It’s kind of like hanging out at somebody else’s house. You don’t know where everything is, and you need a minute to figure out where the bathroom is.
I come across this issue a lot. Whenever I do a mix for someone, they have to bring in their multitrack recordings. When I produce an artist that has already recorded some demos, they have to bring in their multitrack recordings. When I record a drum kit at another studio, I have to bring in multitrack recordings.
Fortunately, everyone uses different tools (can you imagine how boring it would be if everyone used the same stuff?). I use Cubase. Some of my artists use Logic. Larger studios often use Protools. In the past I’ve also had to bring in recordings from GarageBand, Reaper, Reason and various portable recorders.
The second part of Björgvin’s post is right on. Moving past the confusion of ‘but you don’t use ProTools!‘ and ‘how do I render individual tracks?’, sharing multitracks is actually pretty seamless. It’s probably even faster than importing a native session because I don’t have to sort out which plugins are missing or unravel bizarre group/sidechain routing. I just have to listen to the tracks and make sure the filenames roughly matched their content (not always a safe assumption). The only headaches I’ve come across are when the recordings were made at the wrong samplerate, and I have to make sure I resample them the right way to get the pitch and speed back to normal.
Regarding plugins, I usually tell people:
- EQ and other tone adjustments are (mostly) nondestructive, so keep them on. Unless the artist has never heard of mixing, their tone adjustments usually give me about40%-60% head start.
- Distortion and compression is destructive, so I usually advise the artist to give me the raw audio. The only exception is when s/he really likes the compression/distortion – in which case I usually ask for both (raw and processed), because half the time the audio sounds like it was run through a Boss Metal Zone.
- Reverb is always terrible. I don’t want to know. If the artist really really really loves that muddy metal tank, I’ll hear what s/he was trying to achieve when I hear the rough mixdown. I know lo-fi is cool and all, but if you want to bring it to reverb, just use a Karplus-Strong comb filter and be done with it.
- Delay would normally be in the same boat as distortion/compression (destructive), except I find most artists tend not to go stupid with delays. Thankfully.
Once my artists and clients understand this, collaboration is pretty seamless.