One of my pet hates is when a project is turned-over to me for completion, be that for some edit-finesse, a colour grade or just for archive, is if that project is handed to me in a state so bad that I can’t navigate my way around it.
It’s an issue, I’m afraid, that happens all too often.
Project organisation is easy when you know how. And it can earn you the respect of whomever you're handing the project to. And who knows, maybe even some more work?
So, what do I mean by this? What is a messy project.
It’s easier that I show you a neat project.
On the left, is an image of a project organised inside Premiere Pro. On the right, is a template of the Project Home Folder (as I like to call it).
Now, as always, I’m obliged to remind you that my way of doing things isn’t necessarily correct. These are methods I’ve picked up over the last ten years. So, if anyone does have any tips to share, please do. I’m always open to skill-sharing.
Here are my tips for organising your project:
Every project must have its own folder on a harddrive. This is the Project Home Folder.
Everything relevant to that project must live in that folder (In an tidy and orderly manner, I might add.).
I breakdown mine into the following folders (again, which you can see on the right above).
TIP - Notice the number in front of each. This helps keep the folders, more-or-less in their order of the process.
This should contain all of your scripts, treatments, storyboards, client notes, music licenses… Any documents related to the project. Put them in here. Make subfolders labelled as such, so that they're all easy to find.
TIP - Adding dates and version numbers to everything is incredibly useful. I use this format:
All of your rushes (or footage) go in here, organised by:
Second - Camera ID
Third - Card No / Reel No
Fourth - Source / Proxies
If it's a single camera shoot, no need to add in the A or B. If you don't need proxies, then skip those folders. You get the gist...
TIP - Organise your rushes in you NLE rather than in the folders. Keep that metadata in tact. You never know when it might be needed further down the line. I've run into situations in Conforms / Online Edits / Grades when I'm missing critical metadata from a camera card, which has caused hours more work for me.
Back in the Final Cut Pro 7 days, one would have to set the scratch disks at the beginning of every edit session. It was the cause of many an issue during my career. In particular, the Capture Scratch folder would often get disconnected or end up sharing data with multiple projects. It was truly a nightmare. These days, the NLE's have vastly improved this functionality.
If you’re in Premiere Pro, this is folder is where you’d set your scratch disk and save the Premiere Project file.
If you're a Final Cut Pro X user, you'd save your Project Library here (in FCPX, a Library is basically a project file. It's a database, much like a Premiere Pro, or Avid file).
Whateve NLE you use, it's important to keep this folder clean and tidy. You'll never know when you'll need to dig back into that Auto-Save folder to save your ass.
TIP - Create another folder inside here called Project Archive. If you experience crashes and have to create new recovery versions of the project, you can archive the older crashed versions (with version numbers) and keep your current version in the root directory (see below).
You guessed it - Sound goes here. Now, if you've recorded external location sound (I'm more often than not working with sound running from the Soundie mixing it to the camera. However, if I'm working on a short film, I'll likely be recieving Poly-Wavs back, which will be externally recorded. I tend to save the location sound in with the rushes. So in the dated folder, I'd have another sub-folder called Sound.
In this 04-Sound folder, I would add the following:
SFX (sourced from sound libraries)
Foley (recorded specifically for this film)
ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement or Looping)
Yeah, you guessed it… Your music goes in here… Organise this folder a little something like this:
06-GFX & VFX
Save your Motion Graphics and VFX in here. This is a bigger discussion in terms of how to organise this folder. It depends largely on your personal project requirements.
I might ask some VFX folks I know to break this down in a future blog.
For now, use your common sense to organise and label things clearly. Remember, date and version everything. I can't emphasise how much it helps.
Anything you export out to send to the client or for review by a producer is a Playout.
As with everything, I like to date and version these too.
On some projects, I'll be screening the film for a Producer before the client sees anything. I like to mark which versions are Producer Reviews and which are Client Reviews. That way, you can keep track of who's seen what.
You may not have had to yet, but at some point, if you're a professional editor, you'll have to Turnover to another craft specialist.
Now, that could be one of the following (in no particular order):
Motion Graphics Designer
The first time I had to turnover to another Post Production Facility was nerve-wracking. I was turning over a Feature Film Trailer for an Online Edit and Colour Grade, and a commercial film for Online Edit, Sound Mix & Colour Grade.
"We need XML's, EDL's, Self-Contained ProRes QuickTime files etc... Blah Blah..."
"Yeah, no probs. I know what all of those are..."
Guess what, I didn't and I messed up. Almost costing a client a lot more money. And Post Production at this end of the scale is mighty expensive.
Guess what, I never made the same mistake again. Now I vow to help people through the process, as it's super important. One day I'll write another blog about my experience delivering short film content for Broadcast TV, as that's been a super rewarding learning experience.
When all's said and done... This is where your finished files live. And I mean, strictly, just the completed files. If you keep all your Playouts in here, then this could end up being difficult to find that client deliverable if you've not labelled anything correctly.
Typically, I might have the following files in here:
Master - ProRes422HQ / H264
Clean - ProRes422HQ / H264
GFX - ProRes Animation (Alpha Layer) / Subtitles
Audio Stems - Stereo Mixdown / Dialogue Stem / SFX Stem / Atmos Stem / Music Stem / Music Undipped Stem
DCP (Digital Cinema Package)
This may seem like overkill - But, if I ever need to do future 'cut-downs', which I do often, I can just restore this folder and use these elements to do the cut down. No need to restore hundreds of gigs of rushes data.
In The NLE
This should roughly match your Project Home Folder structure. Where it differs slightly is I've switched the 01-Documents folder for 01-Cuts. And as with everything else, I like to keep these as organised as possible. I never delete a timeline or make amendments to an old cut. I always duplicate the last timeline, reversion this and then start my amendments.
I always flatten all of my Turnover and Deliverable timelines down as well. This is something I'll also cover in another post.
All of these tips are based on my own experiences. When this workflow hasn't been followed, it's cost me hours. Sometimes days of clean up.
One of the most common issues I have is where editors have linked media to files in their Downloads, Desktop, Documents... And each time, I have to chase people for media.
Trust me. If you want to be an editor, you'll be grateful of this workflow one day. I know you will.
How do you organise your projects? Are there anyways I could improve mine?
Drop me a message if you have any questions.