Hi, probably a “newbie style” question, based on a personal need I know :), but I have collected a huge quantity of ambient random recordings during a bunch of years. Really anykind. From a lot of different locations and situations, indoor and outdoor, both of things that were happening and I just recorded on the go as I was there, or prepared recording done in my home studio and little sound lab, of several audio sources and materials. Or intentional visits in places, being in city locations, or in the nature, countryside, some animals, and so forth.
All files are mostly wave, stereo or mono, MS or normal, and some are surround 4 channel (all of them are let say 55%), some are audio extracted as wave from videoclips taken by a decent camera (about 15 %), a bunch of mobile phones audio file formats (about 10%), and a bunch of high quality 320 cbr mp3 I did with a former recorder, some years ago (20%).
Now I’d like to start ordering, cleaning up and listing things a bit. I don’t mean audio editing by now, that will come of course, but simply to catalogue and tag all the files, when possible, to be able to have a more easier and quick access when I will start using those.
Luckily I named a big deal of folders and more or less I now what is what, but other times I have folders with date only, although I somewhat know where I was when I did those recordings and what’s all about.
Then, finally, other folders really need me to listen each file one by one. (My fault as at that time I wasn’t still thinking of building a useful catalogue, I was just compulsively recording for months 😀 knowing that sooner or later I ‘d have started using those recordings).
In the last year I’ve become more of ” a good sound guy” and actually naming folders properly now.
So, all in all, if I may ask your opinion, what would be your way to approach it?
How would you organize the process to make it quick as possible? How would you build folders structures, by contents I guess, as is not important the date, while is more important what’s in that file, and so forth.
How would you tag files and which software would you use?
I know a couple of free audio player that somewhat allows you to build a catalogue of samples and recordings.
One is the Resonic player, another is Aural Probe, but just found them and have still to investigate what you can and cannot do.
Do you guys are aware of any decent freeware software (or commercial stuff that has a version free for personal use) that does a good job in organizing audio files?
I use Windows pc atm, no Mac.
Thanks a lot for reading, and in advance for your answers.
I’m going to be the first to say it – take a look at Soundminer. It’s a a very powerful metadata tool and search engine and would perfectly fit the bill of your description.
Great for cateloging, you can edit multiple fields of descriptions, tags, categories etc. you can add photos if you’ve got them.
It also allows you to do batch inputs and edits which should help speed up the process for you.
There is a built in play back so you can quickly listen to your recordings as well.
Only thing it’s not free, around $200 last time I checked for the basic version. may be worth it in your case.
If not take a look at sound devices wave agent which is a free metadata editor and allows for batch conversions. This combined with an application called Snapper (€60) which is great for previewing waveforms and playback, isnt a bad workaround for speeding up the process.
First, here is another recent DSX discussion starting from an AudioFinder for Mac related question:
you can look there for some suggestions, beyond the AudioFinder software, and for useful pointers to some relevant sources of information.
At any point, the obvious solution is to go for a software/tool dedicated to collecting and organizing large amounts of audio files, i.e. to use a so-called Sound Library Manager. Better, one with the option to handle and write metadata.
The most rated tools are Soundminer and Basehead, while Soundly is a more recent solution built on a cloud-based model. But there are several other solutions, depending on your needs and your budget.
The advantage of using these tools, is that you can theoretically work independently from your folder structure (a problem you point at in your question). You can leave your actual folders, as they originally were moved from your devices, or simply rename some folders to be more consistent. But your original folder structure is by itself a representation of your file collection. I mean, it implicitly retains some original data about your soundfiles: the date, location and equipment used in your recordings, for example, that you could lose or simply forget about it, should you reorganize the contents.
The working scheme of most sample managers is that you can decouple the physical structure (folders/files location on disk) and the organizational one. You can leverage the database-driven concept of having “virtual” organizations of your files, by making use of queries to group and sort the views/listings of your audio contents based on different criteria/combination of requirements. You can generally perform import/export of metadata, collect reports, progressively fill-up extra-info, and so on, without moving your file/folders around to reflect your organizational tabs.
With these tools, possibly with the more “pro-oriented” ones, you normally have a starting collection of relevant informative fields and you can define additional fields at your will, or at least conforming to standards as for the BWAV format. While the descriptive title, the category and subcategory fields, a generic description field and the “transversal” tagging with keywords are the basic elements, you can think of adding several fields based on different kind of data:
– technical data: sample-rate and bit-depth, duration, number of channels (mono/stereo/surround)
– recording data: studio or field recording, equipment and microphones used, recording technique, quality rating
– location data: recording location, indoor/outdoor, day/night or extended daytime, related image
– publishing data: author, publisher, other editorial data
Still you have to consider the chance to add proprietary metadata, balancing your personal cataloguing needs with the constraints of metadata exchange/transfer between applications, if you value the option to do that.
Here is another really interesting article (dating 2010 but still very topical) about this issues:
One note again, pay attention if you plan to edit the soundfiles at a later moment after your data-entry efforts (as you said), use care not to lose your metadata. Depending on the app and on the workflow approach of your choice, metadata are embedded in the soundfile or locked to an external database. Look if your editor can preserve metadata when you perform destructive editing, and look for instructions in the documentation of the sample manager of your choice. Possibly go with precautionary backups and beforehand datasheet exports.
Good luck with your work!
The Sound Devices Wave Agent is free, allows you to edit metadata and also has a batch editor. I also use the Pro Tools 11 Workstation to search for metadata through my audio library.
As a way of organising it, I’d recommend having one system throughout, going from categories to details. So, for example, you could call a file ‘Ambience_Wind_Rain_Dogs_Barking’ indicating that you have an ambience file which contains lots of wind, some rain and a bit of barking. In the metadata you can also use some synonyms, just in case you think of different words when you search for stuff in the future.
Just a quick heads up about something I mentioned above, as I was aware of that, but was not checking it since long, now is pretty developed and stable . It’s Resonic Pro, in beta stage, but actually functional, and thanks to this is fairly cheap, atm, I saw has many functions useful about tag system (Broadcast Wave (BWF), CART, ACID WAV, Apple Loops (AIFF), ID3v2, ID3v1, APE, MP4, Vorbis), editing, organizing, reads a lot of different audio files. Worth a look if you’re interested guys.
And thanks again for your answers.