• How To Set Up A Folder Structure

StillmotionFolderStructure

There are countless reasons why having a standard system for how you organize your files is going to save your life.

Whether you are the editor, producer, or shooter on a project, you should always keep your assets neatly organized… because there’s nothing scarier than aimlessly searching for files while on a tight deadline.

Knowing where your files are is something that will save your editor tons of time and it’ll be a huge lifesaver for your archiving process. A standard folder structure also allows you to work in editing teams efficiently, and will drastically reduce the risk of technical errors — which are ultimately going to hurt your story.

While there are certainly more exciting topics in this world than “folder structure” — this is something that we’ve found saves us hours of time in post, and many headaches.

Having a working folder structure is invaluable!

And what’s more important: having a folder structure that works for you and your team. We’re sharing ours with you because we know how helpful an example is when figuring this stuff out — but we’re not saying you have to copy our exact structure. Find what works for best for you and stick to the plan!

Here we go…

First, a note on naming…

Before we get deep into the folder sorting process, we want to make sure you know some of best practices for file naming.

As different software uses different processes for naming and organizing, it’s best to avoid using things like special characters, symbols, and spaces in your naming.

We won’t get into the technical MS-DOS or Terminal related reasons of why you should avoid them, just know that you don’t want to use them.

Things to avoid include stuff like: !,@,#,$,%,&,*,(,),/,” and ?

Here are a couple of examples of good and not so good names to use:


BAD: 2013 Jill+Brian
GOOD: 2013_JillBrian

BAD: Jill Brian Highlights
GOOD: JillBrianHighlights

BAD: Jills & Brian’s First Kiss
GOOD: JillBrianFirstKiss

Alright, now that we’ve covered our naming guidelines, let’s get into our structure…

1. Assets

Assets holds footage related to the project that was not recorded by your team. Perhaps you are including some home video of your couple in their main feature edit. Or maybe you have an iPhone Video Message recorded by the groom. Both of those videos would be in the ASSETS folder.

2. Audio

Audio holds any separately recorded audio files. If you had a lav pack on your groom that recorded to a voice recorder or Tasam DR-40, put that file here. If you had an audio recorder connected to the mixing board of the PA system, put those audio files into Audio.

Also, if you are using foley in your film, create a Foley sub-folder and place it inside Audio.

*Special Note: Sometimes you may not have separately recorded Audio and thus, you may not need an Audio folder.

3. Build

Build is where are each revision of your film lives. Inside build, you would see things like:

JillBrianHighlightsR1.mp4
JillBrianHighlightsR2.mp4
JillBrianHighlightsR3.mp4

However, when we deliver the final film to a couple or client we make sure the name is something easily identifiable. Here is how the couple would see the file they download:

BAD: JillBrianHighlightsR3.mp4
GOOD: Jill+Brian Wedding Highlights.mp4
(here it’s ok to use + or special characters)

4. Conversions

Conversions is the place where any transcoded footage lives. If you are editing a film that was recorded on different cameras, depending on your editing software, you may need to transcode the footage to one type of codec.

With the newest version of Adobe Premiere, you don’t need to do this. If you are editing inside Final Cut 7, you will need to convert.

*Special Note-If you edit in Adobe Premiere, you may not need a Conversions folder. If you edit in Final Cut 7, you may need it.

5. Footage

This is the most important folder inside in your system as it’s where all your recorded footage lives.

Footage will include sub-folders that are named to identify things like characters featured in the footage or camera that was used to record the footage.

The length of your film will direct how many sub-folders are need inside Footage.

If you’ve got footage shot on three separate days, you may want to create a folder for each day and then folders inside each day for each camera.

6. Graphics

Lower 1/3rds, logos, and stuff like opening or closing bumpers would all be placed inside your Graphics folder. If you’ve got a ton of graphics, you may need to create sub-folders for each category of graphics.

For example, you may have a sub-folder for Logos and a sub-folder for Animations.

7. Notes

When you’ve got things like the wedding day vows saved as Microsoft Word Documents or camera notes that were composed in TextEdit, you put them into Notes.

Transcripts of your interviews? You guessed it. Those live inside Notes as well.

8. Project Files

Project Files stores all the your NLE project file. NLE is short for non-linear editor. Common NLE’s are Final Cut, Adobe Primier, iMovie…etc.

