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  • Writer's pictureJoe Chris

File Management Techniques

Maintaining an organized file system makes it much easier to find specific files and folders when needed and by creating standard for yourself that you apply consistently, it makes it much easier to have someone else (like an assistant for example) to be able to navigate your files properly. There is no “standard” for file organization: each person has their own methods that work for them. That being said, there are a few guidelines that can help:

One of the best practices you can do is maintain a consistent naming convention for your files. You can use different naming conventions for different types of files, and because of this I recommend creating a word document that is a master list of your naming conventions.

For example, you may be submitting your cues as cueID_SMPTECODE_Project_DateVersion.wav - which would be 3m16_01343201_CoolMovie_211206A.wav.

You may notice the date here to be somewhat interesting. There is no 21st month in the American calendar standard format. This is important to note: in addition to the variables of what you include in a name, there is also the date format. If you are including some sort of date in your naming convention, whatever format you chose you want to be consistent. That being said, coders and developers prefer YYYYMMDD or YYMMDD. This allows your files to remain in chronological order - which is why in the example above the “Version” is the letter “A”. If you were to make a revision of the same cue on that same day, instead of adding “revision”, “Final”, “real final”, “FINALFINAL”, “THIS ONE” or any other descriptive nomenclature to the file name, using alphabetical characters to denote versions will also keep your files chronological and organized. Sequential numbers (001, 002, 003) also work, however be careful to not get confused if you are using them in conjunction with numerical dates and time codes.

!! You may be asking, “If I use a naming convention such as that, how will I know which cue was approved if I don’t include it in the file name?” The best answer I have for that is to use asset sheets. On it is a master cue list, with the names files you delivered and any other pertinent information (such as approval status and by whom). I will go in depth into asset sheets and project management type paper work in a future post.

Besides setting out a consistent variable structure for your files, I also recommend practicing camel casing, as well as using dashes or underscores instead of spaces. Due to the way some programs are coded, they cannot open filenames with spaces in them. This is not too pertinent in our scoring software but it is something to be aware of. And if you do any work within the terminal/command prompt, this practice makes your work a little more efficient and life a little easier. Camel casing is the practice of denoting new words by using capital letters instead of spaces. FilesNamesAreStillReadable. thisFormatIsAlsoAcceptable. And-instead-of-spaces, dashes_or_underscores_are_preferred.

When figuring out what variables to include in a file name, consider what metadata is pertinent to understanding and identifying the file. In the cue example above, you probably don’t need to include something like starting bar (likely very common description, most cues might all start at bar -2 for example) or the cue title (redundant information when you have cue ID). Look at the example above again, notice how each variable above is separated by an underscore? Keeping your variables separate with underscores, dashes, or camel casing is another useful practice when coming up with naming conventions.

Make sure to make a distinction between version and revisions when coming up with naming conventions. For some projects, such as sonic branding or sound design – you may need to provide the client with multiple versions of an asset, whereas revisions are the same version after an edit.

When doing work for video games, be sure to pay special attention to the naming conventions. Filenames are usually case sensitive in the gaming console’s operating system. So make sure to follow the naming conventions exactly.

“Zooming out” from naming conventions, the next level up the hierarchy is your folder structure. For film, you will be dealing with similar files for every project you do – be it videos, sequences, notation files, pro tools sessions, contracts, etc. Instead of just making one folder for the project called “Cool Movie”, you can create a standard folder structure you can use for every film project you do. This way, everything is set up for organization at the beginning of a project and also guarantees you will be able to go back to an archived project and find what you need for whatever reason that may be. There are two ways you can do this:

1. Create a folder with all of the directories and sub-directors you would want inside and just copy and paste this empty folder tree whenever you have a new project. You still may have to rename the folder by hand if you want to use your project name and of the folder names.


2. Write a script that makes directories utilizing a standard tree and any variables you may want. This is a much faster option and only requires a minimal amount of scripting knowledge. It also has the benefit of allowing you to use variables, so you can have folder names made with the name of the project without having to rename it manually.

Here is an example “film project” folder tree:

Example Project Score

├── Delivery

│ ├── AudioMixes

│ └── Dubs

├── Example Project Score Notes.txt

├── Midi

├── PTSessions

│ ├── FromStudio_PostRec

│ └── ToStudio_PreRec

├── Scores

├── Sequences

│ └── Assets

├── SpottingNotes

├── Stems

└── Videos

And here is a script that can generate it (on a mac - put it in your MacintoshHD/Users/YOURNAME and run it by opening terminal and typing “sh ./”). Just make sure to have a folder titled “Scores” on your desktop before running.

This script is available for download (MacOS only for now) in the downloads section of this site. Feel free to change and manipulate it to fit whatever your needs. If you find any way to improve upon it, please share, as I would love to see it!

With either option, and with your organization in general, I recommend writing out your folder tree by hand first and making clear-cut decisions for how you want to organize everything. A good practice is going from general to specific. Once you have a plan, it is much easier to get your files organized.

One last thing - one of the worst habits I see composers (and most people to be honest) doing is throwing all of their files and folders onto the desktop. Don’t throw everything on your desktop. Not only does this make a needless amount of clutter and make it hard to find anything, it also makes it much harder to organize later on. And if you are doing any sort of presentation with your director, it is also much more presentable to have a clean and organized desktop.

However you organize your files, remember to maintain your files as you go and don’t let things get out of hand. It may take a few extra seconds to file things properly in the moment, but doing so can save you hours in the long run.

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