“Ah kids today, they don’t know how lucky they are”. How many times have you heard that? However, when it comes to how easy it is to capture, store and retrieve media then that cliche may well be a truism.
My first recording device was a Tascam Portastudio and capturing audio was down to TDK SA90 cassette tapes. When I grew up then it was 2” Ampex tape reels, they cost a fortune and handling and storage was a challenge.
I remember one poor engineer who was working on a big album for a well-known act and using two 24 tracks with SPMTE sync on a track of each machine. During the middle of a vocal take he tried to do a drop in of the chorus, trouble was he had inadvertently armed the track with the SMPTE stripe on it! These days it would be as simple as CTRL Z and everything would be back to normal.
Today, 99% of data is stored on hard drives; they are cheap, small and are almost indestructable, however when it’s this easy we can still assume that every time we fire up a drive then it works.
This is not always the case and when it does go wrong, then you’ll be in tears. Here are our top 5 habits of good data storage.
Invest In Storage
You get what you pay for. Cheap drives are exactly that, cheap. Are you seriously going to spend $300 on another plug-in you already have 3 versions of and then spend $50 on a hard drive to keep the most precious thing you have, your ideas? If so then you need to see a shrink.
The manufacturer has to save money in all sorts of places, be that the platter, chassis or comms port, or all of them. Naming no names but in the early days of external hard drives the amount of FireWire ports that stopped working in one certain brand of hard drives was obscene - thankfully you could crack open the chassis and recover the actual drive.
Buy good drives and do your research on what works best for recording. With Facebook, Twitter and Forums then you have no excuse to say you didn’t know.
What's In A Name?
Everything. Label everything well. The amount of Pro Tools sessions I’ve tried to navigate with every file called “Audio X” is too many.
Get into the habit of making sure very track is named before you press record. Pro Tools numbers new versions of the same file so learn to understand what that means.
If you are new to Pro Tools then learn to understand the default naming conventions. From the Pro Tools Reference Guide:
"When creating new audio, Auxiliary Input, Master Fader, VCA Master, MIDI, and Instrument tracks, Pro Tools names them as “Audio,” “Aux,” “Mas- ter,” “VCA,” “MIDI, or “Inst” accordingly and numbers them consecutively. For example, when you create the first two audio tracks in a new ses- sion, their default names are “Audio 1” and “Audio 2.” You can rename tracks and also log comments for each track."
Spending a few seconds naming your clips now can save you hours later on when you are trying to find a missing clip in a session.
But Pro Tools is just part of the puzzle. Name folders, drives, samples, presets, start doing it right and stop turning every session into some kind of game of pin the tale on the data donkey.
Respect Your Drives As If They Were Tape
Respect your drives. They may seem to be hardy things, but they ain’t, handle drives like you would handle a vintage tape from your favourite album. Of course they are far more hardy than tapes but if you are going to transport them then throwing them into the bottom of a rucksack without any protection may not be wise. Remember that conventional hard drives still have platter inside that given a hard jolt can kill them and they will never spin again... which leads us to the next point.
Create A Back-up Strategy
There are too many stories of people who didn't back-up, we've got them on our team where we've lost hours, days even months worth of precious work. If that work belongs to someone else like a band you are recording an album for or a client then losing the data is going to drop you up to your ears in crap.
A good back-up strategy is essential it should include back-up to another drive regularly, back up to an offsite drive (fire, flood, theft) too and then also making sure you check you backups periodically to make sure they are all still in tact.
Get a real back-up program, dragging files from one folder to another is not always going to give you a full backup, especially if the files have dependancies - Pro Tools does. So get an application that clones/mirrors the drive or folders - there are plenty of free ones for both Mac and PC.
Only a file that is on another drive and on another offsite drive is really back-up.
Ignored The Last Point? So Here It Is Again...Back-up
No we're not repeating ourselves. Half of those reading this will have ignored our last point so it's worth repeating.
Get another drive, get a cloud account and back-up everything, if your don’t then you’ll be sorry.
There’s our top 5, what about you? Any more tips?