces of each Instrument Track in the session, depending on which version of Pro Tools you have you may be able to do this all at once or one track at a time. Once you have frozen the tracks then you can choose the Hide and Make Inactive option, this means that any tracks hidden will not use up CPU power.
4. Create Agnostic Archives
An agnostic archive is one that can be opened on any DAW. This means making sure you have done all of the items shown above. We would also suggest that to make sure it can be opened in any DAW then consolidate the audio in every track to start at zero hours. Then save all the audio and the MIDI, make sure all the plugin settings are stored in the plugins you are using, If you wish you can also print the reverb and effects stems. Then create a text file for any notes you may want to add about the session such as tempo, time signature etc. Finally take a screen shot of the mixer view showing the tracks and their plugins and the order they appear in. Finally create a folder and save the audio stems, MIDI files, screen shot and notes pertaining to the session. Many plugins will also allow you to save the presets you have created to share with other users.
5. Get A Reliable Shared Storage Provider
You'll get a lot of people offering you free shared storage but make sure you read the fine print, many of these have limitations about space, limit the amount of data you can share and other restrictions that can screw up your ability to move data securely. Do your homework and make sure you don't simply trust your data to a cheap free Cloud service.
If you only work in one application and don't share your workflow with other people then this article is not going to be of much value, however if like many of us you work with other people across different applications and platforms then you might find these tips helpful.