Use this easy system to organize your master drive or project server!

I feel like I’m always beating the same drum, but organization is incredibly important in our field. This goes all the way to the top level of your master project drive or production server. To help you as you wrangle a huge amount of clients, projects, and assets on a single drive or server, I wanted to share the organizational system I developed during my time as a Post-Production Director at a previous job:

masterdrive

Here’s a breakdown of what each folder is for…

Client

The Client folder is for all of the assets and project files of every project (with one exception – the footage/media; more on that below). The idea is to have a folder for every client, and, inside each, have a separate project folder for every project you do for that client.

For example:

  • Client
    • Apple
      • iPhone Commercial
      • Mac Mini Animation
    • Adobe
      • Premiere CC 2016 Demo
    • Home Depot
      • DIY Commercial Spot
      • Customer Testimonial

…and so on…


Media

The Media folder is meant to be organized identically to the Client folder, but inside each separate “project” folder, have the raw footage separated by reels.

For example:

  • Media
    • Home Depot
      • DIY Commercial Spot
        • Reel 1 – Interviews
        • Reel 2 – B-Roll
        • Reel 3 – GoPro Timelapse

It may seem odd to separate the media from the project, but there’s a very specific reason to do so that we ran into at my last job. We wanted to keep all of the project assets in the Client folder, and this was doable because the disk usage of the project and any masters was comparatively low (usually 5–10 GB). Keeping all of the raw footage on our main server, however, wasn’t practical, since the footage for a given project ran anywhere between 80 GB – 2 TB. Our solution was to offload and archive the footage to a separate external drive. Keeping the footage separately in a Media folder meant that archiving a project was easy.

If you don’t like it this way, simply put a Media folder inside each project in the Client folder (but still organize by reels).


Resources

This can be a bit of a monster to tackle, so this folder will likely need adjusting to suit your needs. This folder is initially separate by the stages of production:

Pre-Production

This is mostly for commonly used scripting templates, plus a place to put inspiration ideas you find. It breaks down into:

  • Inspiration
  • Script Templates
  • Storyboard Templates
  • Treatment Templates

Production

This is for gear research, manuals, etc., plus budgeting resources. It breaks down into:

  • Budget Templates
  • Gear

Post-Production

This one will probably get the most use (and if you only do post, just delete the other two and drag the items in this folder up a level to just inside Resources). It’s for any collected, reused stock assets you may have. It breaks down into:

  • Design Elements – Things like stock vector swooshes, UI button PSDs, texture overlay images, frames and borders, etc – specifically items used for designing.
  • Fonts – Put any purchased or dowloaded fonts in here so that you have an easy place to find them if you need to share them with a fellow editor/animator that you pass the project to.
  • Graphic FX – These are for things that are similar to the Design Elements, but are video based (instead of still images).
    • Animated Backgrounds – Like Digital Juice for example
    • Film Effects – Things like film burns, stock film grain, light leaks – whatever you have that tries to emulate the film look
    • Lower Thirds – If you create/buy/keep lower third templates for reuse later, put them here.
    • Motion Elements – This folder is for things like VideoCopilot’s Evolution and Riot Gear, Rampant Design’s animated mattes, dust or VFX elements, etc.
    • Template Projects – Template projects like you’d find on Video Hive, MotionVFX, etc.
    • Transitions – Wipes, flashes, mattes – any sort of transition element you want to keep easily accessible.
  • Music – If you maintain a stock music library, I’d put it here, along with an archive of items you may purchase as a backup.
  • Plugins & Software – Keeping track of your installers and documentation for any plugins and software you purchase is a good idea.
  • Sound Effects – Maybe from your favorite SFX supplier? You’ll probably want to organize the items in this folder pretty well, and that’s a beast all on it’s own.
  • Stock Footage – This is meant for actual footage – things shot with a camera that can usually stand alone. If they’re meant for motion graphic design or VFX compositing, they probably should go in the Motion Elements folder.
  • Stock Photos – Not textures or PSD design elements, but actual stock photography that can probably stand alone (in the same vein as the Stock Footage folder, but for stills.

Scratch Video

This folder is specifically for the things that the NLEs and other applications created automatically like caches, render files, various other scratch files, etc. Specifically, set up all of your programs to dump these kinds of necessary but non-critical files to this folders, so you can keep an eye on cache/render disk usage and clean as needed, but not worry about deleting something that would haunt you later.


And there you have it – a great way to organize your master project drive or server. If you use this with a team of editors, make sure everyone is on the same page for where things go, or it could get messy very quickly, which leads to big problems down the road. I’d recommend having one person “own” file organization that polices the server and keeps things organized.

If you’d like to use this folder structure, you can download it by clicking here.

And while you’re in the organizational mood, check out these helpful articles!