As regular Sound On Sound readers will know, it's an annual ritual for me to completely dismantle the studio, clean everything and then put it back together as neatly as possible. During this process, I often discover 'lost in action' items that have fallen down the back of the desk, and there always seem to be excess cables going nowhere in particular that need to be pruned. And then there's all that hair from Charlie, the studio cat.
This year, I thought I'd take the advice of those 'de-cluttering' TV programs and get rid of anything that hadn't been used during the past year. This didn't see as much hardware transferred to the cupboard of eternal darkness as in previous years, but it did get me thinking about plug-ins. Like most project studio operators, I've built up quite a collection of plug-ins, but when it comes to mixing a session I invariably go to the same handful of compressors and equalisers and perhaps three different reverb processors. There must be hundreds of plug-ins that simply don't get used, but while it might be foolhardy to actually throw away perfectly good software, it can be a good idea to sideline the stuff you don't use into a separate folder labelled 'Unused Plug-ins' or something similar.
Clearing away this virtual clutter not only simplifies your plug-in menus, but will also make your DAW software load up rather more quickly than before. Another very worthwhile chore, if you haven't done it already, is to create a text file with the serial numbers, passwords and log-in details for all your software, as it seems that no two vendors use quite the same system. If you're really paranoid, you could always save this in a different user account and protect it with a heavy-duty password, but as nobody else uses my studio, I just keep a folder for passwords, installers and authorisations and bung everything in there.
Now, I know this is a slight digression from my main theme, but why is it that every operating system upgrade puts more and more unnecessary security in the way of the legitimate user? With Mac OS X Lion, for example, not only do you have to go through the usual password nonsense to install software, but it now has the temerity to automatically lock documents you haven't used for a few days, forcing you to unlock them before you can continue work! Why? All it would take is one 'No security thank you' option that you could tick during install and we could be back to the happy days of 10 years ago when you didn't need passwords, notes from your mum or any other binary bureaucracy to work on your own material on your own computer. Obviously, I can see the need for passwords if you use your computer for online banking, but let's face it, there's little on most project studio computers that a cat burglar with a memory stick would be interested in pinching. Until that happy day, though, just make a note of the relevant passwords and bung them in your passwords file. Next year I just might get around to tidying up that folder too!
Paul White Editor In Chief