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When you create a new session file, Pro Tools actually creates an entire folder that contains many subfolders that hold all of the files related to the session. So I am going to hide Pro Tools and look at this new_session folder. Here are the contents. The new_session.ptf file is the session file. That stores all of the session data, but it does not store audio or video data; it only points to the audio and video files on your hard drive.
The audio files are kept in the separate Audio Files folder. They are not part of the session. This is very important to understand. They exist separately in this folder, and the session file simply references them and tells the hard drive what parts of the files to playback. The same goes for the video files. The Fade Files folder contains files for each fade and crossfade made in the session. These are saved as waveform files and are reference by the session, just like audio files are. However, Fade Files can be erased, and Pro Tools can recreate them because they are saved as part of the session file as well, which is not the case for audio files.
The waveform cache file stores all of the waveform display data for a session. This allows Pro Tools to open more quickly. If you delete this file, Pro Tools will rebuild it. When you activate the auto backup preference in the Operations Preference page in Pro Tools, Pro Tools creates backup copies of your session automatically. Those backups are stored in the Session File Backups folder. Now, there are two things that you should know by seeing the session folder setup here. First, when you record audio, create fades, etcetera, those files are created in a nonlinear fashion.
They're not all in a row like they would be if you're recording to analog tape. For instance, you can record audio files to multiple different hard drives and Pro Tools can still pull all of those various files together and play tiny little pieces of them in the session and play them all back at once or in succession. Second, it's important to understand that editing an audio file in Pro Tools is nondestructive. Because the audio files are separate from the Pro Tools session, almost anything you do to the audio file in the session will not harm the original audio file.
So, now you know that a Pro Tools session actually pulls data from multiple sources, all contained in separate files and folders within the overall session folder. I recommend keeping them all together within the session folder so that Pro Tools can find them easily.
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