Often times when an event or shoot or session is over, there is a rush to get to the final product. Whether it’s a video or audio project or both. You dig in right away and get it done. But what happens when you get a few weeks or months (or years) down the road, there have been 10 projects in between and you get a request to update or make a few adjustments or maybe a full overhaul. Where did you put those files? Or better yet, what did you call them? What was the date of the event again? All of these questions and more are extremely important to keep track of in a way that you can quickly access what’s needed and provide an excellent product no matter when or what is asked for. We’ll discuss a few tips for organizing your file structure and your sessions in a way that you’ll be thankful for, be it weeks or months down the road.
Create a Standard File Structure
The first place to start when trying to organize your work is to create a file system that you can easily find the audio and video and session files you need. Start by naming your hard drives what they are used for, not just something generic. For example, on my Video rig I store all of my projects and original raw files on my “Projects” hard drive. All of my final videos go onto my “Exports” hard drive. This way I know exactly where to go to find something based on if it’s a final product, raw file or specific project. Also, it makes it easy for someone else that may need to come in and work on a project after you to find what he or she might be looking for as well. The most important part of this is to stick with it. Don’t store projects on your export drive and export to the projects drive, etc. If you don’t use multiple hard drives you can similarly use top-level folders to create a similar structure.
Use a client based structure. What I mean by that is whether it’s for a specific ministry or possibly an individual Pastor or leader, create a folder with the Ministry name on it. Then any project that you might create for that ministry goes into that folder. That way you know exactly where to start when looking based on who is asking for the project. For example, if I were working on a voice over session for our orphan care ministry, I would save that session into a folder called “Every Child” because that’s the name of the ministry. So when I hear, “Hey do you remember the music you used for that Every Child voice over we did back in May? Can we take that music and use it in another Every Child project?” I can easily located the session and files within the session to provide the proper audio that they are looking for.
Develop a naming convention that indicates useful information. Whether you work alone or collaborate with a group of people, it’s important to name projects in a way that one can look at the title of the project and know when it was created, have an idea of the event or purpose and possibly even who created it in the first place. For example, using the same voice over project I would call it “OrphanDay_110113_VO.” And because it’s in my “Every Child” folder I know whom it’s for. So just by the location and name of the project I can tell you whom it’s for, what it is, when it was created and what event or project it will be utilized on. And if you work wit a collaborative group you can easily add you initials into the naming convention to even be able to tell who created it.
The bottom line here is that developing some type of structure and sticking with it will make a big impact on the portability of a project for a collaborative effort and/or the recall ability of a project or asset of the project months later. Get with your team and develop structure and convention that works for each of you and then all stick with it. You’ll really thank yourself (or a colleague) and will spend a lot less time trying to track down or figure out what you called something and where it’s located in the heat of the moment.
Develop a Standard Session or Project layout
While I understand that it may not be often that any two projects are alike, staying organized follows us into the session as well. When you are involved in multiple projects at once or even if you aren’t, it can be easy to save and close a project and then open it back up a week or two or maybe months later and struggle to figure out what you were doing. Here’s where session organization is just as key as file organization.
Label your tracks accordingly and make sure you only put things on that track that are associated with the name of that track. Don’t just leave the default labels of “Audio 1” or “Video 1.” For example, in my video projects I create for our television broadcast, I have six video tracks and four audio tracks. My video tracks are labeled PROG (for program video), ISO (for the isolated camera angle), ANC (for ancillary videos or bumpers), WATER (for the watermark logo), THIRDS (for any lower third elements) and NOTES (for full screen notes). My Audio tracks are labeled, MAIN (for my program audio), DX1 (for dialogue and voice overs) DX2 (for any overlapping dialogue) and MX (for any music and bumpers). All of these specific names tell me what is on each track just by looking at the name.
A standard naming convention is important here. For instance, for audio tracks I try to name a each track with an indicator like DX_ or MX_ or FX_ . This is based on whether it’s a dialogue, music or Effects track, etc. While it may seem trivial, it helps to have consistency in naming and stick with it so when someone else looks at your session or you take a look at it a year or two down the road it all still makes sense and is easily navigable.
Setup your window layout how you like it and save it. It’s much easier to have a custom layout that you can work from consistently and know instinctively where to go to do something rather than poke through constantly changing window schemes. This will help your workflow and speed overall.
Create it and Stick To It
No matter how you choose to setup your file structure and session naming. Choose notation that you can stick with, is understandable and is easy to remember and most importantly don’t skip it or say to yourself, “I’ll never open this again, who care’s what it is called,” because those quick sessions that you throw together in a pinch always seem to be the ones people want to use again or use assets from.
While it may take a little bit to create and develop these things for your self, the time it saves in the long run is not inconsequential. There have been many times I’ve been relieved to have stayed organized and other disappointing moments that I haven’t found what I needed or had to recreate something because I didn’t take the time up front to organize and set my self up because I didn’t think I would need it again.
I’m constantly watching for ways to better my workflow and organization and if I like something that I see someone else doing I will incorporate it or maybe make an adjustment so that it works better for me and work it into my system. If you have something to share feel free to let us know!