Making great video is hard enough without production headaches

In order to be an efficient and effective creator, we can’t keep letting little technical mistakes turn into big future messes… this slows down our progress.

Lucky for you, I’ve been a professional video editor for 20+ years, and I know exactly where most beginner (and intermediate) video creators go wrong.

And you know what’s funny? It happens before they even start editing.

In this article, you’ll learn the best way to organize video files for editing.

3D concept of a hierarchical structure of folders and files with neon glow with text that says "Organize Video Projects Like a Pro."

The Wrong Way To Organize Your Video Projects

Let’s get the WRONG WAY out of the way first.

Tell me if this sounds like you… (be honest!)

You’re super excited to start a brand new video project—so you hop on your computer and create another “Cool New Video Idea” folder on your desktop…

BTW, if this is you 👆… I know your desktop isn’t actually this clean.

Then you open that folder start adding subfolders:

  • Footage
  • Graphics
  • Music
  • etc.

Or perhaps you skip the subfolders… piling EVERYTHING into the main folder before opening up your editing software.

Or even worse, you might bypass a project folder entirely—jumping straight into your editing program and importing media directly from your Downloads folder!

If any of this sounds familiar: this article is for you.

Don’t feel too bad though… I’ve actually seen “professional” video editors do this.

(You know who you are).

That said, we can do better.

So let’s talk about the best way to organize video files for editing.

Why Good Video File Organization Matters

We live in a world of ever-increasing digital content.

But when scrolling social media, I see NOBODY talking about organization.

Everybody just wants to learn how to make ATTENTION GRABBING CONTENT!

I totally get it… that’s the ultimate goal, right?

So, why talk about organization?

Because: Getting it wrong means a lot of future time and energy wasted.

In just 10 minutes, I’ll show you how to create an organized file structure that will save you hours of repetitive tasks and make you a more efficient video creator.

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to:

  • Start a new video project idea much fasterwhile staying fully organized
  • Have creative assets (graphics, titles, music, sound effects) you use on a regular basis pre-loaded in your editing timeline
  • Make your future life as a content creator way easier when it comes to things like:
    • Tracking down files
    • Collaborating with other video editors
    • Archiving your video projects

Sound good?

Ok, let’s get into how to organize video files for editing.

The Best Way to Organize Video Files for Editing Projects

The truth is:

Good video project organization starts before you even open your editing program.

It starts with a consistent file management system.

Here’s my step-by-step video file organization system you can use:

  1. Pick a Dedicated Hard Drive for Video Work. It’s best to have a dedicated hard drive for your video editing projects. Preferably, this is an external hard drive (as opposed to your main computer’s hard drive)—and even better if it’s a Solid State Drive (SSD). Also, you should ALWAYS keep a duplicate/backup of everything you create.
    • Need more info about SSDs? Check out our article where we break down the key differences between SSDs and HDDs, and explore which SSDs provide the speed video editors need.
  2. Create a Master folder. This is where all of your editing projects and their assets will live. My Master folder is called: “00_PROJECTS” This way, it’s always the top item listed on the hard drive.
  3. Create individual folders for different topics/subjects. Open your Master folder and create individual folders for any topic you feel need to be separated. For example:
    • I have an individual folder for each of my video editing clients.
    • I have a folder specifically for video projects related to Awesome Content Creator.
    • I have a folder specifically for personal videos—like family slideshows, etc.
    • I have a “ready to archive” folder.
  4. Create a Video Editing Template Project Folder. This is the step will save you tons of time and help you stay organized going forward.
    1. Go back to the Master folder you created in Step #2 above.
    2. Create a new folder, and call it something like: “New Video Project Template.”
    3. Open this folder, and add individual relevant folders for any kind of media you might be using…

As a professional video editor, my template project has changed over the years… but here’s a screenshot of my current video editing template project folder:

My Video Project Template Folder Structure.  The Best Way to Organize Video Files for Editing.

I also have additional subfolders inside these folders.

Let’s save you some time… Here’s what my full template folder structure looks like:

  • 01 Audio
    • Music
    • SFX
    • Voice-over
  • 02 Footage
    • YYYY-MM-DD__
  • 03 Graphics
    • Logos
  • 04 Images
  • 05 Renders
  • 06 MISC
    • Downloads
    • Mixdowns
    • Reference
  • 07 Stock Assets
    • Photos
    • Video
    • Video Templates
  • 08 Documents
    • Music Licenses
    • Scripts
  • EXPORTS
  • Project Files

Now, before we talk about how to utilize this template project folder…

There’s one more thing you can add to save way more time on video editing projects:

WAIT! I almost forgot…

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Phew! That was close... Ok, back to the article. 👇

Save Even More Time by Creating a Unique Template Project File

Now that we’ve got a ready-to-go template folder structure for our video project files, let’s take this one step further and add a video editing template project file:

  1. Create a new project in your editing program. Open your editing program (I’m using Adobe Premiere Pro in this example) and create a new project—this will be your template Project file.
  2. Add relevant bins to the project (similar to above).
    • Side note: In the world of video editing—folders are typically called “bins.” This helps differentiate when we’re talking about being inside our editing program vs the computer’s explorer/finder.
    • So, in this step, add any bins that you would typically need. I literally mimic the same folders/structure as above (but without the Documents, Exports, and Project Files folders).
  3. Add a “Sequences” or “Edits” bin. I also add a bin called “**Sequences.” The asterisks keep this bin at the top of my project (see screenshot below).
  4. Add any additional bins you want or need. You can see in my template project file screenshot below, I also have additional bins inside my **Sequences bin—including one with a few sequences (more info about this after the below screenshot).
  5. Save this project inside your Template Folder Structure. Save this project file in the Project Files folder inside your template project folder we created above. Give it a name like “My Pro Template Project.”
Pro-Level Video Editing Organization Workflow: How to create a reusable template video editing project and organize bins and files in Adobe Premiere Pro

Want to take this even further??

Remember:

Everything you add into your template project file is something you won’t have to add every time you start a new video project.

This is where you can really start to think outside the box and get creative.

You can build templated ready-to-go sequences inside your template project folder.

Best practices for video editing template project: creating ready-to-edit sequences to your template project.
In my template project, I have multiple template starter sequences (at different aspect ratios I often work with)

This way, when I start a new video project… I just duplicate a specific template starter sequence, rename it, and start editing.

Even better: You can pre-load these template sequences with any media/assets you want.

Think about any elements you use in multiple videos—assets you import over and over again

Graphics, titles, intros & outros, theme/background music, sound effects… and more!

Here’s an example from my template where I have pre-loaded audio effects on the audio tracks I dedicate to dialogue/narration:

Best practices for video editing template project: adding pre-loaded audio effects to your template project.
My template sequences have pre-loaded audio track effects I always use on dialogue/narration…
A High-Pass filter, Multiband Compressor, and Hard Limit.

The key is start paying attention to the actions you end up doing over and over again, and integrating them into your template.

How To Use Your Template on a New Video Project

You did it! You’ve officially created your template project folder and your template project file.

Congratulations! 🥳 🙌

But now what? How do you use your new video project template?

Easy—every time you have an idea for a new video… follow these steps:

  1. DUPLICATE your template project folder. We’re talking about a simple copy & paste—copy the whole folder, then paste it into the same folder (creating a duplicate).
  2. Rename, then move the folder. Give your new duplicated project folder a name, then move it into the relevant top level folder we created in Step #2 above (a specific client, a personal project, etc).
  3. Rename your template Project file. If you also created a template Project file… you’re going to want to rename that too. Go into the Project Files folder inside your new project and rename your template file with the same new video topic name.
  4. Put project-specific content into its relevant folder. As you record or download any media associated with this new project—make a habit of immediately putting it into the correct folder.
  5. Import your content into the correct bin/folder inside your project file. When you’re ready to import footage/media into your editing program—make it a habit to import it into the relevant bin/folder inside your project file.

Here’s a short video showing steps 1-3 of how to use your new video project template:

Additional Benefits of Organizing Your Video Editing Projects

Creating a consistent ready-to-go template to organize your video editing projects will not only save you time every time you start a new project…

It will also make it easy to track down anything you’re searching for in the future… because all content/media associated with a specific project will be inside it’s appropriate folder.

Plus, in the future, if you ever needed to share a specific video project with another editor or collaborator—having everything in its place in a single project folder will make this very easy!

Everything being in one folder also makes archiving/backing up your projects a breeze!

The TL;DR

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

And now the lasting benefits can really begin…

I hope you found great value in this post, and that it helps save you a ton of time on future video editing projects.

Don’t forget: Want to become a more efficient and effective video creator and make an impact with video? Subscribe to Create Smarter and receive FREE weekly insights from a pro-video editor. 👇

Here’s a quick overview and recap of everything you learned about the best way to organize video files for editing projects:

Do NOT:

  • Save project files, folders, or project-specific media to your desktop
  • Save files in temporary folders on your computer
  • Import files into your project directly from your downloads folder

Do THIS Instead:

  1. Choose a dedicated hard drive for your video projects (and always have a duplicate backup!).
  2. Create a master folder that will contain all video projects.
  3. Create individual folders for each topic you feel should be separated (one for each client, one for personal videos, one for work videos, etc.)
  4. Create a template project folder, and include folders for different types of media you work with
  5. Build a template project file in your editing program, save it inside your template folder (so it duplicates when you duplicate the whole folder)
  6. Fill out your template project file with:
    • Graphics, titles, assets you use on a regular basis including intros, outros, music, sound effects, and more!
    • Pre-loaded audio track effects you often use
  7. Every time you’re ready to start a new project: DUPLICATE your template project folder. Then rename it + rename the template project file inside it.
  8. As you gather footage/media for a project—make it a habit to put everything directly into the relevant folder (Audio, Footage, Graphics, etc) inside its associated project folder.

Your Turn

Did you find this post helpful? Have any questions for me?

Do you have a different way of organizing your video projects?

Please feel free to leave a comment below! I’d love to hear any feedback from you.

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