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I've met sound designers who meticulously write down every little thing that they do, and I've met sound designers who get done with a project and have no idea how they arrived at the final product.

How do you document your work and ideas? Or don't you? Do you keep a notepad by your desk? By your bed? Do you use a voice recorder?

Personally, I keep a moleskin journal on me at all times. It comes to my edit station with me, in the field with me, to the grocery store with me. I also like huge easel paper to brainstorm ideas on.

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Evernote is amazing for this kind of works. I use it a lot for different tasks. And you can have it on your mac, windows, iphone, android, blackberry, or just in your web browser :D Also, for collaboration on the net, Google Docs is perfect for me :)

  • Haha, great minds! Was just about to mention evermore too - just downloaded the app on my phone and it seems like a cool solution to the whole note-taking/organising issue. – Michael Maroussas Aug 24 '10 at 21:43
  • Evernote I mean - bloody iPhone spellcheck.... – Michael Maroussas Aug 24 '10 at 21:44
  • I don't know why I didn't think of Evernote. – Dave Matney Aug 25 '10 at 0:31
  • I use Voodoo Pad & Dropbox for similar purposes – user49 Aug 25 '10 at 2:00
  • That's another great tool! Dropbox. I use it quite a bit too :) I've don't tried Voodoo Pad yet.. – Miguel Isaza Aug 25 '10 at 3:24
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I use a combination of the script, a moleskin, my iPad, google docs spreadsheets (easy to share) and ProTools markers... I really wish the latter would import/export - simple database stuff really: timecode, marker name, marker description... Scripts get drawn on & covered in post-its... Some projects I use a simple Filemaker database (with Quickeys script for copying timecode out of PT, switch to FM, create a new record, paste timecode, tab to description)

most reliable: Moleskin + glow in dark pen

  • @Tim Aren't the marker names/descriptions able to be exported with Export Session as Text option? – Utopia Aug 24 '10 at 21:19
  • I really can't understand why after all this time and despite being so widely used, pt markers still have such limited functionality; they could be so much more useful than they are. – Michael Maroussas Aug 24 '10 at 21:40
  • @Tim Only thing I can suggest is using region groups to type text into those and saving PT session as text. – Utopia Aug 24 '10 at 21:55
  • @Tim start and end timecodes are included in the text doc of the region groups and the region group can take a lot of text... I think that would work better than your QuicKeys contraption. – Utopia Aug 24 '10 at 21:58
  • But Region Groups do not conform well, which is half the point of using markers! – user49 Aug 25 '10 at 1:59
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For inspiration that strikes me while away from the desk I used to keep a moleskine in my bag, but once I got my iPod touch I just started using the Notes app. It's not as personal and engaging (or as @tim says, reliable) as writing down notes by hand, but it's one less thing I have to carry around with me. Haven't graduated to Evernote yet because in iOS 4 I have all new notes default to my gmail.com account. As a result, they show up in gmail filed under a "Notes" label so they're accessible pretty much anywhere.

Oftentimes I haven't a clue about how I got to a final sound. That is unless I know that I'll need to recreate the process multiple times for additional FX. When using TDM /RTAS I'll typically build on multiple tracks, re-record to the appropriate # of channels, then Hide and Make Inactive the build tracks. Its a relatively easy way to not only backtrack, but also keep track of sounds I built vs sounds I pulled from the library.

When using AS, I'll jot down what I use as I go on a legal pad (which is always nearby) and save new presets as "soundname-process order" e.g. "Devil Wind-A", "Devil Wind-B", etc. When I'm finished I'll then create a new piece of silence about 1-2 seconds long above the AS'd file (select an unused section in the timeline then hit Opt+Shift+3) and rename the silence with the order of AS plugins I used. So I wind up with a file called something like "Devil Wind Q10 RComp PitchShift TLSpace PitchShift." I very rarely run out of characters and if I do I just abreviate, pull spaces, or make a new silence file (or realize I've gone too far). I'll typically mute the region, but it's silence so it really shouldn't matter.

