Follow up - Using Obsidian to Produce an Album
This is a follow up on my previous post about using Obsidian for project management while recording an album.
So how's that album?
Hey, thanks for askin'. The album itself is taking far longer to complete than I had anticipated. It's one of those things where it takes as long as it takes. I'm behind where I wanted to be, but I'm sure glad I never said any dates out loud.
I'm in the mixing process currently. So the album isn't done, but I'm deep enough into it to have given my Obsidian method a fair shake.
My heart's desire
I wanted the ability to quickly move between songs to prevent fatigue and to discourage my tendency to make a bad result worse by riding it into the ground. I'm happy to report that I succeeded on both fronts. I'm able to keep myself fresh by slowly bringing the bottom of the whole album upward at once, rather than only a song or two at a time. With some discipline, I also mostly avoided digging holes that were too deep.
So let's review my needs:
Be able to see the status of an entire song, e.g. writing, recording, mixing, done
Be able to see the status of individual instruments/tracks within the song, e.g. writing, scratching, recording
Be able to quickly change the status of something
Be able to add notes to songs so that I can remind myself what needs done or for details of the current state of the song
It's possible, but my lack of discipline prevented me from really utilizing this
Be able to take notes or view statuses on any of my devices
Maybe? I haven't needed this feature yet. Maybe when it comes time to write down mix notes when I'm doing a car test I'll put it to work. But it turns out I didn't really need it.
Have the lowest possible friction, so that I actually use the danged thing
Yep yep! I didn't make full use of everything I intended, but it was a result of poor discipline, rather than tools getting in my way.
How did the Kanban board work out?
It was great. Hands down the best feature. Having small cards and specific boards meant that I could quickly get in and get out of a board without wasting any time on fiddling with tools, leaving more time to fiddle with the music tools instead.
Once a week I like to go top down through each song and check the status of each board with what's actually in my DAW. Sometimes I let it get behind, but updating the status in the boards only took moments. Doing this little bit of book keeping also helped keep my thoughts fresh for each song (which would have worked better if I was a better note taker).
How about note taking?
As you already know, I didn't do a very good job taking notes. Wasn't the fault of my method or tools, I'm just lazy.
I did take some notes sometimes and was always thankful when I did.
What about the master status page for each song where you could see notes, status, and whatever else combined in a single view?
Hardly used it. Since everything was text based with good file names in a directory structure in a single application, it was easy enough to just open the files I wanted and take a quick look. I'll likely remove these pages on future projects.
How did it work out on multiple devices?
I thought I would need this feature but have never actually used it. Let me check quick and see how it goes. Be right back.
Eh, never mind on that. I would have used iCloud to sync it with my phone, but that requires some fiddling in the file system and I just can't be bothered with that now. The only use case I can see for this now is for taking notes on mixes when I'm doing a car test.
It won't be a big deal if I just want to use my phone for notes later. Just have to put the vault somewhere on iCloud where Obsidian on iOS can see it.
That wouldn't cut it for working on multiple computers. There's two options for that, Syncthing and Obsidian Sync. The former is dead simple and can be had for free, but you have to get iCloud involved if you want to sync with iOS and Obsidian. The latter is probably the easiest solution, but it requires another subscription and I'm sick to death with subscriptions.
So how low friction is the method?
It's the lowest friction project management that I've ever applied to myself. As one guy working on one thing, it's perfect. I'm not sure how it would scale. A couple people working in dropbox (or similar service) could probably get a lot of miles out of it too.
Any cool discoveries?
So Finder (it's the file explorer on a Mac) has a view that shows directories as more of a tree, just like Obsidian. Being able to work with my files exactly the same way in all my tools was liberating.
Any big wins?
The biggest win was keeping me on track with songs that I would have neglected. Some songs are darlings that I want to spend every moment on, and others are challenges that intimidate me. Without a high level view I'm far more likely to spend all my time with the darlings.
Whenever I felt fatigued or like I was spinning my wheels I'd pull up my boards and see which song is the furthest behind. I could jump into it immediately and take care of some quick business or I could use the opportunity to prepare for the next day/session if it was a difficult one.
Right now, I've got a good baseline mix across most of the songs, except a really troublesome one that needs some tedious work and maybe even a fairly substantial re-recording. I'm able to plan for that and get myself mentally prepared because I know exactly what the status is. If I was still doing cowboy project management (i.e. nothing) I'd have pushed it out of my mind because it's unpleasant. And then I'd really be regretting it when it's all that's left.
The other huge win is how easy it is to back up the project directory. The Logic project files are big, but they're also just directories. It's all directories all the way down. And this system only introduces text files. Teeny tiny text files. So I have my main project directory, which is backed up to iCloud and an external drive. And thanks to Syncthing it's also backed up on my PC.
Easy. Peasy. Lemon. Squeezy.
Any big losses?
None. The only thing was the lack of notes, which is my own danged fault. Because everything is light weight, based on a directory structure, and plain text, it never got in my way. It never broke anything.
Plain text is the future.
Speaking of future. Didn't you have future plans? How did they work out?
Talked about renaming directories so they're based on song order. I didn't do that. Never felt the need to, wouldn't make a difference to my workflow at all. Instead I just have a text file with the order in it.
Talked about Git. Never considered it again after writing that post. I'm sure it'd work tho.
Talked about a plugin that would automatically adjust master status on the master Kanban. I'd still like to do that. It'd be lovely. I just don't have the time. (Maybe one day)
Anyway, if you end up trying any of this out, especially if you find handy ways to apply this workflow, let me know by hitting me up on Mastodon. Or I guess any of the other socials listed on the home page. Even if you disagree with me.