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Transferring tracks from one DAW to another

“A friend of mine started a recording project on his PC based DAW system, but we want to finish it on my Macintosh based Digi 001 system to take advantage of it’s more powerful mixing and processing features. How do I go about importing it into my system?”

Well, you’ve left quite a few potential questions unanswered here so I will take the writer’s liberty of jumping to a few logical conclusions as I answer. There are basically two ways to get started: 1) Transfer the audio data over digital connections, and 2) transfer the file data from your PC hard drive to your Mac hard drive.

The ideal way is option #1, if you have enough digital I/O to transfer all the audio you need to keep separate simultaneously. If not (which I suspect is the case) you can either try to synchronize the two systems together (a whole can of worms in itself) and transfer the tracks over multiple passes, keeping them in sync. Or you can transfer the tracks without the systems being synced. The digital word clock between the two should take care of any timing problems (the tracks will not “drift” from one another). You will just have to realign the tracks once they are in the Digi 001 (more on that in a minute).

Option #2 is best if you don’t have an easy way (or time) to transfer the tracks digitally. Your PC based system most likely saved the audio tracks as .wav files. If you can get them transferred over to your Mac hard drive your 001 system can import those into your Pro Tools software. There are a number of ways to get that transfer done ranging from networking to burning a CDR, or putting it on a Jaz (or other removable media) disk. If you are uncomfortable with this just go back to option #1. Once the tracks are imported you will have to realign them so they play in time with one another.

There is no way to really import your session document. This is the file on your PC (or Mac) that keeps track of the session: where you’ve made edits, where all the audio regions are positioned, and any mixing levels or processing. You will have to recreate most of this information in Pro Tools. But you have to start by getting the tracks aligned so they play in time with one another. This isn’t that hard if you take one extra step before doing the transfer. Go in to the session while it is still on the PC and record a simple 4 bar click track on all of the tracks before the song starts. These clicks will give you a reference to use once the audio is in Pro Tools for alignment. Just slide the regions around in Pro Tools until the clicks all sound like one click (no flaming, phasing, etc.). Once you have them synced you’re all set. If you bring the data in using a file transfer the click probably will not help because it is likely your PC will record this new data as a separate file. In that case you will just have to move the regions around in Pro Tools until they are in time with each other. This isn’t as easy as having a definite click, but it’s certainly doable.

Another important distinction between the file transfer method and the digital transfer method is that in the file transfer method every little piece of audio you recorded is likely to show up as a unique file that will have to be imported, positioned, trimmed, and level adjusted in Pro Tools. If you transfer the tracks digitally you will end up with several long tracks corresponding to each output of your other system. There are obviously pros and cons to each method and you should think through the benefits of each before deciding how to do it. It’s not that hard to edit sections apart again in Pro Tools if you have to.

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