This is also a great way to import/export marker notes. I'm not a quickkeys user but I'd imagine it would be easy to script something that creates a new mono track, goes to the first marker, copies the note, selects +:01 on the new track, makes a new file, renames the file by pasting the note, goes to the next marker, and repeats?

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I have no idea how I made the sounds I worked on yesterday! :) I try and save sessions of sounds that I think I might want to reference again someday. For many years I didn't do this. I felt that I didn't want to live off the past and wanted to force myself to be creative every time. I'd trash everything once the project was complete.

That way of thinking becomes an issue when you have a client who wants a new sound that sounds like that old sound you made. Or you get called to do a sequel that builds off the old sound you made years ago. Also, I'm still trying to figure out how I made some of the Call of Duty explosions back in 2003, but, I nuked all that material when I left that franchise. I'm pretty terrible at taking notes, But these days I try to back up all of my sessions and keep them around (or at least don't deliberately trash them anymore).

  • I would have no use for paper notes, but that's because I wouldn't read them. – Rene Aug 24 '10 at 22:52
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i use notepad but sometimes quick ideas requires a text in cellphone or any gadget that can be in a pocket

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On almost every project I've worked on I have had flashes of inspiration when I'm away from the studio. I often found myself scribbling down ideas on random scraps of paper. I'd then transfer these to a general notepad that I keep at my desk. I got pretty fed up with having tons of folded up paper in my pockets so now I always carry some sort of diary / notepad around. The ideas are still flowing and my pockets are lighter!

As for my work flow, as I said, I always keep a notepad at my desk and will generally make a lot of notes as I go along. I also use Word or Text Edit to keep a digital version of the notes and very, very regularly make 'To Do' lists for the upcoming tasks. I find that the more I note things down, the more efficiently I work. Being able to back-reference older projects and / or how I created a certain effect has been very useful in the past.

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Presets! I usually save my processing as plugin presets and make a note of the plugin chain. If I'm designing on Nuendo or Logic it's easier since the whole channel strip can be saved as a preset.

Beyond that I don't usually make notes nor do I use templates. I prefer starting on a fresh slate. Any spontaneous ideas are noted down on my phone which is synced to Google Docs.

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The closest I come to documenting how i did anything is with markers and regions groups inside the pt session, and with the metadata that I use in soundminer.

I'm hyper meticulous about sfx metadata because it helps me find my many common starting (or finishing) points in the heat of a project. during the course of a project I'll spot inside of protools and using edicue if I need to. If I find myself with a cool sound that I think will come in handy in the future, I export it to a folder called "sfx to be filed" and then forget about it. I manage my "to be filed" folder on the weekends or during slow times - at that point I do my editing, eq, and metadata tagging.

Outside of that, I just about never write anything down or otherwise document it. I just do it and move on.

We back up all of our sessions and media on 800gig DLT tapes twice daily, so if I ever need something I can just recall it and look at what I did.

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I carry a handheld recorder with me at all times, so if i'm say taking a walk in the park and i have an idea, what i do is just record a description of a sound or of a sequence. The cool thing about this is that you can make vocalizations to mimic the sounds you want to create. Of course it also makes you look silly...

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I prefer to jot down and sketch in a small moleskin pocketbook, scrap recycled paper on my desk and a big dry erase board on the wall. I take photo's of these notes with my iphone and save them with the project.

I'm often creating original special sound effects in the KORE environment and so thats like a big snapshot of all the instrument and effect settings. I track the audio into Protools.

  • Ah yes, the whiteboard is clutch. I actually use one of those huge 3M easel paper pads, but functionally, it's the same. Besides the whole erasing and starting over part. But yeah, large plots of blank space to jot down ideas, draw lines between stuff, etc... Good stuff – Colin Hart Aug 29 '10 at 19:58

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