I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with audio metadata. When it comes to finding the right sound effect for a project, I love it. When it comes to entering all of that data, I sort of hate it. It’s such a structured thing when compared to the creative process of field recording. Coming up with words and phrases that make each sound effect searchable and unique takes time and mental fortitude!
I’m always trying to find ways to streamline the process. I’ve learned a lot from other recordists. People like Tim Prebble and Paul Virostek have written so much about the subject. I’ve especially been interested in the articles on slating field recordings. You don’t realize how useful slating is until you forget to do it! One problem I’ve had is that there seems to be so much of an unnecessary disconnect between slating and metadata entry. Be it verbal, written, or typed out slates, I always seem to be repeating much of the information upon entering metadata. Why repeat myself? Surely there has to be a way to bridge these steps.
I looked around for apps and software, but nothing seemed have all of the features I wanted. I needed something that:
- Followed my recorders naming scheme and take count
- Allowed for custom fields of data entry
- Exported the data in a way that was friendly with Soundminer
Then it hit me… Google Forms! The data entered in a Google Form can be automatically sent to a spreadsheet, which can then be imported by Soundminer. Before I go into too much detail, let me show you what I’ve come up with:
Go ahead and try it if you’d like. Anything entered on the form above will be populated into the spreadsheet. (NOTE: Although the form data appears in the actual spreadsheet almost instantly, there appears to be a 5-10 minute delay before data shows up in the embedded version of this spreadsheet. Page also must be refreshed.)
There are three fields to enter at this point:
Type: What kind of recording? Ambience? SFX? Impulse response? Miscellaneous?
Description: A description of the recording
Location: Where was it recorded?
So the idea is… as I’m recording, I fill out this form on my phone for each take. Then, through the magic of spreadsheets, a sheet is created with descriptions and locations that correspond to the file names created by my recorder. This spreadsheet may seem simple, but there are a lot of formulas going on here to fill in the “metadata” sheet with the correct information.
To simplify, selecting a “type” tells the spreadsheet what “Scene Name” (CT_AMB, CT_SFX, etc) I have selected on my recorder. By entering the data into the form as I record, the spreadsheet knows what date the recording took place. My recorder is set up to create a daily folder for each day, as well as start over the take count for each day and scene. With all this data, the spreadsheet builds the same filename that the recorder makes.
There’s a lot more that can be done with this, and because it’s a spreadsheet it’s completely customizable to different setups. My end goal is to eventually come up with a system that not only knows file names, but the path to where the file resides on my computer. This would make embedding the metadata very quick. I’ll also probably add a few more metadata fields to the mix. As it stands, though, I think it’s a good start! I’ve been using this setup for the past couple days I’ve recorded, and it’s worked well. It’s been especially useful for recording ambiences; I have plenty of time to listen and type out notes for each recording.
I’m sure this system will evolve as time goes on, and I plan on sharing it when it’s in a state I’d call finished. If anyone is interested in taking a look at the spreadsheet/form as it stands, let me know in the comments and I can share an editable version of the files. If you’re familiar with spreadsheets and Google Docs, it shouldn’t be too hard to create the same set up within your Google Drive and customize to your needs.