A good video editor is creative. A great video editor is creative and organized. Staying organized actually fuels creativity by speeding up your workflow, allowing you to spend more time creating and less time searching through your timeline.

In addition to improving your own efficiency, being organized is crucial for any type of collaborative environment. If you’re working with other editors, sound mixers, or even delivering project files to a client, the organization and structure of your files are the first thing anyone else will see.

Organization starts at the beginning of every project. While each NLE (Non-Linear Editing system) is nuanced, the overall theory of organizing audio is generally pretty standardized across the industry. This article will be using Adobe’s Premiere Pro.

 

Organizing The Project Panel

There are two main areas to concern yourself with when organizing assets, including audio. The first is the Project Panel.

 

project panel - premiere pro

 

This is the area where you import assets and have the opportunity to sort them as you like into folders, or “bins.” One of the best practices to get into is using bins to sort ALL of your assets. By not letting any one file get stranded loosely in the Project Panel, you will always know where to look to find it. Perhaps more importantly, anyone else who opens up your project will be able to come up to speed very quickly and with no need for a verbal project handoff.

For audio assets specifically, it is useful to create a bin structure similar to this:

 

AUDIO

> Full Mixes

> SFX
> Music
> Stems
> VO

 

While there are many variations of this structure breakdown, this starting point will keep you organized and be very intelligible to collaborators. To become even more organized, mirror this bin structure in the project folder on your computer so that assets are always labeled consistently.

PRO TIP: Create a template project file for yourself that already has all of the bins made. This saves time and encourages you to stay organized.


Organizing The Timeline

The second main area to stay organized as a video editor is the timeline. This is the area where you make your edits, add music, sound effects, and more.

 

premiere pro timeline

Timelines can easily spiral out of control. Even major Hollywood productions by the best editors in the world, with teams of assistant editors, can get chaotic.

Luckily, there are a few general guidelines for the audio timeline.

The single most important piece of advice is to group together the same types of audio. This means that all voice-over and dialogue should be on the same tracks (individual audio layers). Music should be separated from dialogue, and sound effects should have their own area on the timeline as well.

 

Grouping audio together by type has many benefits:

  • If you need to make a specific edit to dialogue, you’ll know where to find that piece of audio and not get confused by music or ambience that is also playing at that moment.
  • Make powerful and quick adjustments to all dialogue, music, or SFX at once with the Audio Track Mixer. By keeping audio types together on individual tracks, you can make track-based adjustments rather than dealing with individual clips.

Following this structure of organization sets yourself up for success when working with a sound mixer. Since all of the audio types are already separated, you can easily export stems to be mixed by soloing or muting tracks.

If you’re are using an OMF workflow, the project will be organized nicely for a sound mixer who would generally import the OMF into Pro Tools. He or she will easily be able to discern the different audio types and begin their work without having to waste time separating audio types.

To recap, organization starts in the Project Panel by creating separate bins for every type of media in your project. It continues in the Timeline by keeping audio separated by type.

Staying organized will save you time and make others want to work with you in the future.

 

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AUTHOR

Jason Brandel, Filmmaker/Video Editor

Jason is currently offering the Soundsnap community a 95% discount on his top-rated online course, The Complete Audio Guide for Video Editors, which includes 4.5 hours of in-depth video tutorials. Clicking the link automatically applies your discount.