Most of us know that when you save a project in your DAW, the audio files often ‘live’ separately from the project file that ties it all together. There are a lot of times where you might want to utilize a similar project setup between songs. Maybe you’re mixing a band’s album, and their ‘core’ group of instruments is the same across the board. Maybe you’ve created a killer kick drum sound for a song and you want to port it over to the other songs. Most of the time, you could probably just save presets within your plugins, but what happens when you have multiple plugins on a single track?
Session data import and export workflow can save you an incredible amount of time as well as help keep a consistent ‘sound’ to your entire album. Logic allows you to save all of your plugins at once to a channel strip setting, but what if you’ve also integrated some complex routing? Like most producers, I like to bus my drums, apply some more effects at the bus level, maybe send an aux to a reverb plugin… it can be a drag setting this up every time!
So what am I talking about when I say ‘session data’? Think everything that makes your mix, well, your mix! The plugins on each track, the track names, the routing, the bussing, even the volume and pan of each track can be imported from session to session in a quick and convenient manner. This saves you a bunch of time, and helps you keep some consistency in multi-song mixes from track to track.
I’m not suggesting DAW manufactures don’t want you to know about how to copy session data from one project to the next, but I’m certainly suggesting that not enough of us actually do it. I’d like to take a look at how both Pro Tools and Logic handle this time-saving and continuity-inducing technique.
Pro Tools has a fairly straightforward and clear way to import data from one project file to another. Simply go to File -> Import -> Session Data and you’ll be treated to the session data import screen. From here, you’ll be able to choose quite a few different options.
First, you’ll want to choose what tracks in your previous session get mapped to tracks in the new session. If you take a look at the sample image, you’ll see I have the kick mapped to kick, snare mapped to snare, and so on. I used the ‘match tracks’ feature which usually works quite nicely! If you’d like to bring in data from a track that is named significantly differently, you can always map that manually with the drop down menu.
You can also control the scope of the data you’re importing. In the sample image, you’ll see the different options of what specific track data to import. You can import everything from single plugins to complex routing and bussing. You can even import audio and active playlists if you want!
At the very bottom of that window, you’ll find some options that are more global to the project like the tempo and meter map. You can port over window configurations, markers, memory locators, and mic preamp settings if you happen to be utilizing Pro Tools hardware that supports it!
When choosing destinations, you can also opt to have Pro Tools automatically create a new track for any old channel strip you happen to be importing. This is handy if you haven’t set up a drum or reverb bus yet, and when you utilize it all of your previous routing will get ported over. It’s a real time saver!
In Logic Pro X there isn’t really an ‘import session data’ menu option. You’ll find functionality similar to Pro Tools, however, in the File -> Import -> Logic Projects menu item. Once you’ve chosen the project you’d like to import from, a media browser will pop up on the right side similar to the loop or project inspector.
From here you’ll see a list of all of the tracks in your previous project. You’ll see the track names, an option to port over content from the track, plugins, sends, I/O, and more. Project settings have their own button down at the bottom of this window.
You’ve got two choices when importing from here. After checking off the boxes and choosing the scope of your import, you have the ability to either replace or add. If you click the ‘add’ button, Logic will create new tracks with settings ported over from your source file. If you choose ‘replace’, Logic will replace your current track settings, channel strip, and anything else you checked off with data from your source file. If you’ve got fx buses and routing, Logic will handily ask you if you’d like to create them automatically upon import if you haven’t made them in your new file yet.
Although Logic Pro X does support saving of channel strip settings and much of this can be handled through that workflow, channel strip settings don’t necessarily port over mix settings like I/O, bussing, volume, pan, and automation. The ability to import that information from other projects has saved me loads of time on countless projects!
Well, that’s the ball game! Hopefully you’re now excited to start sharing data between sessions and saving yourself a ton of time. This feature has only gotten more robust over time, and hopefully as computers and DAWs evolve, we’ll see even more features being added to the process. I’ve got my fingers crossed that AAF/OMF export will eventually one day be folded into this process and we’ll be able to read plugin chains, bus routing, and more from various DAWs!