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Session Backup Tips

Most of the time, the last thing an engineer is thinking about while running a session is making sure his session is backed up, and all media is in a place that makes an archival backup easy and effective. Some of these things might seem obvious, but keeping session backup and data safety in mind in your personal work-flow can be invaluable.

Session File Backups:

Pro Tools has an auto-backup feature that creates a backup of your current session file at a specified interval (in minutes) up to 99 backups. The setting can be found in the operations tab of Preferences in Pro Tools. This can be really handy after a crash, or if your main session file becomes corrupt. Take care when deciding your settings in this preference, as it can make or break a bad situation later. Because of the 99 Backup limit, once you reach the maximum backup file number, Pro Tools will overwrite the oldest backup and cycle back through. If you are making fast changes in short sessions, have Pro Tools auto backup often, every 1-3 minutes, so in the event of a failure, you will lose at most 1-2 minutes of work. Adversely, if you are working on long sessions where you are leaving the system idle for long periods of time, set your auto backup to be slower, so that you aren’t constantly overwriting your old backups, essentially making duplicates of them.

Save As:

That being said, the Auto Backup feature is a last resort crutch that you shouldn’t rely on. When working on sessions that are spanning multiple days, weeks, months. Use the Save As function to create copies of your session at important milestones in your progress that you can fall back on if things go wrong later. Numbering your sessions works fine, naming them with the current date and time, or just describing the current part of the session you were working on are great ways to make your copies valuable tools for you. Make a separate folder for your old session copies so you don’t clutter your session folder and find what works best for you.

Redundant Session Copies:

This might seem obvious, but keep an external backup drive, or spare internal drive for making quick redundancy of your session as often as possible to protect against hard drive failure. Using RAID-1 (mirrored RAID) will essentially do this for you as well. As it keeps your session on 2 identical drives simultaneously. Pro Tools only supports Hardware RAID configurations, and keep in mind that RAID-1, and other RAID modes with data redundancy can slow down disc write/read speeds, which could effect your track count / session responsiveness.

Archival / Session Media Management

When finishing a session, making sure that your archival backup is complete, concise, and safe is extremely important. When working on a session, things can occasionally get out of control. Multiple copies of files might be imported into your session accidentally, your audio/video files get spread across multiple drives, and the session might just get unwieldy. Dedicate some time at the end of your session to properly back up your work by doing the following if you aren’t already.

1. Clean up your session: Delete Redundant / Unused tracks and regions from the session. It might be apparent to you what’s important in the session now, but if you open it up years later, or another engineer needs to access the session, these extra work tracks / redundant regions might prove confusing, and mean the difference between an easy job and a huge pain trying to figure out what the engineer was thinking. Make sure your tracks are named in a clear, concise way, and that they are commented when additional documentation is necessary. When finished cleaning up, select all unused regions in your session, clear them, and save as a new archival session file.

2. Consolidate all media: After cleaning up your session, consolidate all the media you want on your archival backup onto your backup disc(s). This can be done manually, but I prefer to use the ‘Save session copy in…” function in Pro Tools. Select your desired sample rate/bit rate for the copy, and check all the files you want included. This will insure that even if your media is spread across multiple drives, it will all be consolidated into one session folder that you can backup, knowing everything is included.

3. Back up files / settings that are not included in the normal session backup: Common examples of these are take sheets, microphone placement notes, pictures/notes of outboard gear settings, and Audiosuite plug-in setting files. (It’s good to get in the habit of saving your audiosuite plug-in settings in case you need to re-process something using the same settings) Put all these files into a clearly labeled folder and copy it to your newly consolidated archival session.

4. CHECK THE BACKUP: Open your archival backup, and spot check that the session opens correctly, contains all required media, and plays back correctly. All your work will be for naught if something went wrong.

5. Cover your bases: Always have at least 2 copies of your important sessions, and try to keep them in different physical location. Urge your client(s) to take a copy to keep with the other important pieces of the project, and keep one for yourself. If your client cannot take a copy, or you don’t have a client, make 2 copies and keep one drive at your office, and one at home. If you don’t have an office, keep one copy at your mom’s house. If you don’t have a mom, keep it at your dad’s house. You get the idea. Having multiple copies doesn’t do you any good if there is a flood or fire.

Lastly, enjoy piece of mind that your data is as secure and sleep easy at night.

5 Responses to “Session Backup Tips”

  1. I want to back up all my Pro Tools sessions on external drives. When I save a session it won't reopen. I can't find the "save session copy in…" function mentioned above.

  2. Evan says:

    It might just be called "Save Copy In…" in newer version of pro tools. It's in the file menu.

  3. Amado Rafael says:

    Hello Dudes,
    I'm new to digital recording and my son gave me some gear (PC, keyboard, mics, etc.) as a retirement present for I'm a composer and never had time to my musical work, so here I am, a senior with a lot of time and a pile of stuff trying to figure out how to put it together to make it work.
    My question is specifically about hard drives, the PC he made for me have 8GB RAM, motherboard is SVGA nForce 750i SLI4, 4 Hard Drives 250GB(OS), 750GB/1TB/1TB (blanks), he told me to use the 1TB drives for the recording sesions (duplicate) and the 750GB for sounds, plug ins, loops, etc. (he think is the best because a friend told him but they have no idea about recording), then a friend of mine sold me a Digi 002R with Pro tools 7.1 and the DV Toolkit 2 for $400 (he told me to consider it a gift and I seriously believe him) and I bought the crossgrades to PT9 and the Complete Production Toolkit 2, plus the Instrument Expansion Pack for another $500 (another bargain this time from a guy in Ebay) so I spent $900 for a superb set up and I still have no idea how it works but as I said before, time is on my side.
    Now, my question is: if I'm using the 250GB disk for the OS (Windows 7 64bits) and some other software In wich disk should I install Pro Tools 9, and where should I install all the other plugins, virtual instruments and the scary amount of stuff I have?
    Thanks for your time and now my last question is…
    Can I ask you again?


  4. Jose says:

    Thanks dudes, i found this really helpfull


  5. daniel says:

    hey, i just recently got an mbox 3 mini for my MBP and after installation, my PT 9 won’t open. it was working a few days ago and i don’t know what to do.

    i checked my trash bin and found a folder named “session file backups”. i don’t know how this got there but could this be the reason why my PT doesn’t open up anymore?

    could you suggest some things to try? i am new to DAW’s and am extremely frustrated.



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