Pro Tools Tip: Sharing Between Sessions

What can you do when you want, or need, to bring something from one Pro Tools session to another? Joe Albano explores how to share between sessions in this must-know article.  

There are a lot of situations where you may find that you want or need to bring something from one Session into another Session. Settings from plug-ins are one example—you may have created the perfect delay or effect in a particular song, and now would like to re-use it in another song. Or you might have created the perfect fade-out with automation, and want to re-use it. Or you may have two different recordings of the same tune, in different sessions, and you’d like to try an audio track from one version in the other—complete with edits and fixes.

Plug it in

Well, there are a number of ways that elements of a Session can be shared between Sessions. For plug-ins, it’s easy. Every plug-in, including third-party plugs, has its own folder for settings. Besides any factory presets you might find there, you can store your own settings, via the Presets pop-up at the top of the plug-in header. These settings will then be available to that plug-in in any other song, via the pop-up menu just below. Easy as pie..

Saving and loading user settings in Pro Tools plug-ins

Saving and loading user settings in Pro Tools plug-ins.

Import Session Data

But what if you want to bring in a whole chain of plug-ins from a track in another song? Or the audio from a track, along with edits, playlists, and automation? Well, for that, you can turn to Pro Tools’ Import Session Data command.

This powerful Import feature gives you the ability to selectively bring in just about anything you need from another Pro Tools Session. Once you choose the Session file you want to Import from, you’re presented with a dialog box with a very comprehensive set of options.

The Import Session Data dialog box

The Import Session Data dialog box.

The top sections deal with the technical aspects of sharing data—particularly audio data—between Sessions. The technical info of the source Session is listed, so you’ll know if there will need to be any conversions made, to get that data playing properly in the current (destination) Session. For example, if the Sessions are not at the same Sample Rate, you’ll have to enable SRC (Sample Rate Conversion), and set it appropriately. 

Make it Musical

There are also options as to where, in the timeline of the destination Session, any audio or MIDI data will be placed—this can be set in musical values (bars/beats) or realtime (min/sec, SMPTE).

Import options for SRC and timeline placement

Import options for SRC and timeline placement.

Media Options

Under Media Options is a very important choice—whether to copy any audio (and video) files to the destination Session’s Audio Files folder, or to leave the audio where it is, in the original (source) Session’s Audio Files folder, and access in from there. If the destination Session is in that same folder, then “Link to source media” makes the most sense—the audio files are already where they should be, no need to duplicate them. But if the destination Session is in a completely separate Session Folder, then Copying the audio files would be the safest bet, to insure they stay with the new Session, through any backups or re-locations. 

Import options to copy audio to the new Session or reference it from the original location.

Import options to copy audio to the new Session or reference it from the original location.

Set the Source

The key sections of the dialog are the Tracks and Session Data areas. Under Tracks, you’ll see a list of all the tracks (Audio, MIDI, Auxes, etc) in the source Session. For each track to be imported, you can choose to create a new track in the destination Session, or use an existing track. It’s important to note that exactly what will happen to audio and data already in the existing track will depend on the other settings made just below, in the Session Data area.

Import options to choose source and destination tracks

Import options to choose source and destination tracks.

Final Choices

In that Session Data area, you’ll make the key decisions as to what you’ll bring in from both the rulers and the tracks selected above. From the Rulers, you can choose to import the source Session’s Tempo/Map, along with any other song-related elements, like Key Signatures and Markers.

For the audio and MIDI tracks, by default, everything will be included—all audio/MIDI clips, plug-ins/settings, auxes, level & pan settings, automation, even Elastic Audio edits.. But the real convenience of this comes from the option to pick and choose only the elements you want. The most important setting is presented under Main Playlist Options—do you want to bring in the audio/MIDI clips in the (main Playlist of the) source Session track(s). And if you’ve chosen to import into an existing track, do you want to overwrite any clips already there, add to them (this might make sense if you’re importing from a track with only choruses to a track with only verses, for example), or not bring in the audio/MIDI at all, just the other elements in the channel strip—the “Track Data”..

The specific Track Data to be imported can then be selected from a long list on the pop-up menu below, “Track Data to Import”. Here you can opt to import just specific items, like Clips & Playlists, a chain of Plug-Ins (don’t forget to select both “Plug-In Assignments” and “Plug-In Settings”), selected Automation data, or Send assignments, among others..

Import options for track playlists (audio/MIDI clips) and other track data

Import options for track playlists (audio/MIDI clips) and other track data.

Once all your selections have been made, then the clips and other data from the selected tracks can be imported (“OK”), and are ready to go in the destination Session. It’s tempting to just leave the default setting (Import “All” Track Data) on—that’s what many people I know do—but being more selective about what’s brought in makes the whole Import Session Data feature way more convenient.. And, after all, that’s the name of the game!

Joe is a musician, engineer, and producer in NYC. Over the years, as a small studio operator and freelance engineer, he's made recordings of all types from music & album production to v/o & post. He's also taught all aspects of recording and music technology at several NY audio schools, and has been writing articles for Recording magaz... Read More

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