Organizing Project Files

Organizing Project Files

Media organisation can mean a lot of things, but in this tutorial we're simply covering how to organize a project file.

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So, you've just started producing videos and finding yourself swamped with so much footage that you can't function properly? Or have you been producing videos for a long time and find yourself losing files or running out of space?

It happens to the best of us, don't worry, this tutorial should give you a hand.

One of the first things I was taught when beginning my film career (back in my internship at a small studio) was how to organise and archive projects properly. This is the foundation for creating videos and you should start doing this sooner rather than later to avoid headaches.

In this tutorial I will be explaining the basic idea behind media organisation and what method I use to organise my videos.

It's a rather broad topic and fairly abstract, so I'll be giving you a rough idea of where to start. A lot of this can also apply to any other project, be it schoolwork, game development or audio.

This tutorial is intended for beginner YouTubers, but there might be something the experienced film-maker can learn here.


Media organisation is about as simple and easy as it sounds. It's just organising your media (files) into an easy to access way.

If you already date your media, organise video project folders into sub-folders, create video templates or just label things then you're most of the way there.

Proper media organisation is useful, as it can help save space and avoid losing crucial media.

Basic Method

At a basic level, media organisation is creating folders for different projects and types of media within that project.

For example, most of my video projects have the following folder structure:

  • AFX - After Effects content.
  • Assets - For anything useful and doesn't fit in the other folders (photoshop etc)
  • Audio – For Audio
  • Exports – For finished film exports or even afx exports, essentially a scratch folder
  • Footage – For film footage, this can then contain sub-folders with that day's date if working on a big project. I format the date like so DDMMYYYY (today would be 11052017)
  • Images – For images, see about for dates above (if necessary)
  • Music – Contains music
  • Promos – This folder is specifically for any short clips I make of the main video to be used for promotional purposes, (such as this gif)
  • PrProj – This folder is for any premiere pro projects (my editor of choice), this can be renamed to anything just as long as it contains your editing programs project files. If you need to save multiple versions (old premiere would corrupt things A LOT) then this is a godsend in avoiding clutter
  • thumb.psd – This is just the default thumbnail template for videos.

All in all it's fairly simple, make sure each video is divided into project folders that then have their own sub-folders for each media/file type. This is to avoid a general an unnavigable mess of files.

Shared Media

Something that's worth mentioning is shared media. Nearly all modern editors create project files that just access media (instead of making a copy).

This can provide a lot of space-saving opportunities, if your intro is required in all of your videos this can be stored in a single place accessed from multiple projects.

In order to save yourself time and energy I recommend creating yourself a “brand” folder somewhere in your YouTube channels folder (if you've not done this already, I would do this. If you start multiple businesses/organisations/channels it will save you getting projects mixed up with each other, something that can easily happen if they're all stored in “My Documents”).

In the brand folder you will want to place commonly used media such as your social media profile pictures, video intros, frequently used music etc.

That way this is only stored ONCE as opposed to having the same files repeated over and over again in multiple project folders, which can add up to gigabytes of space in the long run.


Something else that can save you time is templates. This are essentially blank project folders containing everything you need to start a video, instead of working from scratch.

As well as folders this should contain a project file for your editing software. With your commonly used media (intros, music etc from your brand folder) already linked/imported.

You just need to make sure that your brand folder is always under the same drive letter and in the same place every time. If you move this you will need to re-link this media in projects you're currently working on.

However, if your software uses relative file-paths, that's an entirely different method and out of the scope of this tutorial. (If you know what this means, you also probably know how to work around it anyway)

Scratch Folders

Sometimes you don't need to store a piece of media permanently. For example a temporary luma matte or just a preview export fall into this category.

I'd recommend creating a scratch folder somewhere that you empty regularly for this sort of stuff.

  • It can literally be called 'Scratch' and placed in your channels folder.

Look at this as a cache or temporary file location for you as a person.

Finished Videos/Archiving

Lastly, when I finish a video (for YouTube) I delete the old project file due to my lack of HDD space.

The process I follow when deleting a project file is as follows:

  1. Pull out all useful video clips, music, media etc and archive in a relevant parent folder (see shared media/templates)
  2. Grab my exported video and copy this into my 'Finished_Exports' folder, name as appropriate.
  3. Wait a minimum of two weeks, just to be 100% sure I don't need it.
  4. Delete the project folder.

During my internship, the media company I worked for had a large expandable NAS drive where they would archive entire project folders (footage, audio etc.) just in case it was needed later. Went through it once and there was footage going back 10+ years (seeing the camera resolution progression from DV to HD was interesting).

This was mainly organised by client or location, due to them making films commercially.

If you can afford to do this and it's relevant to your field of YouTube (travel vloggers, gamers etc) then it's a good step to take. This footage can come in handy later and it's something I do for my freelance film-making.

  • You never know when old footage can come in handy.

On YouTube I just opine front of a camera, storing the finished video will do nicely to help save me space. It's up to each person to make the call here, so judge for yourself if you need/can afford the extra expense.

Other Tips

  • It's worth organising your footage into subfolders by date if shooting on multiple days, this can avoid confusion in the edit later.
  • When pulling footage from your camera or game capture software/hardware, I'd recommend immediately placing this in the relevant project folder or just creating a generic folder for that category of footage. This helps to avoid having to watch your footage later to know what's in it.
  • If you have any important clips of bits of footage you want later, name the file with the contents to make it obvious.
  • Clapperboards are handy for syncing footage to audio and providing information on that days shoot. They're also inexpensive.
  • Creating ‘OLD’ or ‘Redundant’ folders is a good way to place bits of media you’re unsure about or just don’t want to delete but want out of the way. You can then use the search function on your OS and bulk-delete these later (or just get rid of them individually).

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. How do you organise your projects? What tips do you have for aspiring YouTubers? Tweet us @RealNewTubers!


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