Backup Archiving for Sound Editors: Gobbler Mini-Review

Gobbler

Are you editing a feature film with dozens of reels and thousands of sound effects? Are your hard drives becoming cluttered with back up sessions for every picture change?

Maybe you’re working with a score of musicians worldwide while creating an orchestral opus. You need to share your work, but are too busy to create FTP credentials and track exchanging stems.

Does this sound familiar? You’ve likely you’ve found that your sessions bloom in size as you add sound fx, loops, and samples from external hard drives and network libraries. And, as more people collaborate, sharing work becomes more complicated.

This is common for sound creators. Most are used to this, and can accommodate for fractured media storage and workers spread across facilities, cities, and countries.

What’s not so common is a method for backing up, or sharing these projects. It’s tricky: how can you track and archive your work when the media and workers are so disparate?

Gobbler was created specifically to help pro audio teams solve this problem. This post will look at how Gobbler works, and why it is helpful to sound editors.

I’ve just started using Gobbler, and today I’ll share my first impressions. I haven’t completely run it through its paces yet, but wanted to publish this mini-review of Gobbler early. Why? I want to let you know of a limited promotion they’re offering, which ends January 2, 2013.

Here’s the pitch: if you sign up before then, you get five gigabytes of storage and transfer bandwidth for free. And, if you sign up by clicking this link, you’ll get an extra 512 megabytes tacked on, for a total of 5.5 gigabytes.

The Problem with Archiving Sound Projects

How can Gobbler help you?

Well, often an audio pro’s projects includes sound files and video kept in a variety of locations: local drives, external drives, or network libraries. The session references each of these.

This makes backing them up difficult. In a basic sense, it means you have to hunt down every single file the session uses. That’s time-consuming. It’s also possible that you may miss critical files in the jumble of clips. Sure, some apps use a “Save As” function to export the session and all its files to another location. However, this takes additional storage space, and time to complete.

Let’s say you managed a backup anyway. You make them weekly. You’ve saved your backup on a hard drive in your closet. What if you need to access a session from a few months ago? Saving backups every week for months devours disk space. It also becomes confusing to tell them apart.

And then there’s the problem of keeping your sessions in the same place as your computer. In the case of fire or theft you’ll lose both your original work, and the backup. It’s better to keep your backups in a separate place. But who has the energy or time to haul a backup hard drive off-site every day?

These are some of the reasons I decided to test drive Gobbler.

How Gobbler Makes Backing Up Easy

Gobbler solves all these problems. How?

  • It scans sessions from dozens of audio editing apps, finds the files the session uses, and backs up just those files.
  • It backs up files from any variety of locations: local drives, external drives, and so on.
  • It backs up the files securely to a server “in the cloud,” so copies don’t remain at the same place as the source. This saves space.
  • It saves multiple versions of the sessions and their files, so you can revert to earlier versions if you want. This is known as versioning.
  • It backs up only the files that have changed over time, known as an incremental backup.
  • Gobbler sleeps while you work. This means it will only use power when the computer is idle.
  • Gobbler uploads in the background, allowing you to use your computer however you want without it being drained by the Gobbler app.

How Gobbler Works

How does it do this? To explain, I’ll share the steps you’ll take when joining Gobbler.

  1. Joining, and Plans
  2. You start by signing up at gobbler.com. You choose an account based on the storage space and data transfer bandwidth you need. Plans start at $4 a month for 20 GB of storage, and 20 GB of data transfer. More expensive plans allow unlimited transfers, and up to 250 GB storage.

    Any sound editor knows that session sizes can explode as new files are added (alts, processing, bounces, mixes). This means a pro will need a lot of storage space. The service costs can add up quickly. But, of course, you’re paying for peace of mind, and convenience.

  3. Installing the App, and Backing Up
  4. The free Gobbler desktop app (Mac and PC) keeps track of your sessions, where your files are saved, and what’s changed over time. It begins by scanning your drives for compatible sessions.

    Main Gobbler Window

    Once you select a session, Gobbler will scan it and detect which files are associated with it. It doesn’t matter how many external drives are used. Gobbler will track down all sounds, wherever they may be hiding. This is done automatically, without any effort at all from you.

    Gobbler Session Detail

    It will then back up the session, as well as all its related files. A “Throttle” setting allows you to determine how much computer power is devoted to this task.

    Gobbler Upload Window

    If you’ve already backed up a session, Gobbler won’t bother replacing every file. It will only upload what has changed. This speeds the process considerably.

    Also, Gobbler keeps track of all previous versions of sessions. Nothing is overwritten.

  5. Restoring
  6. Restoring data is simple. It’s all done through the Gobbler app. Simply find the session you need to restore in Gobbler’s list. Click a button, and the session is downloaded to any location you choose.

    You can even find earlier versions of the session, and download those instead.

