Discussion: Non-embedded Audio and Reason file sizes
There's been a handful of random mentions of this, but I can't recall a dedicated discussion.
tl;dr : Do you want an option to disable embedding audio recording/wave files and merely read those files from a hard-drive folder?
We all know that as soon as you record audio into Reason, or import .wavs, the Reason file size jumps, since the wave files are embedded into.
This is fairly basic example of typical usage at JPHQ, and is probably familiar to a lot of users, given that we don't yet have "punch".
Some of us, i.e. me, unfortunately are not "one-take wonders". I usually just set loop points then record multiple takes on that loop until I feel I've got enough to comp together. This means that the saved file is huge. Ok, so I record ten takes, and let's say the file I now save is 700mb.
The next stage is going into comp view and creating a "single" take from that from all the takes made.
From there is where the issue really arises. Good practice is to save a song file with incremental numbering, so you can always go back to the previous version when you realise you screwed the mix up on the current one. So here, for example, v1 would probably be the track as far as I'd got it without doing any audio. v2 would have audio, v3 would be comped. The file size of course is still 700mb, since we haven't bounced anything.
If I continue working on the track as is, with additional increments, then I could soon have v6, and I'd be up to 3.5 GB of disk space.
So ok, instead one needs to bounce that comp'd track, but the first time you'd really have the opportunity to do that, is, in this example , is for version 4! If we say your comp'd track is 100mb, you've still got the entire recording twice - in versions 2 and 3 taking up 1,500 MB.
You can't delete both of those, since you'd lose other takes. If I later (heh, "If"! "When"!!) decide that actually "that bit thar" sounds crap and I need to check alternative takes, I've got to go back to v3, then do another bounce, and re-import it into version 4. Of course, maybe there isn't a better take, so I need to do additional recording in version 4 - but in practice I suspect you'd want to do it in version 5.
So, you recorded new takes in version 5 (another 400mb), save, comp, bounce and save as version 6!
Let's say our file size is now 150mb, and you might end up with a few more versions, v10, and you've got another 600mb there in addition to the earlier versions.
To this day I still haven't figured out what "save and optimise" actually does ;) It doesn't bounce, it doesn't minimise audio tracks to edits or clips.
One anti-argument I've seen is that HDs are massive and cheap. Yes, that's true, but the more HDs fill up, the slower they become, and you have more issues with defragged files. Sometimes you just want to be able to go straight to the original wave file of the recording, maybe for external editing, or just previewing.
One other thing to note: currently, there is also an issue regarding comp mode with tempo changes that both selig and I independently discovered, whereby changing tempo during a track causes the comp positions to adjust - the only current way to avoid that is bouncing. (Incidently, this was No. 4 on the Cuts Death List, although it may not be such as "small fix"). So to have tempo changes in songs with comp'd audio, you have to bounce.
I can understand the ethos behind the auto-embedding in Record 1. After a couple of years in practice, it can be it limiting, and thus I'd like to see a more traditional set-up with an audio-pool system derived from the recording folder.
I'm not sure where I stand on this issue specifically, but generally I'm for it. I guess it has to do with how it's implemented. Rather than give too many specifics, I'll tell you two things I really need to do.
When mixing a collaboration, I need to be able to send the Song File MINUS all the audio, so I can just email the changes to the mix quickly. There's no need to send hundreds of MB (or more) of audio data each time I change a few bytes of mix data.
When mixing for myself, I need to be able to save "versions", which can be stored in the main file or can be separate (like most DAWS). Storing in the main file is fine with me, as long as feature #1 (above) is possible, eg exporting just one version minus all the audio files.
Other misc ramblings:
It's not often I need to access the individual audio files in a song, and exporting can work fine for that. In fact, exporting is currently a perfect solution for me for sharing/exporting final tracks, since it exports full files without the individual clips. This saves time over ReWIring and bouncing in real time, but I only need to do this if I'm leaving the Reason environment (which is happening less and less these days).
Importing files is a bit messy. First issue, (at least for me), a 60 MB file imported into an empty song takes that song to 120 MB - WTF? So the issues with not being able to save "versions" are doubled, no? Instead of having to save 60 MB of audio with every version, you're actually saving double that. I'm not sure how it scales to bigger file sizes, or multiple files, but this is already a bad start!
Second is that there's no time stamp on Reason audio files, so that you can get files back to their original positions if need be. If this were possible you could import multiple clips to their proper location in one command, or quickly put audio back in place if you moved it (even a tiny bit) and later changed your mind.
There are some users that may need to use a library of sounds or FX or logos, etc, that must be (when using Reason) duplicated for every song that uses that file. Other DAWs allow you to simply reference the original file for playback, and you can even leave the file where ever it is.
I KNOW that separating the audio files complicates things, and lord knows I've had to help countless Pro Tools newbs who had audio files scattered (and un-named) all over the place! So the Props, IMO, have a good reason to keep the audio in a single location. But it would be great if they could appeal to both newbs and long time users…
Maybe one solution is how iPhoto deals with data. They put all photos into one file, but you can easily use a command (show contents?) in the finder to view all the individual photos. This allows you to drag/copy specific pics to where you need them, but hides the complexity from most users. Reminds me of the Rack metaphor in Reason, where the advanced features are hiding just below the surface for those who need them, but are otherwise out of the way.
