Editing can be a messy business; wild version numbers, nonsensical folders scattered all over the computer. It doesn’t have to be that way. As a person who loves organization, I’ve absorbed so many helpful ways to keep things in order during the editing process. Here are 5 of the most helpful of those organizational tips.

Create a folder structure that works for your editing team

Having a good folder structure can, among other benefits, keep you from accidentally saving files on the desktop, then getting an “offline media” message when trying to open your project on another computer. A folder structure is simply the names and placements of the folders you create before editing. I’ve had a long list of folder structures in my career as an editor. I’ve landed on a pretty consistent template, thanks to the folks at CNBC and NowThis. I make small tweaks for each project, though.

Having this template will keep you organized as you edit, and will make it very easy to hand off the project to someone else, or archive it for later. Here’s my template folder structure, but remember, this is just one way of doing things. You have to figure out what works for you and your workflow.

    • Template Project file
    • Auto-Save and other auto-populated projects files
  • 02_MEDIA
    • ORIGINAL (things we’ve shot specifically for this project)
      • BROLL
    • SOURCED (things I’ve downloaded from stock sites or have been given permission to use from subjects)
  • 03_AUDIO
    • MICS (if you or the production team recorded audio separate from the video)
    • MUSIC
    • SFX (I use this folder for ambient sounds or sound effects to use during graphics)
    • VO (if you’re using any voice over tracks)
    • PROJECTS (this is where I keep projects from After Effects or another animation software)
    • ASSETS (this is for presets or things you’ll use over and over, like special text graphics)
    • RENDERS (this is where I keep any rendered effects I receive from someone else)
  • 05_EXPORTS
    • _DRAFTS (this is where I keep radio cuts, rough cuts, and fine cuts)
    • _FINAL (this is a folder just for the final products)
    • CLIPS (this is where I keep little clips I’ve exported for whatever reason)
    • THUMBS (this is where I keep assets I want to use for the thumbnail)
  • 06_DOCUMENTS (I’ll use this folder for any articles, papers, or text-based files I have)

Create a naming convention, and stick to it

Having a naming convention for your files while editing can help keep all your versions in order. If you’ve been an editor for any amount of time, you probably have a folder with “project-final.mp4” and “project-finalfinal.mp4” and “project-finalfinal1.mp4,” and so on. That’s not great, especially if you’re working with other people. I have tiers for my edits (see below), and then versions of those tiers. For example, I’ll have “project-rough-v1” and “project-rough-v2”.

In this example, “project” is the name of the piece I’m working on, “rough” is the current cut I’m working on, and “v2” signifies it is the second version of that cut. The tires I use for my edits are…

  • Radio: A radio cut is basically a string-out of the video and audio you’ll be using, and its rough placement in the project. Think of it like a podcast; you’re focusing on the structure of the story, not the visuals just yet.
  • Rough: A rough cut is when you start to place your footage and get your graphics started.
  • Fine: The fine cut is when everything gets polished, as the structure should be dialed in.
  • Final: The final cut is what gets published or sent to a client. It’s all done!

Separate and name your video and audio tracks

This is something I’ve been doing for a long time, and it has paid off as my edits get more and more complicated. It makes things so much easier to see on a macro level when you have video and audio tracks labeled for specific uses.

For example, seeing where all my lower 3rd graphics are can help me determine if I’ve named the subjects enough. If I haven’t, that track will look pretty empty. It also makes it easy to export several different cuts without having to delete things. Let’s say a client wants all the text gone from a cut. You can just turn off all the tracks with text on them. Easy!

Don’t you love a strange music track title?

Use labels for your timeline clips

This is something for Premiere Pro users. There are ways to do similar things in other programs, but I think Premiere has the most straightforward method of tagging. The ability to label clips has made longer edits so much easier. I changed my labels from their color names to an asset name. So, instead of blue being labeled “blue,” it’s now “Music.” All of my music files will be labeled with this in the bin.

On the timeline, this is very useful for selecting all of one asset type. If all the music is too loud, I can select the music label group and change the gain on all the clips. This is also useful for applying effects like color correction to a group of videos. Say one of my interviews is too warm. I can select the “Interview 1” label group and app

I also just love when a timeline is colorful.

Invest in a program that keeps your files synced

I use a plugin called “Watchtower” that does a pretty good job keeping my files synced with my project. It’s super useful if you‘ll be gathering lots of assets as you edit, or if you’re getting new footage while you’re editing. This is not a necessity if you’re not looking to spend more money on your setup (editing computers and software subscriptions are already really pricy). It’s just a useful tool if you have a few bucks to spend.

Featured image by Wahid Khene on Unsplash