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Splitting Sessions

Digidesign (Avid) Pro Tools Tips & Techniques By Mike Thornton
Published October 2009

Working on lots of songs within one project can be annoying. Why not use Pro Tools' advanced features to create a tailor‑made Session for each one?

Here, I've used the Group All function in the Group List (bottom left) to ensure that all my actions apply to all tracks, and selected the first song in the Session.Here, I've used the Group All function in the Group List (bottom left) to ensure that all my actions apply to all tracks, and selected the first song in the Session.

Here's a fairly common situation: you have hauled your Pro Tools rig along to a live gig, and when you get home, all the songs have been recorded to the same Session, as a single continuous set of regions. Before mixing, you would like to divide the project up so that each song is a separate Pro Tools Session. There are a number of ways to do this, but I believe this to be the best.

Divide & Conquer

The process of division in operation: three songs have been separated and I'm about to make the final cut.The process of division in operation: three songs have been separated and I'm about to make the final cut.

The first task is to divide up the live Session into the individual songs. Before you do so, it is worth doing a Save Session As and naming it in the 'Session Name Edited' format, so that you are working on an edited version of the Session and have a safety copy of the original, unedited Session in case anything goes wrong.

To make the dividing easy, use the Group All function. You will find this at the top of the Group section to the left of the track title section. If you can't see it, it's been hidden, and you can make it visible by clicking the double chevron button (Pro Tools 7) or the Tab icon (Pro Tools 8) at the bottom left‑hand corner of the Edit window.

Click Group All, which will be the only thing in the group list if you haven't created any groups. Once clicked, it will be highlighted, showing that the group is enabled. With 'Group All' on, whatever you do to one track will affect all tracks. This makes separating songs easier, as all your edits will automatically apply to all tracks.

You can use the usual Separate Region command (Command-E on Macs or Ctrl-E on Windows, or 'B' with the Keyboard Focus engaged) to carve up the Session into the individual songs. In the screenshot, right, I have separated the first three songs and, having placed the cursor between the fourth and fifth songs of the set, am ready to use the Separate Region command again. Because I have the Group All option on, the cursor is extended across all the tracks.

Once you've completed the separation, save your Session ready for the next stage. Next, do a 'Save Session As', naming the saved Session after the first song. Then highlight regions representing the other songs, clear them from the Session, save the Session again, and close it. Now go back and open the edited complete Session again and repeat the 'Save Session As' procedure for the second song, and so on. If you want your audio to start at the Session start in each case, rather than having a long gap where you've deleted songs, select the Shuffle edit mode in Pro Tools before deleting regions.

It's Good To Share — Or Is It?

My Session folder now contains separate Sessions for each song. My Session folder now contains separate Sessions for each song.

You should now have a set of Pro Tools Sessions occupying the same Session folder, and representing individual songs from the live set. All the different song Sessions will share common Audio and Fade File folders, which is not a problem, but each Session's Region List will contain everything for all the songs, and even though you have split up the regions, all the Sessions are still sharing the common long audio files that made up the original Session. This means that if you plan to use any Elastic Audio, it will slow you up, because Elastic Audio will need to analyse the whole file and not just the song section. There are also good reasons why you might prefer to have self‑contained, separate folders for each Session, rather than retaining the shared structure. To do this, you need to use Consolidate and the Save Session Copy feature in Pro Tools.

Open up one of your song Sessions: let's say the first song. Select all the regions for that song (which is easy to do if you still have the Group All option on). Then select Consolidate Region from the Edit menu. Pro Tools will create new audio files for each of the regions, which will mean that they are no longer dependent on the original long files, so Elastic Audio analysis will be much quicker.

However, everything relating to the original Session will still appear in the Region List. To remedy this, go into the Region List drop‑down menu at the top of the Region List and select Unused from the Select option. This will highlight all the regions not in use in the Session, which, in this case, will be everything except for the newly consolidated regions. Now go back into the Region List menu and this time select Clear and Remove from the dialogue box that will come up. Pro Tools will now clear the Region List down to just the regions still in use in this Session.

Finally, go into the File menu and select Save Session Copy In… to create an entirely independent Session containing all and only the audio for that song.

Crafty Copies

The Region List drop‑down menu can be used to select and clear unused material from a Session. The Region List drop‑down menu can be used to select and clear unused material from a Session.

In Pro Tools 8, the Save Session Copy In... command now brings up a dedicated window, which is worth looking at in a little more detail.

• The Session Format drop‑down menu: This enables you to choose earlier Pro Tools Session file formats all the way back to version 3.2! Unless you know that your Session is going to be mixed on an earlier version of Pro Tools, it makes sense to stick with Latest.

• Session Parameters: you're unlikely to want to change many of these, with two possible exceptions: Enforce Mac/PC Compatibility and Limit Character Set. The first of these should be required only when saving a Pro Tools 7.x or higher Session to an older version of Pro Tools on the 'other' platform. Limit Character Set permits you to restrict the character set to a single language: this is automatically engaged when saving a copy of a Session to an older Session format.

• Items To Copy is an important and powerful set of options for specifying exactly what is saved with the Session copy. Unlike the conventional Save or Save As commands, Save Session Copy In... allows you to copy all the media used in a Session to a new location. This is very useful for collecting together all the bits of media used in a Session from different locations on your system, to make transporting a Session easier, as we saw last month.

The new Save Session Copy dialogue in Pro Tools 8.The new Save Session Copy dialogue in Pro Tools 8.Within Items To Copy, the All Audio Files option is automatically selected if you change the bit depth or sample rate of the Session. In the scenario I've outlined in this article, we're unlikely to need to select All Non‑WAV Audio Files, Don't Copy Fade Files, Don't Copy Elastic Audio Rendered Files, Movie/Video Files or Preserve Folder Hierarchy. However, you may need the last two options in any Session where plug‑ins are used.

Selecting the 'Session Plug‑in Settings Folder' option creates a new copy of the Session's Plug‑in Settings folder in the new location, and any references to these plug‑in settings in the Session are redirected to the copied settings files rather than the originals. The Root Plug‑in Settings Folder option, meanwhile, copies the contents of the root‑level Plug‑in Settings folder into a new folder named Place in Root Settings, indicating that these files will need to be moved to the root level plug‑in settings folder on the destination system before you can use them. The references to these settings files in the Session are not redirected to point to the copied files: the idea is that this provides a way for someone else to import your plug‑in presets to their system.  


Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI, is often caused by frequent use of computer equipment, including DAWs such as Pro Tools, and can encompass several different medical conditions. Symptoms can include pain in the nerves, tendons and ligaments of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, neck, back and foot. If, like me, you make your living from your Pro Tools skills, it can threaten your livelihood, and you need to take precautions.

A good place to start is the Keytools web site, which is dedicated to helping people of all abilities use computers. There is information for individuals and organisations on everything from preventing and treating repetitive strain injury to advice on complying with the Disability Discrimination Act. The site includes a Flash introduction to RSI, alongside other videos, as well as information about common conditions associated with RSI. See www.keytools‑

You could also check out Sound On Sound's February 2002 article on the topic, at /sos/feb02/articles/netnotes0202.asp.

Published October 2009

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