Media Browser: Super Browsing Power with Hidden Secrets
Saturday, May 31, 2014 20:33
The Media Browser in Logic Pro is one of those cool features that Apple came up with at some point. Apple implemented it, but then forgot to tell us about it, or even tell us how to use it. Maybe you’ve come across the Media Browser in Logic Pro X or even in other apps, but chances are, you’ve never used it. You might even ask yourself why to use it in the first place. Let’s find out.
Look, it’s a Window, it’s a Command
Before using the Media Browser, you have to understand the concept behind it. The big revelation is that the Media Browser has two components:
- #1 Media Browser – the command
- #2 Media Browser – the window
Media Browser (#1) – the Command
There, in Logic Pro’s Main Menu File ➤ Share ➤ Media Browser… is that mysterious “Media Browser” command. It is one of the commands that bounces your Project to a new audio file. You might understand the other destinations in that submenu where you can send your bounced mix to iTunes or Sound Cloud, but what destination is Media Browser?
The Media Browser destination is a special folder inside your Logic Pro Project File. And with “inside” I mean inside the Package File. Every Logic Pro user should be familiar with the concept of a Package File, because the Logic Pro Project File is now a Package File that contains many files and folders inside that are related to that Project (Package File: “A Folder disguised as a File”).
One of those folders inside a Project File is the special “Previews” ➊ folder. When you bounce your mix using the File ➤ Share ➤ Media Browser… command, then Logic Pro will store the audio file in that Previews folder. That’s the Media Browser destination. All these files inside the Previews folder are the so-called “Preview Files”.
Let’s have a little peak at GarageBand X. It also has the same File ➤ Share ➤ Media Browser… command and it also saves the audio file of its mix to the Previews ➋ folder inside the GarageBand Project File (Logic Pro and GarageBand Project file have a similar file structure inside their Package File). The restriction in GarageBand is that you can have only one audio file in that Previews folder. Every new bounce will overwrite the previous one. You cannot choose a name nor the file format for that Preview File. Logic Pro, on the other hand, lets you name the Preview Files and offers two audio file formats: .AIF and .M4A.
Now that we know that Logic Pro creates this special Preview File and stores it in the Previews folder when using the Media Browser command, the question is: why is it hidden in that place? Yes, you can open the Package File (ctr+click on the file and choose “Show Package Contents”) and drill down to it, but that would be too much work.
The reason for that is that you are not supposed to access the Preview Files, at least not manually. There is a tool that can access those Preview Files and it has the same name as the command that creates those Preview Files – the “Media Browser”.
Media Browser (#2) – the Window
The Media Browser window is the tool to access the Preview Files, hidden deep inside the Logic Pro and GarageBand Project Files. The Media Browser window is available not only in Logic Pro and GarageBand, but also in Final Cut Pro X and even other apps like Pages and Numbers (the previous versions). The whole Media Browser concept was originally a feature for Apple’s iLife applications. You open the Media Browser window in Logic Pro and GarageBand with the same Media Browser Button in the Control Bar. In addition, in Logic Pro you have to select the Media tab. You can switch the Media Browser between different views by selecting the tab on top:
- Audio: In this view, only audio files are displayed
- Movies: In this view, only video files are displayed
- Photos: In this view, only image files are displayed (not available in Logic Pro X and GarageBand X)
Interface: Smart Folders
Let’s have a closer look at that Media Browser window. Technically, it is a specialized Finder window. Instead of manually digging through Finder windows to search for media files on your drive (not only Preview Files) to use them in your Project, you can use the Media Browser to access relevant files much faster. You then can drag them from the Media Browser directly onto a Track on your Project, everything from within Logic Pro without switching to the Finder. The upper section of the window provides a list of items and based on what item you select, the relevant audio (or video ) files will then be displayed in the Results List below. You can preview the files in the Results List and drag them directly onto a Track in your Project.
What do you see – Smart Folders!
The items in the upper section are Smart Folders. The Media Browser performs a search of your hard drive for specific audio and video files (that’s why you might see a spinning beach ball the first time) and presents the result in the upper section as specialized folders, Smart Folders. The folder icons hint at the origin of the found media files. If your hard drive doesn’t have any relevant files, for example, from GarageBand or Final Cut Pro, then that item is not listed. Here is what we can find in the Audio tab.