    Do you have a few of the session’s files already saved locally? Gobbler will copy over local files instead of downloading them from the cloud, saving time and bandwidth. The remaining files will be pulled down from their servers.

Bonus Features

That’s how Gobbler backs up files. That’s how most people will use it. If you want to dig deeper, you’ll find it has other cool features.

  • Speed. Gobbler intelligently detects if it already has copies of a file in the cloud archive. If copies exist, they’re not uploaded. This saves space, and time. It also uses compression to upload new files. Compression shrinks file sizes, which means uploads are faster, and consume less of your allotted space.
  • Gobbler works well with large files. Some back up methods only work with sub-gigabyte files. Gobbler can handle multiple-gigabyte files.
  • Organization. Gobbler allows your sessions to be tagged within the Gobbler app. This makes finding sessions based on keyword (e.g., project name, sound effect type, genre) simple. It also uses geo-location tags.
  • Sharing. This is a very cool feature. You can select a session from within the Gobbler app, then share it with others. This means they can download the session, and all its files. You can also share single files not attached to any session. Click “Send Files,” attach a file, choose a recipient, and write a message. The file is uploaded, then the recipient is messaged. Downloading the file requires installing the Gobbler app, though.
  • SoundCloud integration. This feature isn’t prominently advertised, but I find it very helpful. Once Gobbler is connected to your SoundCloud account, you can browse, edit, tag, and create sets for your sounds. You can also upload new sounds via the Gobbler interface, which avoids the painful browser-based upload process that SoundCloud usually requires. Note that SoundCloud files aren’t backed up to Gobbler. It’s just way of managing your SoundCloud account.

    SoundCloud Management  SoundCloud File Management

  • There’s also a free Gobbler iOS app. This allows you to browse sessions and projects, access files remotely, and perform remote file transfers. I can see this being useful for sound supervisors to keep track of their team’s work.
  • Gobbler also works with other projects. You can choose to scan for video, photo, and desktop publishing projects too.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Off-site backup storage.
  • Intelligently scans sessions and backs up every change.
  • Backs up from many sources or hard drives.
  • Uploads only what has changed since the last backup.
  • A desktop app avoids fiddling with FTP programs.
  • Avoids tracking down files.
  • Ability to share your work with others.
  • SoundCloud integration.

Cons

  • Cost. Prolific audio pros may find it expensive.
  • Bandwidth limitations. You are limited to the amount of data you can upload and download every month.
  • No ability to extract and restore a single file from an entire session.

Nit-Picks

These are small observations that could make the app better, but don’t necessarily ruin its main purpose.

  • The desktop app doesn’t display your current storage space or bandwidth stats. To do this, you must log into the website. It would be nice to see this displayed within the Gobbler app.

    Gobbler Website Dashboard

  • Scheduled backups. Gobbler activity can be paused and resumed. The Throttle preference indicates how much power you’d like to commit to the app. These controls are sufficient, however they’re a bit course. Integrated scheduling would be fantastic: set times to increase the throttle, and other times to diminish how much of your network connection Gobbler consumes. For example, give the app more power and bandwidth overnight, but diminish it during working hours.

    Gobbler Menu Item

  • Manage activity priority. Uploads and downloads are stacked in a list, and are performed one at a time in sequence. It would be nice to customize the activity order, perhaps by dragging sessions in whatever priority you prefer.

Creative Uses of Gobbler

The ability to back up sound files as related to a session is intriguing.

Now, I don’t work with that many complex sessions. However, I do like the idea of backing up audio files in the cloud.

Here are a few ideas I’ve tried.

Backing Up a Sound Library With Gobbler

Gobbler backs up only audio that is within a session, not individual sound files. I only want to back up mastered audio files themselves. Since they are mastered, they have no need to be in a session, and are stored in my sound library folders.

To get around this I create a session only for sound effects. For example, I may call it “Trains 96k 24b.” I import the original files into the session, and leave them in the bin. Gobbler backs up the session and the untouched files. Presto. I have an archive of all my mastered trains.

Sharing a Sound Library

Let’s say you sell sound effects or music. Perhaps your library is so big that it takes a long time to upload, it is expensive to store, and takes a long time for customers to download.

Simply create a session populated with your sound library. After a customer has purchased it, share the session with the customer via their email address. They’ll be able to download that session from within Gobbler.

Of course, this requires a customer to install Gobbler. However, by trading a bit of manual labour (emailing sessions), a Web shop can avoid storage and bandwidth restrictions that smaller website hosts impose.

Backing Up Audio Projects

I’ve only just started using Gobbler. So far it has been fluid. No bugs or errors. It is simple, and it is quick.

I’ll continue using it, and report back here with any new observations.

In the meantime, take advantage of the free 5.5 GB of storage space before January 2, 2013!


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