How to Organise Any Project

Here’s how I organise projects within Finder to ensure I never open an old After Effects file and get the dreaded “files are missing” dialogue box.

It’s really simple:

Step 1 - Basic File Structure.png

Every project has a number. You know that the most recent projects will be at the bottom of the list. Once inside a project, every folder is numbered in the order it’s created.

We start with scripts and costs, so they sit inside 01 Documents. Next, we create/collect 02 Assets for our project (like artwork, music or voiceover).

 

The 02 Assets folder can get messy, so it’s good to divide that in whichever way makes sense:

Step 2 - Assets Folder.png

Folders like 04 After Effects and 05 Premier usually only contain one file:

Step 3 - AFX Folder Contains 1 thing.png

It still makes sense to keep them in a folder, because it means the project folder requires very little brain power to look at. It only contains folders, nothing else.

 

06 Exports contains the versions of the video you have made, clearly named. They aren’t called “export” or “audio fix” - they follow the same name as the project, include the project number, and contain a version number.

Step 4 - Exports Folder.png

It’s clear which the latest version is.

For added clarity, I throw old exports into an “Archive” folder. In an instant I know the latest version the client has been sent. If I need to take a look at old versions for whatever reason, I can dig into the Archive folder.

Usually, the Archive folder can be deleted.

Step 5 - Archive Exports Folder.png
 

Sometimes folders like 04 After Effects contain multiple projects.

Sometimes you need to save a project incrementally in case you need to roll back changes.

If you ever reopen a project made in an older version of an app, Creative Cloud will create a new version of the project that’s up-to-date. It defaults to adding (Converted) at the end of the file name, which is a mess. Always rename to “v2” (or whatever version number makes sense) when this happens.

Step 6 - Incremental AFX Projects.png

Old versions live in the Archive subfolder. In an instant I - or anyone else who needs to work on the project - knows which file is the one they should open.

 

You don’t need all the folders. Some projects are relatively simple, and you might never leave After Effects:

Step 7 - You don't need all the folders.png
 

Other projects might call for further organisation. Last summer, we worked on a project that contained multiple videos. Each video needed a distinct After Effects project, Premier project, and set of assets.

Pre-Production can be contained in one folder:

Step 8 - Massive Project.png

Production files can be contained in another:

Step 9 - Massive Project 2.png

If you have any questions, or there’s anything you do that I’ve missed, let me know via Twitter (@AnimatorPete)