We feel it’s best to to keep revisions of your edit within one main project file.

For instance, say you’re working on the Jill and Brian’s Wedding Highlights Film. The fie located inside the Project Files folder is called JillBrianHighlightFilm.prproj

If you opened the project file, you would find JillBrianHighlightR1, JillBrianHighlightR2, and JillBrianHighlightR3 as separate timeline sequences inside the same project file. As you work through each revision of the film, it’s good practice to keep previous revisions easily accessible just in case you removed or added something that needs to be put back and was located in a older version of the film.

9. Soundtrack

Any music that is used in the film will be housed in the Soundtrack folder. Not much more to it than that.

In summary…

Our folder structure is comprised of nine folders, each one housing ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING we need for the edit.

The folders are:

  • Assets
  • Audio
  • Build
  • Conversions
  • Footage
  • Graphics
  • Notes
  • Project
  • Soundtrack

We emphasize the “never stray” part because let’s face it — it’s very very easy to stray from the system sometimes and just save something to the desktop real quick, or not change the file name. But if you do this even a few times, things can quickly get messy.

Again, here is what ours looks like:

StillmotionFolderStructure


Now, the important thing to remember here is that this is our folder structure, and you are your own filmmaker and you can structure yours however you want!

The reason this works so well for us is because we all understand it. For you and/or your editing team, this is essential to staying organized. Find a system that works for you, and make sure everyone you’re working with is crystal clear on how that system functions.

***********


What have you found is helpful/useful when setting up a folder structure?

Share some of your process with us!

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26 Thoughts on “How To Set Up A Folder Structure

  1. Hey there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website?
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  2. Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward
    to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!

  3. Great post,
    We run a similar system, but for extra redundancy, we keep our project files in dropbox.
    That way, no matter what computer on the network, so long as we can access the source files for editing we have a backup of our project files that is up to date and kept up to date on all the computers.

  4. Great article! I am wondering though what you all would recommend for long drawn out projects. Like for instance I do a lot of work for my local church who involved in a campaign for a new location they are building and often we shoot footage that we may not necessarily know what we are going to use it for at the time of shooting. So what often happens is we shoot stuff as it happens and then later come up with ideas for projects that incorporate footage from different points of time that we have shot previously (in addition to any new footage we may need to shoot for a current project). Any organizational pointers in additon to what’s already been said would be great!

  5. When you’ve planned out your file structure, an easy way to replicate it from project to project is with Digital Rebellion’s Post Haste: http://www.digitalrebellion.com/posthaste/ Free, and available for Mac and Windows platforms. Try it, you’ll like it! (I expect this sounds like a pitch for Digital Rebellion—full disclosure, I have no connection with the company except as a happy user of Post Haste.)

  6. I’m a retired cost/industrial accountant and have dealt with this type of organization for several years. I used it to control the build of equipment through a manufacturing process. It’s only inventory: Raw Material, Work in Process and Finished Goods.

    The one thing I STRONGLY RECOMMEND is the pre-planning of the file/folder setup BEFORE you go out on a job. Decide what you need to do, what information you need, equipment needed, process, etc., etc. Organize it BEFORE you do it. This way you will come back and drop the information into the correct files and/or folders. You will also have a checklist against which you can check your progress through the job.

    The organization will also have the folders for the work (edit) that you do with the Raw Information be it video, audio or stills. This is the Work in Progress section of the file. Here is where you record the TIME it takes you to do each function. The time portion will allow you to assign a better cost for future jobs.

    The Finished Goods folders are just that. They contain the finished product.

    IMPORTANT! Each folder you create should have the SAME lead-number or name that is UNIQUE to that job. It is called a Primary Key in relational database theory. Having a Unique initial file name will help you sort the files….should you need to do this.

    I think I’ll put an explanation of file numbering on my site (with examples). I will work on it over the next two weeks and be back to tell you it’s done and where to find it.

    Regards,

    Brian

    • Hi Brian, Thanks for sharing application of folder organization from an outside industry. Looking forward to best practice take-aways from your numbering followup. Cheers -George

  7. Hi, guys. I started using this file structure since learning a Premiere Pro workflow on Lynda and keep it as a template folder called Common Media Folder. For every new project, I just copy the entire folder and all the empty organizational folders inside, rename the project with the year, month, day, name of project and get started. Then I can migrate the entire folder to backup hard drives as I go.

