3 Tips for Better Audio Project Organization

Uniform 2TB

"Everything has a home." My wife told me this for the first time when we were cleaning our apartment one Saturday morning. This simple phrase has helped me keep our living room, my work desk, and my project files in great shape.

Even though this post aims to help those who manage and create digital audio, I believe these principles can apply in other media worlds as well. Here are three ways you can keep your digital workflow running smoothly.

1. Use a reliable external storage medium

Keeping your project on a separate drive, it's permanent "home", provides you with numerous benefits. Not only are your files portable, but your boot drive is now free to only worry about running you OS and audio applications.  Here your host DAW (Pro Tools, Logic, Reason etc.) runs on your computer's internal drive while the project file itself streams the audio from the external drive.

Here is my OWC Mercury Elite Pro 2TB. I've had it for 18 months now and It's been the fastest, most reliable, and most durable hard drive I've ever owned. It's USB 3.0, eSATA, and Firewire 800 connection ports ensures flexibility while its 7200RPM disk speed helps keep my host DAW snappy.

Now that we have a digital home for our projects, let's talk through an organizational system I learned while working for a pro video & audio production company, avad3.

 

2. Have a filing system and stick to it

I understand that everyone has their own workflow. Here I'm simply sharing how I would go about organizing a new mastering project.

On my external drive I have a folder named "Current Projects". In that rests folders named after the clients I'm working with. Down another layer within a client's folder holds a specific project. I usually name this folder after the album the client has asked me to master.

Within this project folder is where I divide my project into four steps that feed into each other. Here's the layout:

 

  1. Original Files - Contains the files (mixes) the client has sent me master. I usually include any metadata spreadsheets in here as well.
  2. Processing - Contains my Logic Pro X file which hosts all my plugins to do the actual pre-mastering process.
  3. Arranging - I use another program, Triumph, to import and arrange my client's masters for CD arranging and metadata embedding
  4. Exports - Contains the finished masters I'm sending to the client. I organize the assets in another set of folders by their file type (AIFF, WAV, DDP Filesets etc.).

I also use a small tag at the end of each of my project files to help keep them in order. For my first processing file I'll ad ".m1" just before the file extension ("m" for master). When I export masters from that file, that batch ".m1" at the end of them. If I'm asked to do a revision, I'll clone the ".m1" file and rename it ".m2". Any export from that file would then have ".m2". This gives me an easy system in which to identify individual exports and/or revisions I'm doing for a client.

Now all of our files are in order, let's move on to our final step.

3. Back Up Your Files. Often.

Not much worse can happen to your workflow than losing all of your progress. Simply copy your work at the end of the day to a different drive. Having at least one copy on another hard drive or even a large flash drive will do the trick. If you're really cautious, you can even configure an OWC Mercury Ellite Pro Dual Mini to store your data one drive and instantly mirror it on the other. Two copies, one easy step.

I hope this has better equipped you manage and handle your audio projects.

How have you gone about organizing your digital life? Let me know below.

Michael Curtis

A mastering engineer and composer who loves helping you sound awesome.