January 21st, 2009 – If you’re an Ableton Live user hungry for the version 8 upgrade, you’ve no doubt heard Ableton’s sales pitch for the new “share” function. For those of you who aren’t considering Ableton Live 8, you can still collaborate easily without this functionality, and you can do it right now. While my experiences are mostly with Logic Pro, these techniques should work with any DAW.
Half a decade ago, social networking, and the collaborating culture were gaining momentum. It was becoming cool to do things over great distances. At the time, I was using Logic exclusively. A few colleagues and I thought it would be cool to try collaborating on tracks live and online. We set up a video conference on iChat (yes there was some latency), we could hear the project on either end, and we sent frozen tracks (which are a feature to save processing power by creating audio files with the processing already done; normally that’s transparent to you, but we found where Logic was putting them) to each other. It wasn’t elegant, but certainly workable.
These days, SVN (short for subversioning) is becoming mainstream and it’s easier to set up than ever with tools like DropBox. The idea behind SVN is that there is a shared repository for files. Copies of the files reside on the computers of everyone who has access to the shared folder. When one person makes a change, they then “check-in” the file. The next time the collaborator updates their shared folder, it pulls the newest version of the file. This means that only the files that have been updated or changed are downloaded which saves time and bandwidth resources considerably.
The problem with setting up SVN, is that it can be daunting for people not used to setting up networks. Hamachi makes this pretty easy, but DropBox is is by far the easiest tool I’ve seen. All you do is download the DropBox software (available for either Mac, PC, or Linux), and that’s about it. DropBox is meant to be an online storage tool (of which 2 gigs is given with the free account), but you can also share folders with other people. Make changes to a file that’s in your DropBox folder and it automatically updates, doing the file check-ins and updates for you. If you give a collaborator access to the folder, you can put a project in there and work concurrently. You could even do iChat screensharing for live collaboration and then save the file and update it for your partner to work on while you watch. Potentially this could be even more useful than Ableton’s share feature. Still, I’ve been hearing good things about the new Ableton. I might check it out since I want to start performing live more often.