File structure and file naming. By Rob Anderson

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I love computers. Either Mac or PC. I’m not one of those folks who feel they have to hate one over the other. The biggest advantage- and also failure- of programs are their ability to allow the user to find many different ways to get the same thing done. This is a good thing but also can be very frustrating and not more so than when dealing with- in program- file structure or -out of program- naming conventions on a series. In the old days losing a scene meant you walked around looking under desks and digging through the blackened camera department room. It kept you healthy at least! Now losing a file is as easy as hitting the wrong key or adding an extra character to a file name.

Time is extremely important on a project. Every shot will pass through a multitude of team members in order to be completed. One must always keep in mind how easy it can be to lose something in the flurry that is production. Below are some ideas to stew on.

I have to start with COMUNICATION.

Although there may be days that it seems to be the case not everyone is inside your head. If you are running a project and have a specific setup that you want the team to use then make sure they all know what that is. Be it Flash or any other platform you are using.

Create a detailed breakdown as to how the shots should be set up and if needed create examples. Use whatever you need to make sure that the information is getting across. Puppets can be fun but time consuming.

Create a master naming convention that works for the team and the project. I don’t want to get into details here but something that was drilled into my head early on in my career was “ Keep it Simple, Stupid” or the KISS principle. If you have a file naming structure that is 20 characters long or more you might want to rethink things.

Create a folder structure that is easy for everyone to follow. Don’t make the team go 20 levels in to find what they are looking for.

Track who has what shot and when/where it is. Upping the version number on a shot while helpful can also create issues if, for some reason, there were two people working on the same shot.

It is way too easy to lose a file in the forest. There are many types of asset management programs out there, either built by a studio or purchased for a studio. Some programs even come with them. There may even be some that force the naming convention onto the user but that may not help with tracking versions. There are systems that will not allow more than one person to work on a shot at any given time. All these can be of a great help but not all studios can afford them. If you don’t know already, find out what asset tools your studio is using and plan around them.

And lastly be an absolute dictator when people don’t follow the above. There really can be no room for personal interpretations when it comes to file naming!

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