When I first started editing videos, I would add files to my video editing software by dragging in files from all around my computer before working on them.
This actually worked. For a little while.
Then, my projects started getting bigger as I began getting more clients as a videographer. I started using multiple cameras, a drone and microphones, and things started getting out of hand.
It soon became really easy to lose things and get that dreaded red box all the time. I started to waste so much time hunting around in my projects, on my computer and on random hard drives trying to find a piece of footage that I had left somewhere. The bigger the projects got, the more likely it was that I’d lose some critical file. My computer was like the messy workshop of an apprentice carpenter: stuff strewn everywhere without much thought.
And so, I started finding a place to put my files. Over the years, this has developed into what is now my file management template. Now, I never lose files, it’s super easy find any bits of footage, to share my project with other people and a no-brainer to archive it when I’m done with it. Out of everything I’ve learned about video editing, this has made me a faster editor than any other tip, keyboard shortcut or plugin.
What’s more, I barely even have to think about it. It takes me almost to no time set up and keep going.
And today, I’m gonna show it to you.
So first up, I use Final Cut Pro X as my video editor of choice. But I have also used this setup for projects in Premiere Pro and Davinci Resolve too, so I can confirm that it works there.
A Peek Into The Template
Every project I begin has this folder layout. Whenever I add something to the project, whether its some video footage, a client logo, sound recording etc, it goes into one of these folders:
It doesn’t matter if I’m copying it off of a memory card, my desktop or an email – the file gets copied into here before it goes into my video editor. Like a good experienced carpenter, I organise any new screw or tool that comes into my workshop into it’s proper box before I use it.
I attached a number at the start of the folder name so that I can sort everything by name so that they’re always where I expect them to be.
Here’s what the inside of those folders looks like:
This structure lets me capture just about anything that needs to be added to a video project. Let’s go one by one into what each folder should contain:
- Video FootageThis one is pretty self-explanatory. The meat and potatoes of your video project: the actual footage from one or more of your cameras. I always organise footage by date and by camera within this folder. Here’s an example from one of my recent projects:
Once again, I’m able to order the folder list by name because I use the date format of yyyy-mm-dd, so that the newest footage is on the bottom. The folder date is simply the date I made the folder: It’s not the date of the first or last footage or anything. This way I don’t think too much about it.
- AudioMusic is usually the backing track of video that I’ve downloaded from a royalty-free music site. Sound effects are essential to almost any video. Voiceovers are usually recorded with a separate audio recorder to add to the video.
- GraphicsHere I store any client logos, overlays (such as smoke or light leak effects), motion graphics that I make using After Effects and any plain old pictures that need to be added.
- Other AssetsOften I conduct interviews in another language, so I have subtitle files sent to me by a translator. For all other files that don’t fit into any other folder such as Word or Excel documents, there’s Other.
- ExportsAny time I export a video it goes here. I can see all the revisions from the rough cut to the final cut here in this folder
- Project FilesAll project files created by the video editor (in my case Final Cut) go here. This is the file that stores all the information about your project including all of the edits you’ve made.
Final Cut Pro-cess
You may have noticed the Project Template.fcpbundle file in the screenshot above. It’s a Final Cut project that I’ve set up with the same folder structure as the one I just showed you. This is what it looks like when I open it up:
You can see that the structure here is the same as the folders. Again this means I know exactly where each file should go.
The main difference here is the 05. Timelines folder. Whenever I make any timeline (or sequence or project if you prefer), it gets put in that spot. That way I can find any of my A-roll or B-roll cuts. When I make a new revision, before I start editing it I right-click on the timeline (project) and select “Duplicate Project As..” and add a V2, V3 etc at the end of the name.
An extra little tip – leave files in place
The first thing I tell people to do when they open Final Cut Pro for the first time is to change this setting. It’s the single biggest source of pain and headache in the app. It’s one of the reasons the project files end up becoming massive. Go File→Preferences.. Navigate here a make sure to select “Leave files in place”.
How I set up a brand new project
- Copy the entire Project Template folder
- Rename with yyyy-mm-dd on the day you make it. Like with the video footage folders, I set the date to whatever it is the day I make the folder. This day might be 2 weeks after filming or 2 months beforehand – it doesn’t matter. The idea is that this should be as easy as possible. The videos will still be in the rough order that they were created and that’s all that matters.
- Change the name of the project folder and final cut template to your project name
- Add video footage to folder, organised by date
- Add any other files (music, logos, voiceovers etc) to their respective folder
- Drag footage into Final Cut. The cool thing here is if you have your video footage sorted into folders already, Final Cut will keep these folder names as Keyword Collections to ensure that they’re organised the same way once they get into the Media Browser.
- Make a new timeline (project) under Timelines
- When you share your project with someone, simply copy the whole folder
Here’s an example of what it would look like for a project I just made:
Since using this folder structure, I no longer lose any footage. I can share projects with other people if it’s a big project that needs multiple editors. And I can look for bits of footage in projects from more than a year ago without any issues. The best part is, it makes it even faster for me to set up and start a new project, so I can get going and make videos more quickly.
You can find a link to my template below, which has my folder structure: