Starting Organized, Part 1

Previously, I wrote about how keeping organized can help you to be more efficient so that you spend more time editing and less time managing media. I suggested that if you take the time to create a “master” folder structure, you can copy that structure as you begin each project, rather than recreating a new system each time.

So, what might that folder structure look like? Over the years I’ve had the benefit of doing finish work on other editors’ projects and I was able to see their organization schemes. This allowed me to tweak my structure based on other people’s ideas. My goal here isn’t to present the be-all and end-all of file organization, but to show you what I use and to get you to think about creating your own time-saving folder structure.

I should also mention that my projects vary in size and type, as I’m sure yours do. Sometimes I do all the work; other times I work with artists like graphic designers, colorists and audio mixers. This means I might hand off files to others and receive files back from them.

The folder structure I use includes containers for sending files to collaborative artists and receiving files back from them. This way, I have a master folder structure that works for all my projects. Yes, sometimes folders don’t get used and remain empty throughout the project. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is not having a place to put files and having to create a new folder that might be called “graphics” one day and “motion graphics” and “supers” another day.

Let me show you my Master Folder structure. I use eight main folders: Audio, Color, Design, Exports, FromClient, GFX, Media and ProjectFiles. Most of the folders have subfolders within them. Here’s what’s inside.

Creating a master folder structure


Within the Audio folder are nine sub-folders. Most are self-explanatory, but some may seem a bit out of the ordinary. I use the _From_Audio folder when I’m on shared storage and audio people drop files like mixes, sound effects or music for me. I use the _To_Audio to store AAFs or OMFs and reference movies that I’ll send to audio mixers. I use an underscore to force the folder to the top of the directory because I like to keep these two folders together.

Note: I could have the audio people place finished mixes in the FinalMix folder, but if there are revisions, I like to control when these files get updated. If I let someone else “replace” a file, it might break a link in my sequence.

The Production folder is for any audio that came in from location—during production. For example, if audio is recorded using double-system sound—there are recorded sound effects, room tone (ambience) or voice overs—it all goes into Production.

While this audio might have been delivered with the footage, when I copy it to my storage, I like to put it in its own folder so I can organize it separately. Sometimes the footage folder structure created by the DIT doesn’t really follow closely with the folder structure created by the location audio engineer.

The Project folder is there in case the project files need to ride along with the video project for archiving. You’ll see later on that I do the same thing when I deal with graphics content.

A couple of other notes on audio folders: the Music folder includes a Comps folder where I store sample music selects. I also have a Purchased folder. This helps ensure that unlicensed music is kept out of the finished project. In the VO folder I have a Demo folder for sample VO artists’ auditions, and also a Scratch folder.

Creating a master folder structure


The color folder is fairly simple. I use the To_Color folder to store the XML and, if the colorist doesn’t have access to the original content, I also add the selects that need to be graded. I’ll store the returned XML and clips in the From_Color folder.

I relink to the graded footage in the From_Color folder rather than moving that footage into the Footage folder in order to keep things organized. If I select the “Show in Finder” command from my sequence, it takes me to the From_Color folder rather than to a subfolder in the Footage folder. So, at a glance, I know that the shot was graded.

While this may seem like overkill, it’s all about efficiency and concentrating on the edit, so little things like this can help me avoid mistakes. 

Next post, I’ll talk about more folders including what I consider design and what I consider graphics.

(For more, check out the next two parts in this series, Starting Organized, Part 2 and Starting Organized, Part 3.)