Wednesday, December 22, 2010

#0051 Ten Essential Rules of File Naming -. Summarized

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Asset Management 101  

Ten Rules To File By
So about now you're wondering if you want to modify your naming conventions or not.  Doing so can be a big undertaking, involving sometimes getting the consensus of other supervisors and producers.  It should certainly be initiated only for new projects, and you'll need to prepare a good document explaining what the changes are, why they are important and possibly how the system will be implemented.

When implementing the system, you'll need to consider how you will train your staff.  A memo is fine, but better is a briefing paper or possibly a slide show illustrating how the new system works.  You may find it necessary to explain to the staff why the changes are important and how it will make things more secure and improve everyone's understanding of file status and relationsips and revision level.   You need to explain the new system because people tend to resist and question change; explaining it to people is a show of respect.

Mostly, you'll need to get your intermediate supervisors and coordinators fully committed to the changes and get them to understand it is part of their job description to knoow and enforce naming conventions.

A final thing to consider is automation.  For one company, I made a spreadsheet in Open Office.  Artists in each work unit can fill in the information for their shot and get back a properly formatted name for their scripts and renders.  Similar utilities can be developed in MEL, Python or Javascript for users.  In NUKE a gizmo could be put together.  Remember, artists are busy and will ignore or make mistakes in file naming just because they are rushing or tired.  Make it easy for them.  

Here's an outline of this series

10 Rules To File By

1.Let it Speak (Make it meaningful)
2.Make it Short
3.Keep it Simple
4.Avoid Special Characters and Control Punctuation
Use command-line compatible punctuation
Avoid Spaces
Two periods maximum
The hypen – if you dare
Use postScript Notation
Special Emphasis
5.Protect Sort Order
Maintain Chronology
Variations and Passes after take or version
6.Rendered Files Must Refer to Their Script
7.There can be only ONE revision 1
Call Composited Shots "takes"
Put Modifiers After Revision Number
Tie Render Passes To A Revision
Use Takes and Versions Together
Make sure your revision modifier policy is understood
Use Codes and Punctuation Sparingly
8.Abbreviate Consistently
9.Use Project Identifiers
Separate internal or external work
Client company and sometimes division or department
Project: film, show, series, campaign,
Sub-project: TV episode, spot or reel number.
10.Include extra data
Artist Names
Variation vs Option Descriptions
Rights Managed Files
Camera Angle

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#0050 Ten Essential Rules of File Naming 10-. Include Extra Data

Previous:      Asset Management 101 –  Ten Essential Rules of File Naming - 8 Abbreviate Consistently

Asset Management 101

Include Extra Data
In the post, #0043 AM101: Part 2 - Understanding File Classification , I list more than 15 ways to classify files. In your naming system, incorporating this meta-data into a file name can often be useful, avoiding the need for secondary data files with data about the data. Let's look again at some of the extra data you might include:

Artist Names

This should go without saying, but sometimes it is important or helpful to embed the artist names or initials in a filename. Case in point: I currently am supervising in a mixed-OS environment, with Linux, Mac and Windows machines. The server is Linux, and my Windows machine doesn't convert for me the user and group ID numbers into names. For most files, we don't care enough to make this an issue. But for some files, with shared authoring, it is easier if we know who authored the most recent revision. Likewise, artists may be working in a common folder generating multiple assets.  In both these examples, knowing who made the file can save time.

Variation vs Option Descriptions

Often we are producing more than one option. For all files, this also belongs after the revision control number, unless the options and variants represent unique elements that can or should be used.
To clarify, suppose we are making a single element in Photoshop of a gaseous cloud for compositing. We've designed three Layer Comps and named them, “red”, “blue” and “mixed”. If only one of these should be used we would name these:
example 1
But suppose we are asked to provide three unique gas cloud variations for a shot. These might be named:
example 2
This implies, of course, a requirement for explicit and clear instructions to the artist. However, giving explicit instructions will strengthen your command and control system. When in doubt, the artist should ask if they are presenting options or variations.

