Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

Three Tips For Faster Project Delivery

As I continue my experiment and journey with FCP X I have been looking for ways to further speed up my own workflow and shorten the time it takes for me to deliver a project. As a part of that process, I have developed and refined a system that is now allowing me to turn projects out faster than when I began working with FCP X.

And even though in this example I'm sharing examples form FCP X, I believe that I can take these same concepts and apply them to my Premiere Projects. So without further ado, here is a complete look at the system I've developed, and three tips for faster project delivery.

Tip 01: Systematize Your Folder Structure
There is nothing worse than speeding along in an edit only to have to put on the breaks and change gears to look for a file. That is why systematizing your folder structure before you begin your project is key. By creating a system that you follow each & every time you create a project, not only will you know where to find your files, but you will never have to think to yourself, "Where should I put this file?"

If you are going to be spending time thinking about anything, it should be about the creative process, not about finding files, or where to save them.

Whatever structure or system you come up with, it should be conducive to your way of working, and it should allow you to stop thinking about organization. An additional side benefit of having a system like this is that it makes archiving a simple process- just drag and drop the main folder, and you know you have everything.

So what is my folder structure? Glad you asked. :) I have modified a folder structure that I found from Chris Fenwick. As he is a real editor (editing is his full time job), his structure is a lot more verbose than mine is- and I have found it to be too detailed for my needs. So I simplified down to the folders that I use on a daily basis. I suggest you do the same.

A couple of the bigger changes that I have made have been the addition of the MASTERS folder, and the changing of the XPORTS folder to Deliverables. (I also changed the NOISE folder to Sound, as I found their term "noise" to be too derogatory toward my fellow brothers & sisters in the sound department, but I digress…).

The MASTERS folder houses the final mastered edit of the video. I'm currently rendering out those files as 1080p ProResHQ files. (As that is what they are shot in, going to ProRes4444 only adds extra space, not extra quality).

Within the Deliverables folder, I started out by placing everything in one folder, but I quickly found that to be too cumbersome. Especially since I am creating downloadable versions, as well as versions for Vimeo/YouTube. I also added a folder for Thumbnails. While this folder should be in the GFX folder, I have found it quicker to place it in the Deliverables folder. That way when I am uploading files, the thumbnail is just one folder click away instead of three clicks away as I navigate to the GFX folder.

And speaking of the GFX folder, I moved all graphics into one location, and simplified the folders down to the four I actually use, as I found that I don't create EPS or PCT files.

Tip 02: Systematize Your Naming Convention
I forget where I learned this little tip. I think it was from Larry Jordan's Adobe Training, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, the point is that this isn't something I magically thought of- I saw it somewhere else, and thought it was a great idea.

As you create files and folders, you should preface them with a 5-6 digit code. That way, if you ever do misplace a file or a folder, all you have to do is to type in that code into the search box, and you will instantly find all of those files.

This also has the side benefit of telling you which project that file is associated with. That way, when you are archiving, or moving a file, you know instantly if it is okay to move or archive it. There is nothing worse than moving or archiving a file, and then launching a project, only to find out that you now have files that have gone offline. Now you have to hunt them down before you can get to the important work of editing your project.

As you can see from the example above, the naming convention that I use is a three letter abbreviation for the client name, and a two digit number for the project. Then each additional project for that client increases the number.

The other thing that I do when it comes to naming the folders that house my camera media is to end the name with the Year, Month, Day. By naming them this way, they automatically get sorted in the correct order regardless of if I shot something on December 7th, 2013 or on January 10th, 2014. (The key here is to use a two digit code for the month. If you use single digits, the 12 and 1 will fall next to each other).

For those of you who have an astute eye, you probably already noticed that it looks like I haven't followed my own advice in the downloads folder screen shot above. And you're right- kind of... The one place where I find this approach doesn't work is in working with a project that has multiple parts to the deliverable that are meant for download.

The end client who downloads the file doesn't care about my naming convention, but I still need a system that allows me to keep the files/sub-projects in order, and also allows the end client to know what is in the file without having to open it. So this is a good example of adjusting the system to meet a more important need.

Tip 03: Create Templates
Now that you are no longer losing time looking for files, or having them mysteriously go offline, here is where some big time savings can really come into play. My recommendation is that you create as many templates as you can throughout your system.

By creating templates for everything and using them over and over, you don't have to waste time recreating the wheel every time you start a project. Your time should be spent on the creative work- not the mundane work.

As you can see, I've done this, starting with my folder structure, and continued it throughout my entire process. As soon as I lock in a style, a look, or a design element, I create a template for it, and lock it into the system. That way the next time I create a new project, one additional step has already been completed for me.

Before version 10.1.1 of FCP X, it appears that there were problems with creating a prebuilt project file. Fortunately, I haven't found this to be the case in 10.1.1. However, I'm only three projects into using this system, so take it with a grain of salt...

Within the FCPxTemplate project I've created, I have prebuilt the "folders" (Events) above, and that is how I organize every project. Within each of these folders I have imported the default files that I use for those type of projects. So, for example, I have the graphic files, lower thirds, prebuilt transitions, animations, grades, and text styling. The key here is that when I built this project, as I imported the files I made sure to select COPY FILES INTO.

That way I know that every default file lives within the project file, and I never have to worry about it going offline because it was deleted, moved, or archived. Then what I do before I begin a new project is to duplicate the Template Project, change the name, and then move it into its own folder. Now I can immediately start my work and already have all the tools I need at my finger tips.

If you've worked with FCP X at all, you may be wondering how in the world I am able to pre-build a project file that has all of my grades and text styling built in. FCP X is not very friendly when it comes grades... well I did it like this:

Within my FCPxTemplate, I have a template project that has some animations, and a bunch of still frames. On each of the still frames I have applied the grade for that particular setup. On top of the still frames, I have a bunch of stylized text animations that are stylized to different types of information that needs to be displayed on screen.

Now when I start out I create a new project, which is kept in the project folder, separate from this default template. Then when I need to add a specific element into the new project, I just click over to this project select what I need, and then copy and paste it into the project I'm working on.

The benefit of this approach is that it allows me to have everything, including grades (which are applied to the stills) in one location, in a small project file, that is easy and quick to access. At first I was just opening up previous projects that had a similar look and copying and pasting what I needed. But this took too long to do, as I had to wait for the entire project to load, which can be time consuming with more complex projects.

The last set of templates that I have created have been export settings within Compressor. While I know that I can have FCP X export things for me in the background, I have found it to be quicker to have Compressor do it for me instead. Maybe I'm just delusional, but FCP X doesn't seem to be as responsive while I edit, if it is also exporting out footage. By offloading that task to Compressor instead, I find that I can continue editing just fine. But that may be due to my older computer...

What time saving tips can you share? Are there any additional refinements to my system that you can see, or suggest? What are you doing to increase your efficiency in delivering projects?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!

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