Sometimes Pro Tools needs a helping hand with finding files and collecting them together.
Last month, we started looking at what to do if the dreaded Missing Files window appears when you open a Pro Tools session. We covered how to use the Automatic Find and Relink function, and how to perform the same task manually using the Relink window. Using these tools should result in a functioning session with all media files linked. However, they might still be scattered across several drives — in which case, what can we do to bring them back into the session folder?
In the example screenshot, both session indicators are showing green, indicating that Pro Tools can see all the media files in the session. However, these indicators don't tell you whether the files are all in the session folder or scattered around your hard drives. Looking at the Clip List showing Full Path using the Show option in the Clip List menu, you can see that the files are in fact located on two different drives. This won't be a problem in itself, but if you want to send this project to a collaborator or back it up, simply copying the main session folder won't include everything that is needed. Fortunately, it is possible to copy and relink files located elsewhere — on Storage 2 in this case — into the main session folder. It is possible to do this outside Pro Tools by dragging and dropping the files, then re-opening the session, but the safest way is to use Copy and Relink from the Session Browser.
From the Window menu, choose Project. The Project Browser window will open. Open up the Audio Files folder using the little triangle next to the icon, so you can see all the audio files that are part of the project. Then arrange the window so you can see the Path column and click on the Path in the title so that the window sorts by Path (note the '1' indicating that it is this column that is sorted). This will group all the audio files together according to which drive they are located on. Next, highlight all the files on the 'wrong' volume, in this case 'Storage 2', and select Copy and Relink from the Toolbox menu in the top right-hand corner of the Session Browser window. Pro Tools will then ask you where you want to put the copied files; the default is the Audio Files folder of the session on the volume that has the Session document on it. Select Choose and Pro Tools will copy all the files onto the correct volume and relink the session so that Clips refer to those copies rather than the originals.
Recently, I was asked to help a client whose session would not find the media even though it was clearly visible on a connected drive. Even when I directed the Relink window to look only in the correct folder, Pro Tools still wouldn't find the files, and then I remembered the old Force Relink trick...
First, open the session with the relinking problems, and hit Skip All when asked if you want to automatically find and relink, as you will already be at the point where these haven't worked for you. Once the session opens, there will be a number of sky-blue regions denoting media Pro Tools can't find. Go into the Window menu and select Project Browser. In the Project Browser, go into the session's audio files folder and select a missing audio file you want Pro Tools to relink by force. Now go into the Toolbox menu and select Relink to put that file into the Relink window. Open the Workspace Browser from the Window menu and locate the file you would like Pro Tools to link to, but that for some reason it can't find. Drag that file into the Candidates section of the Relink window, click on the Relink button to the left of the file in the Candidates section, and then click on the Commit button at the top of the Relink window. The file will be relinked, and the blue regions relating to that audio file will regain their normal look. If the file you relinked was not inside the session folder, you might want to consider using the copy and relink option described above to bring it back home.
Even when you know how to do it, having to relink files is always tedious and sometimes messy. Fortuntely, there are a number of techniques you can apply that will help to reduce the number of times you need to do it:
- Don't manage or manipulate files outside Pro Tools. If you move or rename media files used by Pro Tools using Finder or Windows Explorer, you will get the dreaded Missing Files window when you open the session up in Pro Tools. Likewise, if you 'borrow' files between one project and another, renaming the audio files in one session will cause problems in the source session. For this reason, I rarely use the Add option when importing audio into a Pro Tools session, as it comes with risks; with today's larger drives, space is less of an issue, so it usually pays to have the files copied.
- Be careful when using external audio editors. Any external process that risks changing filenames or Pro Tools File IDs is going to confuse Pro Tools. If you open an audio file in an external editor, make changes and then save it, the new file will not have the same Pro Tools File ID even if you save it with the same filename, and so Pro Tools may not recognise it. Whenever I work on a file in Izotope's RX2 in stand-alone mode, for example, I will save the modified version as a completely different file and not attempt to trick Pro Tools in believing it is the original file. I can then import that new file into Pro Tools and bring it into the appropriate point on the timeline.
- Keep at eye on the Disk Allocation window. Although it is rarely an issue with recent versions of Pro Tools, I have experienced situations where the Disk Allocation settings for tracks can get changed, meaning that any audio recorded onto those tracks will be stored by Pro Tools on a different hard drive. That in itself isn't a problem for Pro Tools — indeed, with particularly large projects, you might need to spread audio across more than one drive to keep the session running — but if you didn't intend it, when you come to open the session up on another system, Pro Tools will be unable to find some of the content because it is on a drive that you don't have with you. If I had a pound for each time I have opened a client's project, got the dreaded Missing Files window and found that Pro Tools was looking for files that were on the desktop of the client's computer, I would be a very wealthy man! Sometimes this is operator error brought about by using Add instead of Copy in the Import Audio window, but there are also times when I have checked the Disk Allocation window and found a track was set to record to a different drive.
- Use Save Session Copy to send sessions to collaborators. The Save Session Copy function is great for when you want to hoover up all the files associated with a session, wherever they are on your system, collect them together and create a fresh session folder on another drive, perhaps to pass the session on to a colleague.
- Use Gobbler to share projects. Since v10.3.3, Pro Tools enables you to share your bounced and exported audio files over the Internet with Gobbler, using the Share With Gobbler option. Gobbler is a cloud-based backup, transfer and collaboration tool for managing audio projects and their media assets. Pro Tools also integrates with Gobbler to send Pro Tools sessions and audio files to collaborators over the Internet. When installed, the Gobbler application can be configured to scan your system to locate and automatically back up your Pro Tools sessions and associated media files. You can also use the Send To feature for Gobbler in the File menu to send a complete session to a collaborator via Gobbler. Currently, Mac users also get the benefit that Gobbler will include files that are in the session but outside the session audio files folder. This feature will come to Windows users soon.