Handling a single video project as an individual is fairly easy. Depending on your organizational preferences, you might be able to have files scattered across your computer and data in a multitude of places. But when you scale up to having to manage large video projects in multiples, or multiple employees helping you with your video projects, you really will need some sort of solution. It’s time to start thinking like a project manager, and acting like a big business. Cover photo by photostockeditor.
Why You Need to Be Organized
Some people prefer to cover the floor of their room with clothes instead of using their closet or their laundry basket. Some people have desks covered in papers, yet know exactly where everything is. This may work for you, but you should try to operate differently when multiple projects come your way. If you have several clients depending on you, and several employees working with you, your work will be much less stressful and much more efficient if it’s operated and stored in the same way every time. If a client asks for a version of a video project, or a specific asset from one, or needs an edit somewhere during the video, there should be no hesitation when you’re looking for it.
1. Use Project Management Tools
Before we even talk about data and file storage, let’s talk about managing large video projects. When you only have a single project, it might be easy to remember the details in your head. As soon as you get more projects, it’s likely that you’ll get deadlines and notes mixed up in your head. There are plenty of project management tools out there, but even the most basic of tools will work. Mark down the project title and the client name. Then include the due date and any other milestones in the project. Include any notes from the client or important inclusions to remember. If there are any updates or changes, update your information. If you have a team, you should assign sub-tasks to different people, assuming your project management software has that ability. If your tasks and projects don’t have clear due dates or assignees, then it will likely be forgotten about. Especially when the projects start to flood in.
2. Choose How to Store Your Files
Video files take up a lot of space. Even with a basic camera, video files can fill up a computer storage drive quickly. When you add 4K raw video files to the mix, such as from a BlackMagic camera, your available storage dwindles even quicker. In many cases, it won’t be easy to expand the storage in your computer. If you have a desktop with room for lots of additional drives, you might be in luck. But if you have a smaller computer or even a laptop, local storage will be limited. But if you have a team (or even if you don’t) relying on local storage alone may not be a great idea. Most video production teams work off of a shared storage drive. This usually takes the form of a server that can be accessed from any computer with the right credentials. Some offices may also prefer a NAS (network attached storage) if file storage is the primary use case. These solutions allow for everyone on the team to access projects and files from anywhere, that way collaborators will always have access to the most recent version of a project. There are some potential downsides to editing this way, but we’ll cover them later in the article.
3. Make Use of Collaboration
We have a great video on our YouTube channel about the collaboration features included in Premiere Pro, but we’ll summarize the benefits here. As mentioned above, editing collaboratively ensures that whenever someone opens a project or file, they are working with the most recent version of that file. The last thing you want is multiple versions of a project running around without anyone’s knowledge. Collaboration tools also lock projects from being opened if someone is already working on them. This makes version control even tighter.
4. Use Proxies
We mentioned that there were downsides to working off of a server or NAS. And those can often be speed. Most storage servers use spinning hard drives rather than lightning-fast solid-state drives. While this might be fine for some footage, playing back a 4K video file through this limited bandwidth can be a challenge. To get around this likely scenario, you should edit with proxies. Proxies are lower-quality versions of video files that you can edit with, and they won’t slow down the process. You can also easily switch back to the original file to do some detailed editing.
5. Always Save and Back up Your Work
Time is money, and when you’re handling multiple video projects you may not have a lot of time to work with. Don’t forget to save often. You may want to set an autosave in your editing software to save pretty frequently, maybe even every 5 or 10 minutes.
Speaking of saving, you will want to back up your work often. If you’re working alone and off of a single machine, you should save projects to your internal storage as well as to an external backup drive. If you have a team and a server, you should have automatic backups configured. Some server and NAS setups support backups or data duplication. For example, RAID 1 is a way of configuring storage drives that combines at least 2 physical storage drives and writes data to both drives. That way, if one fails you will always have the backup. The downside of course is that you will cut your storage capacity in half. There are more advanced ways of automatic backup like this, but you should keep this basic concept in mind. If you are working with important data, you should also use an offsite cloud storage backup. A local backup is great if you have a drive failure, but it won’t help you in the event of a fire or theft. An offsite cloud backup will save you in an emergency. Why not use one as your only backup? Well, cloud services are often slow to download files from, and some will charge you for downloading your files. For a more in-depth guide to RAID, read this article.
6. Use a Consistent File Structure
I can’t tell you how to live your life, but I can definitely make a suggestion for an optimal file structure for managing large video projects. When you create a folder for your project, start by naming it something that everyone who might work on the project will understand. Then create a set of subfolders for your different kinds of assets and files.
- Project files (the actual project file as well as autosaves and supplemental projects)
- Raw video files (the original footage that came out of the camera)
- Additional video (supplemental video not caught at the shoot)
- Sound (additional captured audio from the shoot, and any voice overs and sound effects)
- Music (background music to be used in the edit)
- Images (still image assets to be used in the edit)
- Drafts and Finals (exports of the project)
Having this structure in place helps both you and any other editors navigate the folder structure and not have to worry about files being scattered elsewhere.
7. Use the YRMODA Naming System
YRMODA stands for Year-Month-Day and it’s probably the most ideal file naming system you can use for your footage. If you recorded some footage on April 17th, 2021, for example, then your file would start with 210417. You can do any variation of this as long as it’s consistent. This means you could also write it as 2021-04-17, which may be easier to read at a glance. You should then follow this with some description of what the footage is. Some services don’t like spaces in file names, so try to use underscores or dashes instead of spaces. If you really don’t like renaming all of your files or your camera automatically includes the date in the file name, you should at least name the folder with YRMODA.
Whether you’re an individual videographer and editor or an entire production studio, these file management tips will be useful. Things only get more complicated when you’re working on multiple projects at once. Don’t just throw your video files anywhere – keep them consistent, keep them backed up safely, and become more efficient with your large projects!