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Saving Graces

I'm all too aware that a lot of my previous leaders have started out by saying something like "sequencers are really great, but..." And I'm afraid it's going to be more of the same this month!

Paul White c.2003What I like about working with audio (and MIDI) on a computer is that all your settings are saved, from the mixer controls and the automation moves to the deployment and setup of effects and processors — but there is still no equivalent of that reel of tape you can stick on the shelf and come back to when you need to. With tape, you didn't have to think about archiving your work, because the tape was your archive. With computers, the fruits of your labours are stored on a hard drive somewhere and, as many of us have come to learn the hard way, digital data can't actually be considered 'real' unless it exists in at least two different places, and ideally in more. So while computers allow you to neglect to fill in track sheets or to take notes about effects settings, you still need to be organised enough to implement some sort of backup regime.

It's true that CD-Rs are unbelievably cheap and provide a good way to store data — even a song using 16 to 24 tracks of audio will probably fit on a single CD-R — but I still don't understand why the sequencer manufacturers make life so hard for us when we actually try to do this. Unless you're extremely careful, you can end up with the audio files relating to the song you're working on tucked away on some remote corner of your hard drive (all called something like 'Untitled' — 1 to infinity), because in your enthusiasm to get creative, you didn't set a new audio record path for them. Furthermore, backup files and bounce files may end up on a completely different drive altogether. Then, of course, there are all the files relating to retakes and punch-ins. The audio files for an eight-track song can end up looking like the result of an explosion in a confetti factory!

It's fair to say that the leading sequencers provide various means for you to manually optimise songs so that unused sections of audio are taken out of the running, and most will allow you to create backups of an audio file or group of files in a designated folder of your choice. But given that these programs now claim to be 'professional', (whatever that actually means), would it be too much to ask for a single button that said something like 'Create Song Archive', which would automatically copy or relocate all the used audio files into a newly-created folder called something like 'SongTitle-Arc', along with a copy of the song file itself? Then we could copy the whole archive folder directly onto CD-R or DVD-R and not have to worry about whether we'd missed something out. In an ideal world, this archive would also be able to save any used soft-sampler files (to be fair, some software already does this), and it could be asked to store either copies of used audio files only, or all audio related to a song, used or not. In fact, screen shots of any used plug-ins might also be a useful addition, so that you could at least see what you were trying to replicate if you moved the work to a different system with different plug-ins. Something like this would make life so much easier, and would alleviate a lot of the grief currently associated with backing up.

With so many new features appearing in our favourite audio software packages on what seems like a monthly basis, isn't it time more software developers addressed the problem of 'backup made easy' so that their products might actually deserve the description 'professional'?

Paul White Editor In Chief