Great discussion subject, btw! :-)
[I almost forgot: my "vote" would be for non-embeded song files for the reasons I've mentioned above, as I can already deal with the embedded audio file issue just fine. I admit this is totally semantics, but it's not the audio embedding that's my issue, it's the song file embedding! So a solution that gives me (even if it's contained in a single file) multiple song "versions" and the ability to export these would solve ALL of my issues, without ever needing to access the individual audio files, if that even begins to make any sense to anyone but me…!]
This is a very good idea for a preference. I don't think it sits well for everyone, but those who have a disciplined file structure in place should get a lot of benefit. Some peeps will struggle with this though, particularly more mobile folks with maybe 2 set-ups, like a home tower, and a laptop for live usage.
+1 for it being optional :)
EDIT: Just spotted this as I was reading Selig's post, and yeah, I think having a time stamping feature for audio file saving would really help a lot in keeping things neat, and thus a bit less volatile when it comes to unhooking the embedded files. As for version numbers I'd have to say that the current paradigm encourages less versions, and this can get to be a bit of a hindrance. Cheers
re point #1, yes, that's absolutely where self-contained makes a lot of sense: as I said in the OP, I can understand Props taking that approach for a system devised for musicians, not engineers.
Having non-contained files can of cause issues where files get moved, folders renamed etc. - but really that's nothing different than the issues we get know with ReFills: as an aside, I have exactly the same ReFill folder structure on the Beast and the Laptop, but swapping songfiles across still keeps returning "missing ReFill" errors!
The wierd "doubling" file size effect, that's... well, wierd.
The other point I forgot to mention though, is I wonder whether this self-containing is one of the factors in the recent Reason slow-down. .reason/.record files are now essentially .zip files, where the audio is extracted to a cache every time you load the songfile. Extracting zip files takes time, plus then having to load it into memory. It would be nice to cut out the "middle-man" and just run the show from HD. From the number of Disc Overload errors I get I'm kind of assuming that audio track—unlike samples that are loaded to memory—is mostly streamed from the extracted cache folder anyway? That's just a guess though.
Edit: Figured I'd watch the loading really closely just now, and the audio seems to load pretty quick in my current case, just the samples take ages. So, ignore that last point. ;)
and I just realised I f'd up the wording a bit on the poll, but I think it's still clear enough.
Hey Matt, in re-reading your original post, it seems that your main concern is saving multiple versions of your song and all the drive space/time that will eat up. If so, this is my main concern as well, which is why I suggest Versions of some sort.
I originally thought you wanted access to the audio files separately because that was the way you worded the subject. But in reading your post, you don't mention ever wanting access to the audio files. So I'm thinking there may be other solutions to the problem.
ONE solution to the issue is to not embed the audio files (as you suggest).
BUT, another solution, one that may be more in line with the Props thinking, is to allow multiple (unlimited) versions to be saved within each song file. Saving a new version simply adds it to the list of 'versions' you can switch between after opening the song file - switching should be instantaneous. You should also be able to copy/paste tracks/data between versions, since these wouldn't be able to be opened at the same time like regular song files.
And as I mentioned previously, the ability to export/import the 'versions' file minus all audio would make it work as well as your original suggestion.
So if there was a choice in the poll for the ability to save multiple "versions" of each song, that's the one I'd vote for! As it is I voted for non-embeded audio, which is my second choice. :-)
I am always afraid to commit my comps because recently I have been digging through my dozens of takes in order to add contrast... especially with different harmony parts. I think the audio in my last song ended up being a gig or something. I'm not sure how it could be circumvented but it would be great if uploading a .reason file to Dropbox didn't take a day and a half.
The OP was a typical "day in the life" type scenario of usage. As you mentioned in your first post, there are other times you might need the waves, needing to wack it through Wavelab and apply a VST effect for example, or times when you just want to email update songfiles to collaborators, or times when you just want to listen to the wavefile without having to load Reason at all.
The trouble I have with Versioning, and I know you or someone else mentioned it before and I probably said it was "cool" or some shit ;), is that thinking about, you're possibly then left with just one file. And if that file corrupts - and it's happened to me twice AFAIR, once a complete recreate where I got too involved and forgot to Save As (that was back in R4 days) - you're ferked!!
So ultimately, I suspect that in practice you'd still end up doing an incremental backup in some form each time you save a Version. ie, each Version you save within Reason, you still also as an incremental save, songfile v14.reason. Of course, maybe RAID users don't worry about that stuff as much!
For Versioning are you still thinking it's ultimately one embedded file, with the option to maybe "Save for Export" where you can deselect Audio tracks and it will only save the sequencer tracks, or external audio? There's always a danger with that setup that you inadvertantly Save for Export over your full workfile. (We've all done it!). There's more to be discussed about Versioning, I'm sure. I don't want to sound like I'm writing it off, but it needs clear "ground-rules"!
I've used the audio-pool system in Cubase in the past, but I much prefer everything being self contained as it is now in Reason. I say give users the option though.
I have a 2TB drive for my music so I aren't running into these problems right now ;-)
I'm also very reluctant to commit comps to bounce, at least early on. I often find that doubling lead vocals works better with alternate takes rather than duping the lead, i.e., the ones that weren't the best, but you can't quite hear they aren't as good since they're low in the mix!
I have wrong vote, p.2
I want this option or option for extract all embed audio to dir.
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