Recently I had the opportunity to train a talented budding radio producer. I was surprised when I repeatedly found it necessary to remind him of a file management philosophy that has saved me much time and frustration through the years. It is an imperative technique that is often ignored. It is a broadcast audio file management system that will help any home studio producer become more productive.
My trainee's daily imaging projects were for a commercial AC radio station which mostly includes recording voice-overs from advertising clients, editing phone calls/interviews, multi-tracking, and producing promotional commercials for an FM radio station. One of his most important tasks was to organize and archive a huge amount of audio files that had the potential to be needed at a later date. There are always lots of source files, session files, and lots mixdown files to keep track of.
No matter how little or large the amount of product you turn out, there are some procedures that always save time, money, and sometimes embarrassment. I couldn’t emphasized to my apprentice producer enough the importance of using a good strategy to conquer the task correctly. My audio file management system has proven to support my reputation as being a very well organized producer among my colleagues and I'd like to share it with you. It's value will only become more apparent as you grow as a producer, especially when taking on more complicated projects.
Name files according to how you'll search for them…next year.
It never fails. There will always a day when you are too rushed or too short sighted to expect that you will need to revisit a recording session. I promise you, there will be a time when you will need to find a piece of audio that was made a year ago or more. The threat of having a file lost in a sea of mp3s and WAVs can be limited with a simple change of strategy while naming your files as you go.
Don’t be afraid to give a file a long name. Don’t worry, you computer can handle it. Title your file exactly what it is AND how you might describe it to a novice. For example instead of “VoiceOver Amy.mp3,” you might try naming the file “VoiceOver Amy From X Agency SummerPromotion Final Edit 1.0.mp3.” This will likely help you find the file a year later and might even remind you of important forgotten file variations. This little practice also reveals how valuable it is when you’re in the midst of asking an assistant or colleague to locate a file that they’ve never worked with.
Create well organized directories from the beginning.
Take time in the beginning so you don’t waste twice as much time later. I promise, you will need one of those files later. Create folders and sub folders, starting with broad categories then gradually becoming more specific. An example might be a folder directory as follows:
AUDIO > MULTI TRACK SESSIONS > CLIENT NAME > SUMMER PROMOTION > JULY4TH PROJECT.
Make several different session versions titles as you progress through a session.
With commercial A/V studio work there’s a good chance you may be able to use the foundation from a previous session so you don’t have to start from scratch on a new session. This is especially the case if you have clients you work with on an ongoing basis. If you have ten different files that represent the 10 different stages of a session’s progress, it is simple to start at stage 3.
After nearly 20 years of producing hundreds of projects with probably millions of source files, I clearly can see the value of the extra time I took to organize all of them correctly. My entire collection of audio and video projects are archived on my Drobo 5N home raid system. I can locate a single file quickly with precision. New projects often require me to find a sound effect, a music bed, a voice over that was used in a former project. That is when it all pays off.
The audio file management system I describe above pertains specifically to world of audio but this time-saving principal holds true for most types of multi-media studio work. The sooner you adopt this organizational philosophy, the better. It's never too late. One of the most valuable producer assets producer your ability to quickly deliver a project to a client. Knowing about this technique and applying it in your studio's work flow increases your value!
By the way, that “up and coming producer” I was training has impressed his managers, titling his files like a pro, and now even training others to do the same.