Creative minded people aren’t always known for their organizational skills. The desktop on the average filmmakers computer often looks more like a college dorm room than a 5-star hotel, and I can say personally I have been guilty of poor organization in my earlier years as a filmmaker. I’ve learned over the years though, that organization is one of the keys to creative success as it allows you to free up more time to actually be creative, and spend less time searching for files and trouble shooting. I use a simple folder structure for each of my projects that helps keep files in their right places without much effort and have made it available for download at the end of this article.
The general idea with any folder structure is that you keep the master version somewhere in your computer (mine is in my ‘Documents’ folder), and then copy and paste it to whichever drive you’re working off of. My preference is to have a ‘PROJECTS’ folder in the root directory of my main hard drive, and with each new project, I paste the “NEW PROJECT’ folder structure inside. From there, all you need to do is rename the folder to match the project name that you’re working on and you’re all set.
Here is what the folder structure will look like when it is unzipped:
You can feel free to customize the folder structure to suit your own specific needs, but for me this is what works best:
- Delivery – For all of your deliverables at the end of your project.
- Graphics – Any graphic assets from Photoshop, 3d applications, or other sources.
- Location Audio/ADR – All dialogue/on set audio as well as any Additional Dialogue Recording.
- Music – Original compositions or stock music.
- Project Files – For any of your applications (FCP, Avid, Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, etc.)
- Raw Footage – Just as it says, the untouched raw footage, straight from the camera.
- Reference – Any documents that you need as reference (creative outlines, scripts, etc.)
- Renders – A folder to throw all of your renders into, keeping them in one place.
- Stills – Stock or original photos needed for your project.
- Transcoded Footage – Any material that you have conformed to a different format (ProRes, DNxHD, etc.)
- Workflow – All workflow related files such as XMLs, EDLs, and so on.
Also keep in mind that you can add sub-folders to this structure to make things even more detailed. For example, in the ‘Raw Footage’ folder, you will probably need to add subfolders for different cameras that you’ve shot on. Maybe one for RED and one for 5D. And then within those folders, you can add, ‘Card 1, Card 2, etc. On many projects you may not need to utilize every folder in this structure, but that’s okay, leave them empty if you don’t need them and at least they are there in case you do get an asset that needs to be filed away.
By taking 30 seconds before starting any given project to just copy this structure onto your drive, you may save yourself hours of time in the long run, trying to search for files that you can’t find. We have all had situations where we boot up FCP and there is the dreaded ‘Offline Media’ message popping up. Or instances where you want to share a project with a colleague but need to hunt down all of your files or use the Media Manager to organize it for you. There are a million issues that can arise when you’re not organized, but they all boil down to having the same consequence – they leave you with less time to be creative and do what you should be doing.