How to Keep Your Files Organised - A Guide for Film Composers
Getting your files organised
Keeping files organised as a film composer is really important. Schedules and edits change constantly and there are many scenes and music cues to keep track of at the same time. Key advice is to keep an overall folder for the project, with separate folders for files you recieve from the filmmaker, your project files and your exports. Here are some pointers for how to organise your files in a clear and simple manner.
Always keep all files and resources for a project in the same folder. That way you can always find everything you need, even 2 years after the project has finished. Believe me, you will need to go back to get files from a project 2 years later..
Inside each project folder you keep 3 main folders. Source, Music and Export. Notice that I put numbers in front of them - That's just to make sure they always land on top in my project folder if I add in other folders later.
The Source folder is there for anything you receive from the filmmaker. Edits, sounds, scripts, notes. All of this goes in to the source folder. Just an overall place to find the resources you need.
In the music folder you will put all your music:
Notice all the cues have their own folder, and they will have their own separate project files while you're working. Two other things I like to keep is an "experiments" folder for anything I'm trying out without a scene, and then a Sync-project folder.
The Sync-project folder will contain a Project file for putting all the music cues together in one continuous project for the whole film. (Logic, Pro Tools, or anything that can export video). This is so you can review how everything works in context, and will give you a birds-eye view of the project. It's also the project I use for reviewing cues with the director.
I would advice you to name all your project files the following way:
[Project name] [Cue number] [Cue Name] [Version]
Another tip would be to always create a new version number after you do an export of your project. I've had several occasions where I've been asked to do changes of a previous verison of a cue, and then you don't want to have saved over the previous session!
Third, we will have the export folder. Here you will simply have the different music cues ordered by name. Inside each cue folder there will be two different folders. A normal folder with the name of the cue. This is for sending to the director, and will contain the video file with music and sound + a sound only .wav file. Notice the wav file also have numbers written to the end of it. This is the timecode for where in the film the sound file starts in hh:mm:ss:frames.
The second folder will be what you deliver to the sound mixer to have everything mixed into the film. Here you will include stereo mix and stems of all the different files. The file structure will look like this:
Other folders inside the project folder will develop differently for different projects. Here's a snapshot from a TV project to give you some ideas for how I might organise that. These folders are mostly for recording sessions and for custom sounds and instruments I develop for the project. I also put some tracks into a Moodboard with some of my reference music for the project.
Backup (an important reminder!)
While on the subject of files, it's really important that you have a backup plan for your files. Every single drive you own and use to store information have the potential to break. It's Murphy's Law - If it can happen, it will happen!
I do all my work out of Dropbox, so all the files are constantly synced to the cloud. An added bonus is that it makes it easy to send or check files while I'm out of the studio.
My hard drive for work is also put in a RAID, so there's two hard drives containing the same information all the time. In addition I use a cloud service for backing up absolutely every file I have on every hard drive I own.
When I finish a project it goes in a backup folder, where all my old projects are organised together. This folder is also backed up to the cloud, and in the beforementioned RAID
The rule of thumb for backups is this:
- Always keep your files on at least two different locations at all times. In my case it's the studio and the cloud.
This goes for your current projects and for past projects. It's a good idea to think to the future where you might want to see your old project again.
I would also advice that you run a hard drive to back up your whole system to a drive (time machine backup on Mac), so if your computer have a failure you will be able to restore everything quickly without having to set everything up again.
In summary it is advised to keep a clear structure for your files and organise in a way which makes it easy to find what you are looking for. My way it's not the only way, and I would encourage you to develop a system that fits your needs as well. Take this as a starting point or inspiration.
And remember - Backup, Backup, Backup! It's so important.
Let me know in the comments if this is helpful! If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask!