You’ve gone out and shot your short film, documentary or television program, and now you’re about to embark on the postproduction process. As excited as can be, you start to drag your footage onto the hard drive, quickly open up your favorite editing program, and start cutting as quickly as possible. But down the road, you start to wonder, “Where is X file,” or “Why isn’t Y file over here?”
It’s super important to stay organized while editing. As an organized editor, you should be able to work faster, and your project should be able to be handed off to another editor at any time. Here are a few tips from what I’ve learned over the years to make the postproduction process as seamless as possible.
Setting Up Your Hard Drive
Before I even drag a single file onto my hard drive, I have a basic folder structure that I like to set up to keep track of assets. For example, with the Ghostperts Project, I have these folders:
• An AUDIO folder for my music, sound effects and voice-overs
• A DOCUMENTS folder for scripts, releases, and other notes or text files
• An EXPORTS folder for assets exported from After Effects, Premiere, or Audition
• A FOOTAGE folder with camera recordings, stock footage, and other video files
• An IMAGES folder for pictures, logos, and other graphics
• A PROJECT FILES folder where I store my Premiere, After Effects, and other project files
These folders can be broken down even more precisely as you go along. Like with the AUDIO folder, for example, I have MUSIC and SFX folders to keep my music and sound effects separated. This can go on and on, with the MUSIC folder having types of moods or styles, or where the music was downloaded from. That is usually left up to the person doing the organizing and how far they want to go, but the point is that it’s extremely important to create a specific spot where you put files on your hard drive.
If you ignore everything I’ve said so far, the one folder I can’t stress the importance of enough is the PROJECT FILES folder. In Adobe Premiere, wherever you store your Premiere Pro Project File, it creates subfolders such as Previews, Renders, and Auto Saves. By having the PROJECT FILES folder, it basically just keeps everything tidy, so that way if you’re looking for a previous version, you know it will exist within the Auto Save folder under the PROJECT FILES folder.
File Naming Conventions
Now, when bringing files onto your computer, you may be tempted to include special characters, especially when dealing with versions like “#1” or adjoining names like “File & Files”. But please, never do this! Never use any special characters, besides underscores or dashes. Spaces are ok, but it’s important that you try and remain consistent. I find it helpful to include the date, version number, or both when exporting files. I’ve run into the trap before of naming files XXXX_FINAL, and then realizing that it wasn’t exporting correctly, and renaming the next file XXXX_FINAL_FINAL. Also one last note, once you name a file, try not to rename it later on. When your file is in Premiere or any editing program, the program is looking for a specific file name. Once you change that within the folder structure on the hard drive, you’re going to have a hard time relinking the footage.
In FCP or Premiere
I like to mimic my folder structure on hard drives within Premiere Pro, but I’ll typically add a few more folders to help keep me organized, especially when it comes to sequences. In my sequence folder, I’ll have one sequence that I’m currently working on within the main bin. In this case, I’ll have a date and usually when I start a new day, I’ll duplicate it, and then drag the old sequence into the OLD folder. But then I have specific folders such as NESTED, which are clips for one reason or another that needed to be corrected to the proper sequence settings. If there are things like multiclip interviews, I’ll create a folder for that. Or if there are other places and locations that we filmed at, in this case WEYMOUTH, I’ll create a folder for that as well.
The key is just to try and be as specific and organized as possible, without being overwhelming. There is a balance to having simple file names that aren’t long and hard to read, while also having the proper folders so that if another editor comes in, assets are intuitive to find. If you ever need any help with setting up your project or keeping organized, I’m always more than willing to help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!