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 files are located is something that will save your editor tons of time (it will also be a be a huge lifesaver for your archiving system). Having a standard folder structure allows you to work efficiently if you are in an team and also drastically reduces the risk of encountering 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 a practice we’ve found to save us hours of time in post, and many, many, many headaches.
Having a working folder structure is invaluable!
Equally as important is to create a folder structure that is unique to your projects and works for you and your team. We’re sharing ours 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 include 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
BAD: Jill Brian Highlights
BAD: Jills & Brian’s First Kiss
Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics of our naming guidelines, let’s get into our structure…
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.
Audio holds any separately recorded audio files. If you had a lav pack on your groom that recorded to a voice recorder like the 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.
Build is where are each revision of your film lives. Inside Build, you would see things like:
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:
GOOD: Jill+Brian Wedding Highlights.mp4 (here it’s ok to use + or special characters)
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 CC, 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 with Adobe Premiere, you may not need a Conversions folder. If you edit in Final Cut 7, you may need it.
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, day the footage was recorded, or camera that was used to record the footage.
The length of your film will direct how many sub-folders are needed 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.
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.
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 files. NLE is short for non-linear editor. Common NLE’s are Final Cut, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Avid…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 (.prproj is the file extension created by Adobe Premiere)
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.
Any music that is used in the film will be housed in the Soundtrack folder. Not much more to it than that.
Our typical folder structure is comprised of nine folders, each one housing ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING we need for the edit.
The folders are:
Let’s face it — sometimes you’re in a rush and it’s very easy to stray away from the system and just save something to the desktop or not change the place all files into one master folder. But if you do this even a few times, things get messy very quickly.
Again, here is what our typical folder structure looks like:
Now, the important thing to remember here is that this is our folder structure, and you are your own filmmaker and you can structure your’s however you want!
The reason this system works so well for us is because we all understand it how to use it. Having a standard practice for organizing your files (but being flexibly when you need to adapt) is an essential step towards working efficiently and effectively.
We encourage you to 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 when setting up a folder structure?
Share some of your process with us!