Recently I released an article on How To Be A Highly Efficient Filmmaker which discussed the key concepts to consider to ensure you’re moving forward in your creative life.

One of the reasons I focus on organisation is that I see time in a similar way to money. If you imagine a “time wallet” that is empty after its content gets used, you might start to see what I mean. When you’re looking for the missing PNG file needed to complete your project or having to relink media constantly, your handing over the time you’d be using to write your next script, or film your next project and it’s not something you can recover. All of this can be avoided when you organise your project in Premiere.

This guide will remove a great deal of that time-sinking turmoil from the editing experience and leave you feeling uplifted by the time you hit the export button, knowing that you won’t have any desktop clutter to rectify. It’ll also save you a ton of emotional expenditure which helps foster more creativity and inspiration for your next project.

This information is based on what has worked for me in my video production and filmmaking ventures. However, you may need to change aspects of this to fit your projects. You can download a copy of this dummy structure by clicking here.

Folder Structure

Before we get into Premiere, we will put together a folder system that is the skeleton of your post-production project. It’s going to look something similar to this.

film project folder structure mac

These folders will go inside your main project folder which you title after your film and store preferably on an SSD to further speed up editing. Here’s a look into some sub-folders you’ll require inside each of these. This article doesn’t go into depth about the VFX folder because it’s a bit more complex and has more moving parts than anything else here.

Footage, Dialogue & On-set foley

filming days project folder structure mac
Use this structure to organise your footage as your shooting.

Audio

audio project folder structure mac
AUDIO folder structure
foley folder structure
Inside FOLEY
films scenes project folder structure mac
Inside SOUND FX and ADDITIONAL folder in FOLEY

Documents

film documentation project folder structure

You can scan or photograph any production logs your crew make from each day of filming and keep them here. That means you don’t have to hold onto any of those pesky papers that tend to pile up during filming.

Graphics

graphics project folder structure

Music

music film project folder structure mac
Audio files mac

If you’re creating your music or collaborating with a composer, this system will work fine for you. You can also use song names instead of cues.

Project

premiere film project folder structure

File naming

I advise having your sound recordist rename each file whilst filming to make this as painless as possible. Cameras from Blackmagic and Red will allow you to add take information in the metadata. If your without this option, rename camera files in Premiere. This ensures your data wrangling reports won’t be skewed by file name changes. I normally use the scene number and take within the name.  Here are some suggested file naming schemes:

  • .1A-T1
  • .SC 1A T1
  • SCENE 1A TAKE 1
  • A/B CAM-SC-1A-TK1 (when using multiple camera’s)

Project Panel

When you first open Premiere, you will be introduced to a window prompting you to open an existing project or create a new one. If you choose to select a new project the application will ask you to choose your configuration settings for the project. This is an important part of keeping your project organised because you will choose where the files created by Premiere will be saved. I find it’s easier to have all assets on one external SSD as I move between working on my laptop and desktop. I also like to keep my projects self-contained in one folder, meaning that I have all of the assets needed to edit in my Dummy folder. This makes the process of editing simpler because I can find everything I will ever need inside the project folder. So go ahead and point Premiere to the folders we created.

project panel adobe premiere
Your project panel setup

Another place to auto-save

An alternative method of auto-saving is routing your auto-save to a location other than your editing drive. This way you’ll have an immediate back up if anything goes wrong. This might be a good option if you don’t have your project syncing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Inside Premiere

Create your sequence by going to FILE>NEW> SEQUENCE. There will be several sequence presets you can choose from that will load a setup in the editing suite for you. However, in this tutorial, we’re going to create a custom one we can save and use for future projects. Click over to the settings tab for now.

adobe premiere new sequence pane mac

If most of your work is edited at the same frame rate (such as 24fps, the most common for a film) then select that here. If you’re often varying your frame rates based on what you’re doing, you will be able to create multiple templates to accommodate that. The other settings are chosen defaults and I’ve never needed to tweak them.

adobe premiere new sequence pane mac

The following is what I’d use going into a new project. You can add or remove any of these based on your needs. For instance, a silent film could remove the dialogue track and you could even make a “Silent Film” preset if you are working on multiple projects without dialogue. After this is set up, you can hit Save Preset. It’s advisable to create some presets here to save you time on your future edits.

Once you have returned to the main project pane, drag all of your subfolders into Premiere’s project panel except for ‘PROJECT’ and ‘VERSIONS’ we don’t want these folders inside Premiere as they aren’t required during editing. If you haven’t already configured your autosave settings, now is a good time to do so. Go to Premiere Pro (Edit in Windows) > Preferences > Auto Save. I like to save a back up of my project in the Creative Cloud (which you can enable in this menu). It’s highly advisable to also have a backup of your project drive which you can create with disk cloning software. This way you also keep a backup of your footage.

Create a new bin in the project panel and name it ‘Sequence.’ Place your sequence into this folder. If you want to experiment with your edit without undoing any of your work, you can duplicate your sequence by right-clicking it and selecting duplicate. Title each duplicate as a new version. In this case, “Dummy Edit Version 2”.

Colourful Creativity

One of the things I find makes editing easier is changing the default colour of my audio tracks to clearly distinguish between them. Once you’ve dragged in some audio, right-click it and select label from the menu. Choose whatever set of colours you like but keep it consistent.

adobe premiere cc 2019 mac with right click menu

An important note

Premiere doesn’t synchronise with your file explorer. If you’ve added all of the footage from day 1-4 and now you’ve got day 5 footage ready to work with, you’ll need to bring it into Premiere. This also means that anything deleted from within Premiere will be kept on your machine. One of the advantages of this is you’ll have the power to leave out what is unneeded or that can be imported later to keep it as minimal as possible.

Downloading new assets

If you use Chrome to browse the web, it will by default save new files into your downloads folder. One option is to constantly move your downloaded assets from the default downloads folder into your project folder. The other option is to tweak a setting in Chrome that will let you choose where you send newly acquired files. To do this go to Chrome>Preferences (settings on Windows)>Advanced>Downloads and enable “Ask where to save each file before downloading”. Now you can save new assets into the right place immediately.

downloads option chrome browser preferences
Enabling this can save time moving files out of your downloads folder

Finishing up

 blonde woman wearing glasses looking upwards at golden hour
Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

At the end of your project, export out to your versions folder, calling each new edition of your project by number. In this case, it would be Dummy Version 1, Version 2 and so on. Don’t title anything ‘final’ because the copy you think is perfect often requires further refinement after watching it back the morning after an edit session or simply with a pair of fresh eyes. You can create a copy of this project structure on your computer which will save you having to recreate all of this again for your next film.

Author Tim Gardner

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