    There are a lot of folders in this system and I’ve never used them all, but since moving to this structure, it’s sort of makes me think much more clearly about where things are. And heaven forbid anything happenned to me, someone else could probably figure the project out since it’s all in there.

    2013-1119-KeithCorporateUpdate – or whatever the story is

    01 Capture Scratch (and inside this folders are empty folders below)
    01 Final Cut Pro Capture Scratch
    02 Premiere Pro Capture Scratch

    02 Editing Project Files (inside folders are below)
    01 Final Cut Pro
    02 Premiere Pro
    03 Other

    03 Graphic Sources (inside folders are below)
    01 Adobe Photoshop Files
    02 Adobe Illustrator Files
    03 Adobe After Effects Files
    04 Apple Motion Files
    05 Apple LiveType Files
    06 Stock Photography
    07 Font Archives
    08 3D Application Files
    09 Other

    04 Graphic Exports (inside folders below)

    01 Still Graphics to Import
    02 Adobe After Effects Renders
    03 Apple Motion Renders
    04 Apple LiveType Renders
    05 3D Application Renders
    06 Other

    05 Audio Sources (inside folders below)

    01 CD Imports
    02 Apple Soundtrack Pro Files
    03 Apple Garagband Mixes
    04 Adobe Soundbooth Files
    05 Quicktime Pro AIFF files
    06 Sound Effects
    07 Other

    06 Stock Footage (inside folders below)

    07 Stock Animation/Footage

    07 Exported Files (inside are folders below)

    01 Self Contained QuickTime Files
    02 Reference Files
    03 MPEG-4 Compressions
    04 Flash Compressions
    05 MPEG-2 Compressions
    06 Other Compressions
    07 XML
    08 Still Images
    09 Other

    08 Production Paperwork (and inside are folders below)

    01 Budgets
    02 Scoping Documents
    03 Scripts
    04 Change Orders
    05 Storyboards
    06 Tech Brief
    07 Client-Provided
    08 Other

    • The challenge is in using 01, 02, 03 etc. with different titles in different sections of the table may seem confusing.

      Might I suggest 01 as a unique number and followed by the content. 0101, 0102, 0103. The “01″ means Raw Footage. The same for 02 can mean Editing files numbered 0201, 0202, 0203 etc.

      This way you can all talk about 01 files or 02 files and understand what each of your crew is talking about.

      05 can mean Audio, 06 Stock Footage, 07 Stock Animation, 08 Exported Files, 09 Self contained Quicktime files, 10 Production PPW.

      I think you should make Production PPW your 01 File Name.

      Regards,
      Brian

  8. After working on some very different projects over the summer, here is what works for me:
    - footage (original files)
    - audio
    - music
    - exports (the different revisions of the project)
    - converts (MOV in ProRes422)
    - notes and documents
    - titles and texts (done in Photoshop)
    - stills from video
    - photos
    - project files (FCP7 folder)

  9. Always interesting to see how other people work. I use the following structure (I use abbreviated names but I’ll spell it out for you here):

    -Project (remiere project files and auto-saves)
    -Audio (live audio, sfx and music)
    -Stills (photos/illustrations)
    -Motion Graphics Project (after effects project and related media)
    -Documents (self-explanatory)
    -Archival Footage (footage we didn’t shoot)
    -Motion Graphics Exports (exports from After Effects)
    -Captured Footage (anything we shot)

    Those last three folders go on an external drive.

    Cheers,

    Eric

    @ericrolson
    multidactyl.com

  10. I love seeing this post come from you guys, you’re keeping the bar high! I particularly like how you explain the organization of each of your folders.

    I have a similar folder structure, and have a few things to add that I find helpful:

    1- I keep a “blank_new_project” master folder that contains my default folder structure and default files so that when a new project starts I just copy and rename that blank project and have everything all ready to go.
    2- I have an additional folder (called “Project” because my edit project files are in a folder called “Edit”) where I keep the original bid document as well as a timesheet document. Further, my timesheet doc tracks all the hours (by pre, prod, and post) for each person so I can see how good (or bad) a job I did estimating the time and resources needed.
    3- I have an “inspiration” folder where i drop everything inspiration to the project, video urls, photos, ets.

