September 06, 2011, by Kyle P. Snyder
You’ve just finished a killer tracking session, one that you really want the ability to recreate, so now what?
I’m generally confident in my memory for microphone placements and studio setup, except that plans change and what may have been easy to remember tomorrow suddenly needs to be compartmentalized until everyone is available again next month.
Plus, there’s no remembering compressor or EQ settings, let alone values for gear that has less than descriptive front panels.
So, what’s an engineer to do? Well, the obvious answer is documentation of some form. I’ve engineers over the years who wouldn’t take the time to write down a setting unless contractually bound.
However, I’ve been convinced by many that documentation is not only necessary for when a client comes back next year for an emergency remix, but also that documentation is of intrinsic cultural and historic value after the fact.
After all, you never know what may become of that last-minute project you did last week, and it’s always valuable to be able to look back. All this having been said, what form of documentation you use depends completely on your work-flow and needs. So, let’s take a look at some of the options.
There’s nothing quite so simple as good old pen and paper. When I’m running around a studio or venue just trying to get work done minute to minute, this is more than likely how I’m going to keep track of data.
I’ve created my own take sheets, track sheets, and session logs which I print off and use when I’m in a hurry. However, If I’m working and just trying to keep track of information, there’s no separating me from my Moleskine.
Of course, paper being paper, it is susceptible to damage. The next time I’m working an outdoor venue I really want to try Rite in the Rain All-Weather Paper.
Sometimes, there’s just no time to write. Really, I’ve been there, and it’s a pain. However, if you’re packing a camera while you’re working, you can settle on an equally useful compromise; pictures.
Even though you might not have a detailed diagram of the setup or precise details of settings, snapping a few pictures before you hurriedly move on in a busy setting is often all you need to piece it all back together at a later date.
This is just as useful for capturing the front panels of gear as notating exactly where that tom mic was. Whether you’re rocking a compact point-and-shoot or a trusty Digital SLR, a camera is a fantastic way to keep track of details in the heat of the moment.
Analog + Digital
Sometimes, no matter what images you capture of a session, the best information can only be captured by words.
That’s why I trust Evenote with my mobile and desktop note taking.
With clients for your Web Browser, Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, you’ll always have access to your information.
Sweetening the deal further, Evernote has the ability to take pictures, OCR the text, and make it searchable; perfect for napkin documentation I’m always jotting down after the fact.
While you can often capture your settings in pictures and words, sometimes you just need more.
Enter Teaboy Audio with their Recall Sheet Software.
“Teaboy is an online service for taking recall notes of your recording sessions. Instead of using traditional pencil and paper, you get real pictures of your outboard gear that you can manipulate like you would with a software plug-in.”
The program allows you to manage your data with pinpoint accuracy and synchronize your data to a central server. Plus, since it’s Java based, you can use Teaboy’s Recall Sheet Software on any system on that supports Java.
If you like the idea of maintaining digital documentation like text or Word documents and pictures but want a more flexible solution, there’s no better solution than the versatile (and free!) Dropbox.
Any file you put into your Dropbox folder is automatically backed up to our servers.
Even if your computers and iPhone have a melt-down, the files stored in Dropbox are safe and can even be accessed from the web.
This makes the free 2GB Dropbox account the perfect solution for syncing plug-ins, settings, session notes, mixes, pictures, and more to any studio.
It’s probably no surprise that I don’t stick to just one documentation solution. In fact, I love my Moleskine, I’d be lost without a camera, Evernote and Dropbox are an integral part of my work-flow, and I even used Teaboy’s software when it was in beta.
While a multi-part solution works for me, the important thing is finding a solution that works for you. After all, you never know what minuscule detail could make a monumental difference.
What are your thoughts on documentation? Have a favorite method that never lets you down? Whatever your thoughts or experiences, let us know in the comments below!
The Technologist, a.k.a. Kyle P. Snyder, is an audio engineer with innumerable credits in the public and private sector, writing about audio engineering, recording technology and a multitude of other topics as Associate Editor of ProSoundWeb. Find out more about Kyle at his website and blog http://kpsnyder.com.
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