- iTunes: Can display all the audio files in your iTunes Library. The iTunes folder contains subfolders for each of your Playlist in your iTunes Library.
- GarageBand: Can display all the Preview Files that were bounced in GarageBand with the File ➤ Share ➤ Media Browser… command. These are the audio files in the “Previews” folder of each GarageBand Project that I mentioned before. Please note that the folder lists only GarageBand Projects that are stored in the following location ~/Music/GarageBand/.
- Logic Pro: Can display all the Preview Files that you have bounced in all your Logic Pro Projects using the File ➤ Share ➤ Media Browser… command. Again, these are the files inside the “Previews” folder of a Logic Pro Project. Please note that you can have multiple Previews folders inside a single Logic Pro Project, one for each Alternative. Unlike the GarageBand folder, this “Logic Pro” folder finds all Logic Pro Projects regardless where they located on your drive.
- Folders: This item is an “Alias Container” that I explain at the end.
Displaying the Preview Files
The way the Media Browser displays the Logic Pro and GarageBand Preview Files is not consistent, it is actually borderline confusing. Here is the difference:
- GarageBand: First of all, you can select either the GarageBand item (the guitar icon) or the GarageBand folder (the folder icon). Both ➌ have the same effect on what is displayed in the Results List. The items listed in the Results List are the actual GarageBand Projects ➍ with their Project name. However, they can have two different icons. A white icon indicates a Project that doesn’t contain a Preview File (you can’t drag that item to your Project). An icon with just the guitar, on the other hand, is a Project that contains a Preview File. The Time column lists the duration of that audio file. You can drag it directly onto a Track.
- Logic: The Logic Pro item can contain two folders ➎. Selecting the “Bounces” folders displays in the Results List all the audio files that are located in ~/Music/Logic/Bounces/. This is the default folder when exporting your Logic Pro Projects using the Bounce command. The second folder contains all the Logic Pro Projects ➏ on your drive. Selecting a specific Logic Pro Project will display its Preview Files ➐ in the Results List. If a Project doesn’t have any Preview Files in its Previews folder, then the Results List is empty. If the Project has multiple Alternatives, then they can be revealed with the disclosure triangle. If you select the Logic item on top ➎, then the Results List displays all the Bounces plus all the Preview Files.
The “Folders” folder
There is one special item in the Media Browser window. It is named “Folders” ➑, has a blue folder icon, and chances are it is not even listed in your Media Browser. The reason for that is, it is a dynamic “Alias Container” folder.
Here is an example:
- Let’s say you have a folder named “Special Loops” on your hard drive that contains audio files you often use in your Logic Projects.
- You can drag that folder from the Finder directly onto the Media Browser. The Media Browser then first creates that special Folders ➑ item which functions as a container, and puts an alias of the “Special Loops” folder ➒ inside.
- Now when you drag another folder (i.e. “SFX”) onto the Media Browser, an alias of this SFX folder ➒ will be placed into that same Folders ➑ item, the “Alias Container”.
- You can add more folder to it or remove them from the Folders item (by deleting the folder in the Media Browser).
- Selecting the “Folders” item will display all the media files contained in all Alias Folders in the Results List ➓. Selecting a specific Alias Folder, will only display its content in the Results List.
- Because these are true Alias Folders, you can move or add any files in the original folder in the Finder. The Media Browser then automatically updates the Results List respectively.
You have to play around with the Media Browser a bit to get used to that feature. But once you understand it better, you might find it useful and even integrate it into your Logic Pro workflow. For example, here are three screenshots that show the Media Browser in Logic Pro, GarageBand, and Final Cut Pro. Thanks to the Media Browser, you have quick access to all of your Logic Pro Preview Files and Bounces (or GarageBand Preview Files) from inside any of those application You don’t have to switch to the Finder and you don’t even have to know where the Projects are stored in case you want to use any of the Preview Files in those apps.
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Thanks for your time and interest,