I’m not much for editing audio. Those that know me and my workflow will see that for the last few years I have mainly used the classic Audioboo app. Recording straight into my phone with a standard mic windshield over one end.
I subscribe to my own Audioboo podcast feed in iTunes to grab the mp3 to my hard drive and also use IFTTT to auto copy the mp3 from my feed into dropbox. This ensures my audio is in three different places. Four if you include my time machine backup.
Occasionally though I will record using a solid state recorder. Especially if I am off the beaten track, outside areas with a GSM signal, needing longer recording times, looking for high quality stereo audio or just compiling long form audio for a later release.
In those instances I can end up with numerous audio files in need of archival and storage. Here is a brief guide as to how I do it:
Archiving Digital Audio
Always record audio at the largest uncompressed quality that’s practical. I’d rather buy a larger memory card and spend time waiting for WAV files to copy across and process, than save space recording a compressed lower quality Mp3.
Once I have copied all of my recordings from my device or memory card to my desktop, I like to review all the clips to see what I have. Use headphones.
I drag my digital audio into a folder on my desktop marked with a project title and date. i.e. ‘Syria 10/09/13’.
I will not delete from the card until I know all my files are archived and in three different places.
Where possible, keep all of your audio clips. A ‘bad’ interview or distorted recording may still contain some valuable ambient or background sound. What you don’t find valuable now may become invaluable in a later edit.
I differentiate between which audio recordings I think have long-term value and those clips that are disposable but may come in handy at a later on. I then drag the ‘good’ clips into a folder marked ‘WAV files‘ and the ‘bad’ into a folder marked ‘Waste’.
I then label the recording with a number, a date and a descriptive title. i.e. ‘001_10/09/13_On the road to Syria.wav‘
Where I have a number of similar recordings or takes I will add an ‘a’, ‘b’ or ‘c’ etc to the end.
File kind, Size, It’s current location path on your computer, the date and time it was last created, the date and time it was last modified, the sample rate, the bit rate, the duration and how many channels it’s recorded as.
For additional metadata you should add a text file to the folder highlighting any missing context in your recordings. Such as location, names of interviewees or additional descriptions that will help in the final edit.
If you choose, you can delete the original files on your recorder once you have copied your named files to at least three separate places. If out on assignment, I like to include the files on the recorder as one of those places unless my recordings are of a sensitive nature. Then it is best to keep the recorder clean and hide the cards on and off your person.
If your audio is of a sensitive nature you will need to secure the data with encryption using something like True Crypt [UPDATE: Truecrypt is no more. Here are some alternatives.] on at least three separate unmarked micro SD cards or USB drives. Look at saving the files to a partition and encrypt that within another.
I record one copy of my named audio files to DVD, one to a RAID array and one stays on my laptop/time machine backup or pocket hard drive. My copies live in at least two separate geographical locations.
Any backup device will degrade overt time, especially those with moving parts. Only buy the best hard drives you can afford and check your backups regularly. Copy data over to newer drives as storage technology advances or at least every 5 years.
So. This is how I do it. There are countless archival systems out there. I’d love to know your methodology. Please leave your tips and tricks in the comments below.
And if like me you love the medium of audio and capture more recordings than your workflow can manage, it may be worth hiring a professional to compile and edit your work. I currently use and highly recommend @Mcfontaine. That said I still have a heap of audio i’m sat on waiting to reach peoples ears.
I care a lot about audio and the moments I’ve captured. Thankfully they are archived and backed up.
There is a CC Licensed version of this guide available as a downloadable PDF here.