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Thread: Question about Livetrak L-20 project file layout and content

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    Question about Livetrak L-20 project file layout and content

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    Hi. Do you have knowledge about the layout and structure of a Zoom project file that you could share with me?

    Specifically, I'm looking for information about the Livetrak L-20 project file (L20PRJDATA.ZDT) and how each track in a project is mapped to it's corresponding .wav file. I suspect there are great similarities between the different project files used by the various Zoom devices.

    I'm a long time Zoom H2 and Audacity user. I'm a very new Livetrak L-20 user.
    I'm also a guitar player, vocalist, sound person, and now recording engineer in a 4-piece band.

    With the H2, I make stereo recordings and then move the SD card to a laptop where I use Audacity to edit the starts and stops of each song and then normalize them. One recording usually contains multiple songs and adding labels and exporting based on labels makes it very convenient to split out the individual "songs". This has produced some great (to us) recordings of band practices, rehearsals and performances but I've often wished for more than 2 tracks.

    Enter the Livetrak. I record each input along with a stereo room mic. When we record, we typically let the recorder run and each L-20 "project" will contain one or more "songs". After recording, I want to mix the "songs" on the L-20 but want to make those same Audacity edits (starts/stops and normalize) prior to mixing. Luckily this is as easy as it is with the H2 except there are more tracks. I move the SD card to a laptop, import the project tracks into Audacity, make the edits and export each track as a .wav file without changing the track file names; e.g. what was imported from TRACK01.wav is exported to TRACK01.wav. As an aside, I also change the default YYMMDD_HHMMSS project name(s) to (creative) song names that respect the 13-character limit. This renaming is so much easier to do on a computer than on the L-20 and makes it much easier to find a song in the list of projects.

    Getting the edited tracks back into the L-20 is not nearly as simple or quick as I had hoped. When I move the SD card from the laptop to the L-20, the L-20 will load a renamed project but it won't load/find/play the edited tracks, even though the track file names didn't change. Zoom support has confirmed that “By reorganizing the project on the SD card the L-20 is not able to read the project as the file structure of a project is set up in a very specific way for the L-20 to interpret.” I requested the L20PRJDATA.ZDT layout from Zoom support but they didn't respond.

    This “getting edited tracks back into the L-20” is the root of my request for information about the .ZDT file format. I would dearly love to edit/zap the L20PRJDATA.ZDT file with the information it needs to find my edited tracks. I’ve been comparing an “empty” (initial) project file with that same project file after my tracks are imported. I can see that the file content is changed but without knowledge of structure and content it’s a fruitless exercise.

    At present, to get my edited tracks into the L-20 for mixing, I need to create a new project for each song and then import/assign each edited song track one at a time. This works but is pretty time consuming and somewhat human error prone. If I don't again rename the new projects to be song names, I need to keep a manual project<->song cross reference. A recording session easily yields 20 songs of 12 tracks each... this is 240 tracks that need to be imported, assigned and confirmed, one track at a time... when doing hundreds of imports it's easy to miss one or two (don't ask how I know this)... our band was originally hoping to record and mix each of our weekly practices and any shows that we play... we may need to rethink this.

    Are you using a Zoom Livetrak to mix songs? Do you have a solution for getting your edited tracks back into the L-20 that doesn’t involve importing tracks one at a time?

    Thank you in advance for any insight you can provide.

    Dale Driver

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    I looked through the manual and I don't see anywhere that you can split up the file in the Zoom itself. That is a function found in the R24. You can split up files in a project into several pieces. It will change the name of the wave files to something like MONO-001, MONO-01A, MONO-01B each time you split the file. It also deletes the original file, leaving only the pieces. That functionality isn't listed in the Livetrack manual. I think you still need to do each file individually on the R24, so that would still end up with 240 edits for 20 songs with 12 tracks.

    I avoid this by mixing down in Reaper. I import the wav files into my DAW and do everything else in there. It is much better than using Audacity. I've recorded 6 hours jam sessions, and then went back, picked out the tracks I wanted in Reaper, mix it down and export the final track. Save that as a Reaper project and move to the next tune. The wave files are never altered.

    I keep the SD card in an envelope, like a master tape real would be stored after mixdown.

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    I think Talisman has identified a more streamlined way of working, and one which alloqws you to keep your source files intact.

    Once you have loaded them into a DAW, that's where they stay. Reaper is a good choice.

    I'm not familair with Livetrak, but yo may be able to control Reaper with it, so you still have the physicality of mixing.

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    TalismanRich and gecko zzed, thank you for your replies.
    - the R24 split function didn't make it into the Livetrak that I can see
    - I've installed Reaper and have started watching tutorial videos; I've a ways to go up a steep hill
    - in what I've read and watched, the Livetrak can not function as a DAW control surface

    Zoom support has also gotten back to me and while they didn't include a layout for the .ZDT file, they did have this to say: "You will not be able to change the .ZDT file. Only the L-20 can modify this file. The L-20 is not designed to recognize files that were not recorded on the device or modified off the device. If you edit a file, you will need to copy it to a USB flash drive to import to the SD card using USB host mode. If you copy it directly to the SD card, the L-20 will not recognize it. We apologize for the inconvenience. This workflow is not ideal when using the L-20."

    I asked if Zoom had a mechanism by which I could submit a development request and was told that my request has been forwarded "to the engineers at Zoom Corporation in Japan to consider for a future update". My fingers are crossed... a "RELOAD WAV FILES" option within the PROJECT sub-menu would be a blessing to me.

    I've now done the "hundreds of imports" three times for two rehearsals and one gig that I recorded. I've made use of scenes with one for tracking and others for mixing depending on who in our quartet is driving the song. Once past the imports, the process was simple and the results were very good. I recorded the master output, loaded the MASTER.wav into Audacity for some gentle compression and then Amplify. With the L-20 I'm able to do not-so-quick but easy and very good recordings of our band playing live.

    I will continue to poke away at understanding the .ZDT file. I've been a software developer my whole life and being told I can't change the .ZDT file feels like a challenge. My internet searches found two situations where folks appear to be editing the PRJDATA.ZDT associated with R16 projects; Soundforge MuTrack and ZoomControl (apparently I can't post links until I've posted more). I've installed ZoomControl and it appears able to read some of my L20PRJDATA.ZDT file. I will reach out to them to see if they have knowledge they can share.

    Zoom is solid but I am disappointed in myself that I didn't deep dive this part of my workflow before making the decision to purchase the L-20. While nothing I've read/watched describes the "hundreds of imports" situation, with hindsight and reading-between-the-lines, I could have sleuthed this out. I will continue to use the L-20 for recording but I won't be using it as often as I had originally envisioned... at least not until I can find an alternative to the "hundreds of imports" or until I get as good/comfortable in Reaper as I am in Audacity... for sure, I'd prefer to mix using the L-20 rather than a DAW but that's just me. If I can solution the "hundreds-of-imports" situation, the L-20 will get a lot of action. It is a great piece of kit.

    Stay well, Dale

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