Let's talk about organization and naming schemes


I’ve noticed something isn’t really talked about all that much - organization of files during a project. I first picked started being really anal about it during my senior thesis three years ago, secondhand from someone who interned at a major studio. When you’re struggling to meet a deadline at the eleventh hour, you’ll realize just how worthwhile all the preparation really is - no overwriting vital files, no searching for files, no duplicate names in subfolders, no -FINAL04.max suffixes. Everything is exactly where you expect it to be, and everything (basically) works exactly the way you want.

         If you've worked in a studio (I haven't), you already use this.
         What I'd like to see is how other people organize their projects. My scheme started out much uglier and looser than this, and eventually developed over time as I learned how to fix problems I was having. It's very streamlined for the projects I do - about 14-15 minutes of rendered footage, quick rendering times on two computers, lots of external references, and 25-30 minutes with stillframes after editing. The destination is a run of CDs and DVDs.
  I use 3ds max. Some of this is application-specific, most of it isn't. WARNING: [[img]http://content.imagesocket.com/images/emot_words3d8.gif[/img]](http://imagesocket.com/view/emot_words3d8.gif) 
         Folder Organization - Main Folder
         Every main folder for every project is set up in the exact same way. So, if I'm doing a job for Forklift Manufacturing Intl, because forklifts are fun:
-> _Business
-> _Old
-> _Reference
-> _Scripts
-> Audio
-> Interface
	-> CD Interface
	-> DVD Interface
	-> Labels
-> Render
-> Textures
-> F01_BasicOperation
	-> _old
	-> Audio
	-> Overlays
	-> Video
-> F09_Emergencies
-> Xrefs

[li] _Business, _Old, _Scripts, and _Reference are all underscored so they’ll show up separate from the rest of the folders. That way, they’ll stay away while I’m frantically clicking around 3D folders two hours before a deadline.[/li][li]_Business holds hours, contracts, invoices, and conversations strictly related to getting paid.[/li][li]_Old is a catch-all “I don’t need these files anymore” folder. I rarely use it, but it’s better than outright deleting anything.[/li][li]_Reference holds all reference photos and videos for machinery and operation. It’s usually filled with sub-folders, nothing organized in any specific way.[/li][li]_Scripts contains all voiceover scripts.[/li][li]Audio contains music or sound effects that are used in multiple videos.[/li][li]Interface contains DVD-lab project files and everything involved in the creation of the menus for both CD and DVD destinations. I throw the disc labels in here for lack of anywhere else to put them.[/li][li]Render contains all rendered image files. This is separate so I don’t have to back it up when I’m finished with the project if I don’t feel it’s necessary. I strain to make all frames render in 30s or less, so it’s not a big deal to recreate all this. Keep in mind - the files in this folder should only require time, not work, to recreate. Do not put video editing work files in here - keep them in the individual video folders.[/li][li]Textures has every texture in the project in one folder. I’ve tried individual folders, and it just caused problems with network rendering and duplicate names - keeping them all in one folder makes absolute sure that every file name is unique.[/li][li]After that, each video gets its own folder - a single-character designation, video number, and short description.[/li][li]Finally, all Xrefs for all videos go in one folder, again to prevent any chance of duplication.[/li][/ul]

     Each project is split up into separate videos, which each have a folder with specific subfolders.

  -> _old

[li] _old contains previous versions of files. I keep them around basically forever.[/li][li]Audio contains voiceovers for that specific video.[/li][li]Overlays contains any text or markup that’s composited over the rendered frames in post.[/li][li]Video contains the Premiere project file, which prevents it from flooding the video folder with its own subfolders.[/li][/ul]
Render Folder

-> Final Render
	-> CD
	-> DVD
-> F01_BasicOperation
	-> F01_01_01
	 -> F01_01_02

[li] Final Render contains everything that Premiere spits out. .m2v and .wav files go into the DVD folder, .wmv and .mov files into CD. This obviously changes depending on the project.[/li][li]All files are rendered in PNG format - decent compression, lossless, works with everything I need it to. PNG transparency has always been the most universally reliable for me, and I use a LOT of transparency.[/li][/ul]
File Organization - Scene Files

         All major scene files, for all videos, in all projects use the same naming scheme.
[project letter][video #]_[scene #]_[shot #]_[SceneDescription]_[version #].max

[li] [project designation] - Each project gets a single letter identifier. This makes it much, much easier to find stray max or render files. It’s also more difficult to screw up and overwrite files from other projects, especially when working on more than one at the same time.[/li][li][video #] - Usually there will be multiple, independent videos on one DVD - this is a general number for the video.[/li][li][Scene #] - Corresponds to a panel on a thumbnail sketch.[/li][li][Shot #] - Catch-all for individual camera angles or unanticipated scenes.[/li][li][Scene Description] - Short, 2-3 word description of the scene. Makes it easier to quickly find a specific shot without having to refer back to a storyboard. No spaces, no underscores.[/li][li][Version #] - Incrementing number for save files. This is the only part of the name that should ever, ever, EVER change. Please don’t get into the habit of names like F01_01_01_Intro_63-FINAL010-shadows_05.max. [/li][/ul]A project might have this list of files:


Ctrl-Shift-S is set to increment save. I do this every time I’m about to make a major change, and every once in a while just for fun.

         This section will hopefully be deprecated as soon as I figure out the best way to replace it. As of right now, my main computer has a static IP address of and two shared folders for each project. No password is required. It's horribly unsecured, even with NAT and a firewall, so please don't ever do this. Set up a protected network drive or something like that.
         The two shared folders are:
         \\\FRender\ -> C:\3dsmax8\scenes\Forklift\Render\ - Read/Write
         \\\Forklift\ -> C:\3dsmax8\scenes\Forklift\ - Read-Only
         All assets in all scene files - specifically textures and xrefs - use a base of \\\Forklift\ so there is no chance of a render node accidentally using a local file.
         \\\Forklift\Textures	exturename.jpg
         All rendered files are sent to \\\FRender\ so there is no need for consolidation afterward. The naming convention is:
         [project letter][video #]_[scene #]_[shot #]_.png
         This makes for a very easy time of importing image sequences to Premiere with no duplicate names.
         As a side note, every file has rendering set to Active Time Segment, with Render Hidden Geometry permanantly turned on. If I don't want something rendered, I specifically turn off Renderable in the object's settings. Active Time Segment ensures that I always render exactly what I see, rather than specifying a range, forgetting about it, and ending up with half a scene the next morning. Render Hidden Geometry means that I never have to remember to unhide a layer, ruining hours of rendering time. I think it's a really good habit to get into.
           Audio Files
         Voiceover files are set up in a simpler way, and are split up only by scene.
Each file has an original 24-bit/96KHz version for editing and effects, which is batch converted to 16-bit/48KHz for the final CD/DVD.
           Overlay Files
         This one is simple - scene titles are all contained within a single Photoshop file, one layer per. Premiere will import each layer as a separate frame and auto-update if the original layers change.
         Other overlays have individual files, usually also in PSD format for easiest editing.

So, what are your secrets?


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