First, I say this is for Short Films, and yes, this is true, but you can also use this for commercial projects like 30s, 60s, 120s, 28:30 infomercials or anything that requires a large project and management.  Highly customizable.  Use what you need.  

I find it extremely helpful to have a consistent structure in place before starting a new project. And over the years, I struggled with nailing down a set project system. It was convoluted, messy and I dreaded going back into older projects. So I set out to find something and stick to it. I think I’ve found it. It works for me, hopefully, it will help you too.

With that, let’s take a deep dive into the way I structure a project, and at the very end, I’ll show you a little trick to make a project folder structure quickly by automating it.

The less time you spend setting up a new project, the more time you can spend on what you do best – creating!

I will say as a caveat, you DON’T need to use this particular structure, but you SHOULD have one in place.  Whether you’re a one-person creative force or in a team setting. And if you are just starting out, create a new, and healthy habit of being organized.

Every studio will have its own version of project management, so be ready to adjust if need to.

PROJECT NAMING

First off, it’s a mess.  What’s what? Who’s the client?  When was it created? Who created it!?

Again, every studio will have their own way of naming projects, but they’ll all most likely have the same commonality.  All this makes it super easy to track later if need be, too.

PROJECT NAMING

ESSENTIAL PARAMETERS

Job-Number
Managing and tracking
Client
Who hired you? Who is the job for?
Project-Name
What's the specific name for the job. Think of this as a campaign name. For instance, if the client's name is Apple, this PROJECT-NAME could be for the ``iPhone-Summer-Spot``
Date
This is the date when the project is created
Username
Who is the project lead? Who created the project?

(JOB-NUMBER)_(CLIENT)_(PROJECT-NAME)_(DATE)_(USER)

It would look something like this:

001_MGH_PROJECT-NAME_2020-01-01_Marsgohome

PARENT FOLDER

00 Output
All renders
01 Footage
Raw Footage and Proxies
02 Project Files
All files used to create the project.
03 Elements
Textures, Jpegs, Stock elements
04 Audio
This is a beast of a folder. ALL audio projects and files all up in this!
05 Production
The super fun part of the project. Mainly paper work.
06 TEMP X
Stuff that can be trashed or needs to be organized.
MAIN FOLDER

00 OUTPUT

I put this at the very top.  It’s exactly what it is. Your renders.  Crack that folder open and we’re going to create a few more sub-folders.

A - For_Approval
Just that – for approvals. Usually, lower rez outputs for the client to review and sign off on.
>>(Date_Only)
Just organize them by DATE only. This comes in handy if you need to track past renders down. Especially if you specified a number of revisions to the client.
B - Deliverables
Full high quality renders. The ones you’d submit for TV and/or WEB.
>> TV
Full broadcast deliverables with specified size, codecs, quality.
>> Web
Social, YouTube, Vimeo, or other web-based destinations.
MAIN FOLDER 2

01 FOOTAGE

NOTE: If you’re working off a network, external drives or the raw footage you’re using is just too large for your working drives – then you can have this folder elsewhere.

If you’re dealing with any footage shot by yourself or anyone else, this is the folder to put all the raw footage in.  So let’s create a few sub-folders.

A - RAW
All raw footage that comes into you or offloaded.
>>(camera)
Each CAMERA should be in its own folder.
>>>(date)
Organized by DATE.
>>>>(Card_Name)
Then organized by CARD NAME.
B - Proxies
Sometimes your system isn’t strong enough to handle beefy files – like ALEXA or RED 8k – I get it – and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s where PROXIES come in. And we have a folder just for them!
MAIN FOLDER 3

02 PROGRAM FILES

This can get a bit crazy – depending on the different kinds of programs you’re using.  Just create folders for each PROGRAM you use. I work in an Adobe Environment so here’s what mine look like.

A - Pr (Premiere Pro)
You’ll see that I have two folders called A – Working and B – Master. I like to work in steps. Meaning, edit, picture lock, sound, graphics, VFX. These would be considered Working project files.
B - Ae (After Effects)
All After Effects projects go in here.
C - Ps (Photoshop)
All Photoshop files go here. I have a folder called “STYLEFRAMES“ in which I have templates automatically generated at project creation.
D - Ai (Illustrator)
All vector and Illustrator files go here.
E - XML
If you’re bringing any projects in from an outside editor using XML, those files go here.
F - 3D (3D Program)
These are broken down into SCENES, RENDERS, and 3D MODELS. I’ll be honest, been getting into Blender more these days, so feel free to rename to your 3D Program of choice, if any.

