Help! I Did Something Wrong In Pro Tools - Can I Get My Stuff Back?

02-17-2014 08:38 AM

So you are working on a masterpiece in Pro Tools and something goes wrong, either you edit the audio in a way you did not want to or made a change to an entire session that you now want to get back. We get emails asking if it is possible to roll back time. Here are a few things to consider.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
There’s a few steps you can take to ensure that when things do go wrong that not all is lost, here’s a few things to check off the list.
Session Backups
In your Pro Tools preferences there is an option to have Pro Tools automatically backup your sessions as you are working. Go to the menu Setup/Preferences/Operation

In the Auto Backup make sure the ‘Enable Sessions File Auto Backup’ is enabled and then choose how many copies you want to keep in your archive and how often. These numbers will depend on how dangerously you want to live. This one single option has saved me a lot of lost work when I’ve done something wrong or Pro Tools has crashed on me. When is a backup not a backup?
Name Your Tracks
You might think we are starting to sound like a cracked record but if you need to find a piece of audio in a Pro Tools session then unless you have given it a meaningful name it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack - so name every track the minute you create a new one. Read our 8 Pro Tools basics you can’t afford to ignore.

Backup Your Backups
You can never have enough backups of your precious work, you can either create local copies on another drive or get Gobbler, you can use Gobbler to automatically backup your Pro Tools sessions, which will even include backups of the backups! Find out more about Gobbler here
When You Are Working

No, it not time to sleep but don’t forget you have the option to use the UNDO feature in Pro Tools, or ‘CMD Z’. Pro Tools supports up to 64 levels of undo (this can be set in the Editing Preferences window). Not everything is covered by the UNDO option, but many editing and mix actions are covered. It’s worth opening the UNDO history window so you can see what is getting logged for you to roll back to. It time stamps your actions and you can click on each one of the items in the list to roll back your session to.
Compare The Meerkat

One cool but often overlooked feature in Pro Tools is the COMPARE feature in Pro Tools plug-ins, this enables the user to check the changes made since the current preset was last saved. So load a preset and then tweak to your heart’s content.
Simply Find The Orginal Audio

One of my all-time favourite features in Pro Tools is simply knowing that every piece of audio or CLIP (Previously called regions) is there in the CLIP LIST if I need to go back to it. If you are new to Pro Tools then open the CLIPS list on the right of the Pro Tools window and then you can see all your audio clips. As you start to record new audio or make changes to exisitng audio, then those clips are given new numbers each time you make a change. If you use audiosuite to change the clip then a new clip will be created with a name that denotes in some way to the process used.
Even better of you make a fade or drag the audio in and out with handles then the orginal is still there if you want to get it back simply by pulling the handles back out or removing the fade.
If you think you have screwed up the audio then as a last resort then you can always go back to the clip list and find the original and pull it back in. Hey presto!
One Final Word Of Warning
Of course if you try hard enough you can screw things up so badly you can lose your work. Here are two things to take special note of;

  • In the CLIPS list there is an option to CLEAR selected audio clips - if you don’t know what you are doing then use this option at your peril. Now we have almost limitless hard drive space the need to clear audio to free up space is less necessary. If you don’t know what you are doing then you can delete audio and never get it back.
  • Don’t delete entire session folders, they contain all your Pro Tools work. Back them up too!

Of course things can go wrong, but if you create workflows to account for that possibilty then the worst that can happen may not be the worst that can happen.
Check out our Support Tools page here that covers more troubleshooting