Organizing Your Video

This is primarily for the newcomers to the production world.

Keep your workflow organized.  You will be glad you did.

I know the temptation.  You capture video to your PC or Mac and then you drop it on your desktop, or some random folder.  Then before you know it, there are dozens of video files cluttering up the place!  If you have to do a ‘search’ to find a file, you probably need to reorganize your computer files.

Remember, you can’t be TOO organized.  Keeping things nice and neat will really make life easier and increase your productivity in the long run.

1.  LABEL
Label each file in your editor.  Whether you use Final Cut, Premiere, Vegas, or something else to edit video, you will be thankful you labeled all your files.  When I started out, I just captured all the video to Premiere and started cutting video.  I had dozens of video files named “Untitled1”, “Untitled2”, and so on.  There was no way to find a specific video without double clicking on each file and previewing it until I found the one I was looking for.  When you shoot events, such as weddings, music videos, or other events that might make up over 100 video clips, you are really making life harder than it has to be.  It will seem long and tedious (because it is) but going through each video at the beginning and renaming them to something you can recognize will save you time and headache later on.

Label your tapes (or memory cards).  A lot of people will tell you to label your tapes or memory cards before you start a shoot.  Something like, “Wedding Ceremony – Cam 1”, or “First Dance/Cake Cutting.”  This is a good idea, however can be unrealistic at times when shooting a fast paced, live event.

The premise is correct, however.  If you can label them before the event, and manage to keep only that footage to the label indicated, more power to you.  For me, it doesn’t always work that way.

When you do run-and-gun shooting like I do, sometimes you don’t have time to switch to your next tape when you want, or you want to keep capturing something unexpected, and suddenly the tape you labeled “First Dance” also has a beauty shot of the sunset, a sound byte from a guest, and an unexpected toast from the bride’s father.

Side note – use whatever is most convenient for you as a label.  Write on a tape label, a sticky note, a piece of tape, whatever.   It doesn’t have to look pretty, as long as you can read it.  Also, store all your media in the same place.  I put all mini dv tapes in my shirt pocket until I can get to my camera case, and then I store them all in the side pocket.  All in the same case.  I never put a few in one case and a few in the other.  Keep them together.

Ideally, still try to label your media before the shoot with what you know you will capture, but leave room for additional notes.

So on your “first dance” tape you could quickly write below it, “sunset/toast/guest sound.”  This way your tapes are still labeled and organized, and stay accurate with what is on them.

2.  PLAN
Whether you write a script, a storyboard, or just a rough outline of the day, having a plan of what is happening and in what order, is very important.  If you are doing a commercial shoot, having a storyboard will help keep things moving smoothly and, if people are helping you shoot, will keep your crew informed and working, rather than standing around wondering what’s next.

Whenever I shoot a wedding, I always ask the bride for an outline of the day.  This way, I am much more unlikely to miss something important and will know when I can stop to change batteries, SD Cards, etc.  Also, when shooting a wedding, it is a good idea to talk to the wedding planner and ask them to keep you in the look when something is about to happen (cake cutting, the couple’s departure, etc).

3.  SORT
Another helpful tip is to sort your video within your editor, in either folders or by name.  Some editing software sorts your video by name.  This isn’t always how you want it.  Of course, if you don’t want to put the video into the folders most software provides, just change the name to sort your video together.

4.  BACK-UP
This isn’t so much an organizing tip, but can’t be overstated, especially for paid work, such as a wedding.  This is crucial.  Someone is paying you a lot of money to shoot their one time event.  They can’t get that day back, so if you lose their footage, you could be in major trouble.

Forget the fact that you have just let down your clients and they don’t get to see their wedding video, but you could also open yourself up to a lawsuit.  Don’t get me wrong, shit happens, and sometimes video disappears, whether it be from dropped frames in camera, a crashed hard drive, or you forgot to push record in time.  But do everything you can to minimize any lost footage.

I save all my footage on an external hard drive and I also back up to an online storage site.  Check around the internet, there are a bunch of them and worth the cost, if nothing else, for the peace of mind.  Just remember to actually upload to them.  If you have trouble remembering, find a site that performs automatic backups on your computer.

5. SAVE-SAVE-SAVE
This is similar to #4, but can’t be over-stated.  As you edit your video, save often.  Few things are as deflating as losing hours worth of editing.  I think almost all of us have lost most of our work writing a paper in high school or college at some point.  After that happens, you probably saved every couple of sentences, just to be safe.  The same idea applies here.  Save your work!  If you can’t remember, change your settings so it automatically saves every few minutes.  If your software doesn’t have that option, then set an alarm to go off every few minutes (or just keep hitting snooze) to remind you to save.  After a while it will become second nature and you won’t need the alarm.

These are just a handful of tips that, if followed, will greatly help make your life easier and more organized when shooting and editing video.

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