You’re Setting Up Your Video Project Wrong: The 7 Subfolders You Need


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You got the dreaded error: “Media Cannot Be Found,” “Media Offline,” “File Missing,” “Reconnect Media to Continue,” or some variation. It’s worded differently for each non-linear digital editor, but the meaning is the same: your media files got moved or deleted, and now the editing software can’t locate them.
This is a common problem that can be easily avoided if you take a few preventative measures in setting up your project. After working as a professional video editor for 10 years, I’ve seen all of the mistakes people make when setting up video projects, and this is by far the biggest (and easiest) to correct.

When you’re starting out and beginning to edit your own projects, it’s easy to stay disorganized. Your source files often start out all over the place. You may have a GIF sitting on your desktop, a project file located in your documents folder, a music track from your iTunes library, and a photo from some obscure folder.

You want to get all of your media in one central folder. There are real disadvantages to having your media spread out, including:

  • If you accidentally move or delete a file, it will no longer show up in your project. That’s when you get the “Media Cannot Be Found” error. [Shudder!]
  • If you share your project with a friend or co-worker, they will undoubtedly be missing important media assets. Then, they will get the awful “Media Offline” error. [Shudder shudder!]
  • Haphazard project files makes your computer work harder, and slows down your project. It also increases the likelihood of a crash. [Shudder shudder shudder FAINT!]

One time, I was brought in to finish editing a commercial for a highly respected Los Angeles television station. The project’s media was being pulled from 6-8 external hard drives! I would try to play through the edit and the timeline would skip and crunch. The program continually crashed, too.

Moreover, the project was “tied” to this particular computer, and every time they tried to transfer the project, (surprise!) the accompanying media files would go missing and they got the “Missing File” error. Ugh! I couldn’t believe someone had set up the project so poorly.

So, the first thing I did was create a new project folder, like what I’m going to show you now.

Setting up your project folder is your first step for any editing project. This is the very first thing you should do every single time, before you open your editor or import a single media file. If you get into the habit now, it will save you heartache later.

Step 1: Create the project folder with project title

You can create this folder in your documents, or wherever you create projects. Make sure you have enough hard drive space to fit your entire project.

I’ve found that for my video-intensive projects, 20 GBs is generally enough space for all of my media. You may find that your projects take up less space.

Once you get into the habit of creating awesome project folders like I’m going to show you, it’s easy to quickly see how much hard drive space each project uses. (Simply right click on the project folder and go to ‘Properties’ on Windows, or ‘Get Info’ on a Mac.)


Step 2: Create these 7 subfolders

These 7 subfolders will change the way you edit. Learn them. Love them. Live by them.

1. Project Files.
2. Video.
3. Media.
4. Sound.
5. Music.
6. Pictures.
7. Final Videos.


Let’s break ’em down:

1. Project Files

Whenever you save your project is called the ‘project file.’ This file type is not to be confused with your video files, sound files, etc. Save all your project files in a subfolder called ‘Project Files.’ Make sense?

I personally ‘Save As’ a new project file every time I sit down for a session. That way, if my current file gets corrupted or crashes, I can simply go back to the last session’s edit. Also, if I really mess something up, I can always go back to my last project file. (Don’t trust autosave to do it all for you, either. As my old film professor used to say: “Automatic anything means automatic trouble.”)

2. Video

This is where you keep your original video files. Whether it’s video you shot on your phone or DSLR, or a screen recording, keep all your video content here. If you want to import video from somewhere else on your computer, first make a copy of the video file and place it into this folder. You want all of the video that your project file is going to access to to be housed here.

3. Media

Oftentimes, you will want to mix other video elements into your edit. For example, you might want to save a video clip that was shared with you, or a funny GIF. Keeping all “non-original” media in this folder helps to keep it separated so you can find it quickly.

4. Sound

Any special sound effects? Keep them all in this folder.

5. Music

Keep your musical tracks here. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to try out lots of pieces of music before deciding on which one best fits your project. The music folder can fill up fast with a bunch of options, so for your own sanity, it’s best to keep it all in a single folder.

6. Pictures

Have some photos you want to incorporate into your video? Keep them here. Remember, if you’re using a photo that exists somewhere else on your computer already, you will want to make a copy of the photo and place it in this folder. Again, you never want to have your editing software reference a photo from somewhere else on your computer. All project-related photos need to live here.

7. Final Videos

This folder holds all of your final exports, in most cases a finished .MP4 file. By creating this folder of finals and keeping it inside your project folder, you will always be able to find it easily. You won’t believe how many editors work super hard on a project, but then when someone asks to see it, they can’t find the file! So they end up re-rendering and re-exporting the file all over again because they didn’t have a quick, easily-findable subfolder like this.

So there you have it! A perfectly contained project folder, with completely organized subfolders! Now, you will never accidentally delete a media file or spend time hunting down a lost file to reconnect. You can easily share your entire project with all of the assets and no hassle. Plus, your machine won’t slow down (and crash!) by pulling files from external drives and all over your computer.

Try this out and let me know if it works for you! Do you want to use an easier video editor and screen recorder? Try Camtasia for free today!