Preparing Audio Tracks for Export

INTRODUCTION
In this article we are going to discuss preparing your individual audio files for exporting. The process will involve consolidating or merging your audio tracks, which we will be explaining in depth here. Basically, consolidating an audio track consists of making sure that the track is represented by only 1 audio file. If you have done any punching in on a track, that track will be made up of several audio files, one for each punch-in or take, all starting at different times in the song. We’re gonna glue all those takes together so we export only one audio file per track. During this process is a great time to think about clearly naming the new files you are creating. We will be discussing ideas for naming your files in the next article “Exporting Audio Project Files”

FIRST STEPS

  • backup your project on a separate hard drive
  • check all edits and crossfades on any tracks you will be consolidating and make sure there are no clicks or pops and the edits are exactly the way you want them. I suggest that you make a duplicate copy of the take, solo the duplicate, and inspect it first.

STAYING “IN SYNC”
It’s important for everyone working on the same song to be able to keep the audio tracks “in sync”. “In sync” means that all tracks remain perfectly in time with each other. There is no such thing as “about in sync”. Tracks that slip even a little bit in relation to each other can destroy the feel of the song. If you are exchanging the entire song file, syncing files should not be an issue as the timeline is being exported along with the audio files. But here we are discussing exchanging individual audio files, files will be exported and then reimported into a new sequence, and thus will have to line up exactly as they did in the original sequence from which they were exported.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING TRACKS “IN SYNC”
The most common method for keeping tracks in absolute sync is to construct every track to start at zero before exporting. When you export a track that starts right at zero, the person importing the track just needs to drop the track into his session and make sure it starts at zero. Which is as easy as dragging the file all the way to the left of the tracks window. For most of your tracks, actual recorded audio will not start at zero. Many parts won’t actually start playing until well into the song. But when the actual audio begins is not important. What is important is that the audio FILE starts at zero. Which means that the audio file will probably begin with silence. At zero.

Let me illustrate: In the example below you see an audio track in the tracks window. Notice that this track is made up of several short sections of audio starting at various places in the timeline. In order to export this track in a format that’s easy to sync up, you need to consolidate these smaller audio files into one continuous audio track that starts at zero.

DIY7track_pre merge
(Digital Performer)

After you have consolidated this track, it will look like this:
DIY7track_postmerge
(Digital Performer)

Notice you have one continuous audio track here that starts at zero. Your next move is to simply export this track in the proper format. (note: .mp3 files do not sync up very tightly due to some extra space that the format uses at the top of the file for meta info. Stick with .aif or .wav files)

All of the DAW programs use slightly different terminology for this procedure. In most cases, you highlight all the audio sections of a particular track from zero until the end of the song then you consolidate them into one track. In Digital Performer, the menu item is Audio>Merge Soundbites. In Protools, Edit>Consolidate. Logic uses the “Glue Tool”. You’ll need to check your softwares manual or search the internet for instructions specific to your program, but that’s the general idea.

SUMMARY
Back up up your files before starting. Then, check all the edit and crossfades on the tracks that you will be exporting. Consolidate the files to start at zero and use a naming convention that provides useful information to help you and your collaborators stay organized.

NEXT: Exporting Audio Project Files
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