If you make videos, you know that being efficient with your workflow will allow you to focus on your creativity and save you time and headaches.
In video post-production, there’s the way most people manage their files and projects and the “pro” way.
I’ve seen aspiring video editors and even seasoned videographers start their editing projects by offloading footage onto their computer and immediately opening it in their NLE of choice.
No folder structure. No renaming. A nightmare in the making.
Unless you’re working with a managed library where the app is duplicating the file and storing it like Final Cut Pro, you’re going to run into problems if you delete or move the media. And despite FCP’s incredibly convenient way of managing your media, it comes at the cost of a lack of clear file organization outside its management.
Poor file organization renaming habits (if any at all) won’t prevent you from finishing your edit but will likely result in uncertainty if those files have been properly backed up and archived once completed.
And when your client asks you to repurpose a video you edited six months prior, you’re probably going to be faced with the anxiety-inducing “Offline Media” warning. Unfortunately, I’ve run into this multiple times when opening a shared project, and the last known location of a missing file was in the editor’s downloads folder (which they’ve since deleted because there was 200GB of media in there).
There’s a simple solution, and it works with every video editing application you might use. And it comes from my 8+ years as a former producer and director of a cable reality show, where I performed secondary duties as the Post-Production Supervisor and Online Editor.
Create your project library with folders for each editing project. If there are multiple video edits under the same invoice, keep them grouped.
A project library is a project folder to store the project files, media, and renders for that specific video. And this project is named using the following naming convention:
This way, your project folder is organized numerically according to when the project was created, allowing you to see the most current project you’re working on quickly. And the great thing is that this naming convention works on all OS platforms.
For most projects, including Premiere Pro and Davinci Resolve, I use the following sub-folder structure:
Let’s open these folders up and explain their purpose.
Where your Premiere, Davinci, Photoshop, and any project file you create. Do not put any media in this folder.
This is where you’re going to put all of the assets you used to make your video.
And within this assets folder, you will have child folders to categorize your media further.
Where the original media from your camera is stored.
Where the optimized or proxy media is stored. Within it, I recommend you create a Reviews folder to store your revision passes.
Where you store your recorded audio. If you use an app like Audition or Pro Tools for sound design and or mixing, I recommend you create a Stems and Mix folder to store those exports.
Where you store photos and image-based media (Only place rasterized content here. Keep photoshop files in the projects folder.)
Where you’ll place your downloaded/licensed stock videos and images in. (Great for keeping track to invoice clients)
This is a great location to store scripts, revision notes (or backup Frame.io notes), and even your licenses, contracts, and agreements for the project.
This is where you will output every final and approved render. And there is one optional subfolder that I recommend you add: Consolidated Projects. This is where you will store a consolidated backup of your project and only the media used in the main delivered timeline. This is also the project you can provide to videographers or broadcast networks who wish to copy the main timeline and media used.
This structure’s advantage is that all your assets stay linked and in sync with your NLE even if you move the root folder to a different drive or computer. When a project is finished, you can store the folder on an offline drive and feel confident that you can always open it years later without a headache.
Now it’s time to rename your camera and audio media. Similarly to the Project Library naming convention, I use this formula:
For example, the interviews I shot with a recent client project look like this:
The advantage of using a Device Model in the naming - especially in Multicam situations - is to quickly identify the gear used if issues arise. For example, if you hired a videographer and you find that there is a shot out of focus, you can effectively relay to them exactly what gear they were using when the issue occurred.
Additionally, there have been many times when looking back on projects I wondered when I transitioned from one piece of gear to another.
If you are shooting a Multicam shoot, and both cameras are the same model, you can add a suffix to the Device Model that uniquely identifies the camera with the operator.
For example, I’ll add the videographer’s business initials:
If you use macOS, you can easily rename your files by using the built-in renaming functionality, which gives you great control. Unless Windows 11 changes this feature, Windows provides minimal customization and appends with the horrific parenthetical sequential number (which does nothing to display your files numerically correctly).
But if you have Adobe Creative Cloud, you can use Adobe Bridge to rename your files quite easily and even get the added benefit of rearranging their order. You can rearrange a file simply by dragging it above or below its neighboring file (despite its current alphanumeric placement) and applying renaming rules to the collection to lock them in place.
Use Post Haste. It’s free. Post Haste is a project management tool that allows you to set up folder templates for your projects with a single button click. Use my structure above by downloading my free template that you can import. Then you can have Post Haste automatically create this structure every time you need it! And you can set up a keyboard shortcut so you can instantly launch the app! Did I mention that Post Haste is free?
Transparency: I don’t get paid for recommending Post Haste. I share it because I think it’s awesome and you might too!
The download also includes a pre-made folder structure for you to get started if you’re not interested in Post Haste.