    Keep it coming, love what you guys do and how you share!

  11. does anyone have a structure for using FCPX?

    My FCP 7 setup breaks down like this:

    Original Files Folder – [yyyy]-VID-[mmdd]-[Name]
    - filename yymmdd-name_xx1.mov (U use a canon7D and import from CF card then rename)
    - on a separate external drive

    Then I transcode the footage to Apple ProRes422 using MPEG Streamclip and those files go here:
    - different external drive (used for production)
    - folder [yyyy]-V-[mmdd]-[Name] in Final Cut Pro Documents/Capture Scratch
    - filename yymmdd-name_xx1.mov

    Each Project has its own folder which contains the project file, audio, soundfx, stills etc.

    • I use only very simple folder structure on the disk to manage actual content itself, that also functions as a backup. However, I have master folder for managing all the parts of actual project from different production stages. Once the content is imported and copied into FCPX, I rely heavily on FCPX’s events, keywords, meta data and smart collections functionality to further organize the content for editing. After the project is completly finished and delivered, I do little cleanup of everything the FCPX can re-create ie. rendered files, optimized media and I archive the project onto sparse disk image using Duplicate Project function of FCPS. Sparse Disk Image is actually just a file that gets then stored on off-line media.

  12. This proves that I’m not crazy. File/folder organization and structure is something I’ve been teaching/harping on to my team for a while now. So glad to see I was on the right track! :) Thanks Stillmotion.

    Also, we’ve found it extremely useful to use Adobe Bridge to rename every single clip as you’re importing it, so that every clip on your entire hard drive has a unique filename. Such as, “20131119_Client_Project_OriginalClipNumber.mov” …yes the filenames can get long but if you happen to be transferring projects between hard drives and such it can really help to make sure you’re reconnecting to the exact right file. :)

    • Awesome Katie! Glad to hear you’re keeping your team accountable to be organized :)

      Great use of Bridge! We usually retain clip names off of the card just in case we would ever have to go back to looking for clips imported in the field. As long as your method of doing the rename happens at the first import I think it’s a great system.

      Cheers!

      -Jeremy

    • I like to have my clips(in their folders) named like this so I can see the most interesting part first the clip number. It basically is like yours just reversed.
      Number_clipname_project_client

  13. I always number my folders:
    1. Assets,
    2. Audio,
    etc, etc as it keeps them sorted when the computer tries to sort them alphabetically.

    I also break my projects down into 4 parts.
    1. Preproduction where all my proposal and planning notes go,
    2. Production where all the created assets go,
    3. Post Production where all my project files go
    4. Distribution where I have all my DVD menus, encore project files and design files. This is wear I usually render out my final project.

    I would love to here how others go about sorting their projects. Thanks again for another great post!

  14. hey, do you guys delete footages after storing them for 1 year or so ?

    what type of medium do you use to store the footages? Raid ? portable drives? hot swap bays ? Synology? G dock ?

    do you write the length that you will be storing the footage in contract with client ? IE, we are deleting it after 6 months, etc. Cuz sometimes people tend to come back a year later say” hey I want an extended cut of my wedding”

    • Hi Shawn, Storage and deleting footage depend on a couple of factors but are good things to think about when setting up your contract terms with the client (especially when the client requests raw footage). We don’t have a an absolute rule for how long we keep raw footage for, but what happens after the client/couple receive their film is that all assets are backed up and kept in tact for about 6 months (this is good practice in case the client requests revisions a few weeks after they receive their final deliverable-an situation that is more common than not). After those 6 months, the project is media-managed ,meaning that all footage used in the film is exported in an uncompressed, but trimmed form. The media managed export is kept for about a year. After a year, the media managed export is then removed and the delivered versions of the film are backed up and stored in high res versions on off-site servers. The final exports are kept indefinitely.

      Again, this is not an absolute practice for backup, but is a common practice for us. -George

  15. Great post on organization guys! I organize my files similarly and use a great little app called PostHaste to create my folder structure as you can create folder structure templates which creates all the folders you need in no time at all. The program also can create the project files for various applications such as Premiere, Final Cut Pro 7, After Effects etc. Definitely a handy tool for file organization within a project.

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