Prepare a Better Video Post Workflow

A good edit process depends on the prework one does for their video post workflow. I’ve worked with a lot of producers and editors who have ignored crucial first steps to prepare an video for edit. Not gonna lie. It sucks (if you know who you are, I apologize for calling you out, Partner).

When the prework is skipped, it always results in missing assets when the project is transferred to another editor, the inability to find assets within the file structure–both in the edit project and on the hard drive, sequences that are set to the wrong output size or file format, and confusion when picking up an edit in the middle of the process.

How does one prepare a good video post workflow?

The first step an efficient workflow is preparing everything with the goal in mind. This doesn’t necessarily mean the finished product. It means creating processes that free up valuable time for the most important part of video post: being creative as long as possible. This is counterintuitive as one might think getting the actual edit started is faster.

Trust me. It’s not.

When there is a tight turnaround for an edit, every second spent trying to find assets, trying to figure out file structure, or fixing sequence settings eats into creative time. It creates stress for the entire creative video post production team. And it doesn’t have to happen.

A good video post production workflow consists of these major components:

  • Preparing file tree for asset files on hard drives
  • Naming assets and simplifying default file structure
  • Importing and organizing your assets in your project file
  • Setting sequence settings for efficient workflow and desired output settings

Then the actual edit can start. Let’s dive a little bit into why each component matters.

Preparing file tree for asset files

When everything from footage, music, graphic files and every other asset are dumped into one giant folder, it is difficult to find anything. The larger the project, the harder it is to find what you need. I like to say that if you can’t find something, it’s as if that thing does not exist at all. Even the simplest of organization can help.

Assuming you keep a separate folder for each individual production, here’s my typical root file folder structure:

  • 01 Footage
  • 02 Audio
  • 03 Graphics
  • 04 Draft files
  • 05 Final files

I like to put numerals at the front of my folders to maintain file heirarchy.

You can go even deeper within each of these broad categories to organize further. For example, take 02 Audio. In this folder I’ll often create:

  • 01 Music
  • 02 SFX
  • 03 Dialog
  • 04 Narration

I’m not saying you have to go hog wild with file folder in file folder for only one item. But organizing files in the beginning saves so much trouble later in the video post workflow.

Naming assets and simplifying default file structure

What’s the difference between MVI012321_1238.mov and MVI012121_145.mov? Without opening each file in Preview, do you know what’s in the shot? And what happens when a direct copy of files off a camera card looks like this?

  • CAMERA
    • ROOT
    • MP4
      • SD
        • RAW
        • MOV
          • MVI012321_1238.mov
          • MVI012121_145.mov
    • FOLDER

Talk about frustrating. Each of the other folders on that card also contain data, but it’s not the actual video footage we need to cut with (and yes, I have inherited projects with this kind of folder structure for their video footage). Every time you need to find a new video file, it’s twirl down, twirl down, twirl down. It is painful when a video post workflow suffers from this mess.

For the love of pete, at least bring the video footage up in the file tree. Keep it simple. And do yourself a favor and rename your video files so you can tell what is what. For example:

  • Camera
    • Andy Interview_keeping factory safe.mov
    • Andy Interview_work life balance.mov

Importing and organizing your video assets in your project file

Organizing your files on your hard drives is important. So is organizing your bin structure in your project file. When hitting “import” its easy to just grab a top level folder without considering how the software will import the underlying file structure. Some editing programs ignore the underlying structure and dump everything in a bin or event labeled the name of the top level folder. Take the time to import things to reflect the structure you set up on your hard drive.

Set sequence settings for your workflow and desired video output

This is an easy mistake to make. You drag a piece of video footage down to a timeline and you either create a timeline from the footage settings, or the timeline window asks if you want to adjust the settings according to the footage settings. Sometimes this can work in your favor. For example, your output file needs to be 1920×1080 pixels, at 24p and as a .mov file. And amazingly, all of your footage was shot in those exact specifications. No issues here.

And then there’s times when you’re given a variety of footage, perhaps some shot on an iPhone, some on on a Canon and some on a Sony. The iPhone shot at 3840 × 2160 at 30p as an .mp4, the Canon shot at 4096 × 2160 at 24p as an .mov, and the Sony at 3840 × 2160 at 24p as a .mxf (this is starting to sound like the set up for math word problem). What happens when you start the edit with the Canon footage but your final output is supposed to be 2560 x 1440 24p as an .mov? (does your head hurt yet?)

Each of these formats is different and starting the edit in whatever the program decides can backfire when the file you need to output is a different size.

(There are of course, othe headaches with mixing file formats and types in one edit, but if you have a tricked out editing rig, it’s not such a big deal.)

Set your sequence to your desired output will save time later so you don’t have to change and rerender different settings when you create our output file.

Keep it flowing!

The whole point of any video post workflow design is to enable more time for creativity. And you’ll quickly know if your prep work is done correctly. You’ll know when you start saving time.

Of course, another way to save time is skip editing anyway. That’s where I come in. Let me worry about these details so you can keep doing what you do best: telling extraordinary stories.

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