I’d like to back up a bit and focus on the WORKING and MASTER files for the Premiere folder.  As mentioned be for I like to work in steps.  Meaning, edit, picture lock, sound, graphics, VFX. These would be considered Working project files.

The B – Master would be the final project file you’d use to push out the Master Render.

MAIN FOLDER 4

03 ELEMENTS

These are just assets you’d bring in. Again, user and project-specific. This is where I would put any artwork provided by the client, JPGs, PNGs, MOV rendered elements and Stock Footage. Here’s what I have created for me:

~Artwork_From_Client
Anything proved from the client to use. Logos, style guides, etc...
Image_Sequences
Sometimes you need to render out Image Sequences from Photoshop, Mocha Import Sequences or 3D render sequences. They'll go here.
JPG
This can be rendered or acquired images. This doesn't need to be specifically JPG. PNG and like images can populate this folder too.
MOV
I put rendered elements from After Effects in here. They can be smoke and dust elements, to pre-rendered elements created to speed up compositing. Lower Thirds and titles can go here too.
Stock
Stock images and footage can go here.
MAIN FOLDER 5

04 AUDIO

This can be a monster too, but we need to give this area the attention it deserves – after all, the sound is 80% of the video.  In true fashion its in order. Incoming to Outgoing.

A - Turnover
The raw audio coming from the edit. This can be OMFs as well.
B - Music
The score from the composer, stems, purchased music.
C - ADR
This can be Voice Over, too.
D - Foley
Any Sound Effect created specifically for the project.
E - Editorial
Working Projects (see below)
F - Mix
Full mix and sweetened project.
G - Deliverables
Outgoing audio files back to Editor

I’d like to go over the E – Editorial real quick.  Just like my Premiere working project files, I do the same with Audio edits, with sequential project saves with the coding system below:

DX
Dialog.

Example:
001_MGH_EXAMPLE-PROJECT_editorial_DX-2020-01-01_Marsgohome

BG
Background audio (room tones, environments)

Example:
001_MGH_EXAMPLE-PROJECT_editorial_DX-BG-2020-01-01_Marsgohome

FX
Sound Effects.

Example:
001_MGH_EXAMPLE-PROJECT_editorial_DX-BG-FX_2020-01-01_Marsgohome

FOL
Foley.

Example:
001_MGH_EXAMPLE-PROJECT_editorial_DX-BG-FX-FOL_2020-01-01_Marsgohome

MX
Music.

Example:
001_MGH_EXAMPLE-PROJECT_editorial_DX-BG-FX-FOL-MX_2020-01-01_Marsgohome

MAIN FOLDER 6

05 PRODUCTION

This is a super boring area but equally important.  This is where the scripts go. Any important documents, references, contracts, and legal stuff.

A - Scripts
All scripts written or provided from the client.
B - Documents
Additional important documents provided by the client.
C - References
Internal and External References.
D - Legal
The fun folder. Contracts, Invoices, Releases, etc...
MAIN FOLDER 7

06 TEMP X

This is just a holding place before a file goes to the trash.  Quick renders to see if it looks good, but not worth keeping. Anything…temporary.

FREE STUFF!

DOWNLOADS

As promised, here are some goodies.

Digital Rebellion has created a badass little program that can quickly make Project folders with a click of a button. It’s called Post Haste.  The best part?  It’s FREE!

Now, because I love you, I’m also going to provide y’all the Post Haste template of my Project Folder set-up.  It come with every folder explained in this article.  You can use Post Haste or store it locally on your system and copy it over.

FREE STUFF!

GO PRO!

If you dig this, I’ve also provided my personal folder structure WITH program (Adobe) templates.  Feel free to modify it or don’t even use it.  It’s your life, live it!

This file is provided “as is,” without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. In no event shall the author be held liable for any damages arising in any way from the use of these scripts.

And for a final reiteration, you don’t have to use this format, you can create your own.  And by using Post Haste, your workflow will speed up significantly!

Be cool, be rad, be creative! 

RELATED RESOURCES

After Effects Quick Folder Structure Script [FREE Download]