Other File Classification Data

Rights Managed Files – One company I worked for found it important, when collecting stock files, to include rights usage information in the filename. They developed some simple abbreviations to indicate Royalty Free and Rights Managed assets. When collecting or accepting assets from the client for reference or use, it might be useful to encode the file with information to indicate whether the file is only for reference, client use in a particular project, or general use for all client projects.

Camera Data – Sometimes it might be useful to file footage with information about the camera angle (wide, close-up) or a camera number. Suppose you have stereo footage, then you need a consistent way to name your left and right view footage and asset files. Likewise, suppose you're assembling work from a multi-camera shoot, you may want to identify which camera was used in the source footage filename.

Use your imagination, and remember, that the most important aspect of asset filenaming is to facilitate control, yet accommodate unpredictable needs. Allow in your convention for modifiers and additional data, don't try to predetermine every possible situation, and update your specifications and review them with your staff often.
Just remember to protect your sort order, Usually the most important aspect of sort order will be the asset name and the next most important will be the revision control system numbering. After that come your modifiers and other data.

Asset Management 101 – part 9: Ten Essential Rules of File Naming-Summarized

Monday, December 20, 2010

#0049 Ten Essential Rules of File Naming 9-. Use Project Identifiers

Previous:      Asset Management 101 – part 5: Essential Rules of File Naming 8- Abbreviate Consistently

Asset Management 101 – part 7 
Use Project Identifiers 
Often in production asset files are named in a way that if you took shot 11 from three different projects and put them all in the same folder, you would overwrite two and end up with only one asset. That is to say, the shot name contains no project information, and thus is not unique within your file-system. This practice is a bit sloppy, and forces you to rename files when pulling copies for your internal demos. However, while I don't recommend it, studios can get away with non-unique asset names because they are usually kept within a project tree. (We will discuss project trees in a future article.)
Let's talk about best practices again: your best practice is to consistently include some project identification in your file names. Going back to my post, In the post, #0043 AM101: Part 2 - Understanding File Classification , there are four levels of client and project data that could be part of a file name:
  1. internal or external work
  2. client company and sometimes division or department
  3. project: film, show, series, campaign,
  4. Sub-project: TV episode, spot or reel number.
Use of all four in every file name could be cumbersome and lead to some very long file names. I recommend that shots contain some project information. I reduce the list by combining level one with level two. How I do this is simple: internal work is filed under the studio name, and external work is files under the client name, and both are at the same level. For example, within my jobs or projects folder, my company name Alsup Digital FX contains demo and non-client tests. Client folders contain each client's files, tests and billed work. (Reason: tests are often rights managed also.) Shot files in Alsup Digital could start with the string “AD”. Client Walter Thomas Studios becomes WTS.
I worked for one company that was very particular about the importance of separating client work by name. Their clientele included several major production studios, with highly sensitive work covered by very tough non-disclosure agreements. Files for each client were carefully secured and access limited to assigned artists. All files had to start with the abbreviation of the client studio name to help prevent accidental exposure of one client's work to another.

I further reduce the list by combining level three with level four by abbreviating the project and appending a sub-project number. For most clients I would use a two or three letter abbreviation. For example,in the previous post, our imaginary client TV series,  Movie Effects Magic. is abbreviated as MEM or mem followed by the episode name.  Incidentally,  when I give a choice between upper and lower case, please make the choice for your artists, don't leave it to each member of your staff to decide how they like it.

While many companies do tie projects to file names, others do not embed the client name or abbreviated client name in every file. This is a choice, which again you need to ask your staff to follow studio policy consistently.
If you choose not to include a client or project identifiers in each file name, just remember you and your artists have to be careful to avoid combining files from multiple clients and multiple projects in the same folder. This is seldom a concern, but there are situations where it could be effect your work flow. Let's consider two cases:
The first  case is you are asked to pull together samples of work from the last year's project. You go and select the best shots from seven shows and copy them to your sample collection folder. However, some of them have the same name. You are forced to come up with a system on the spot. Another artist, given the same task, comes up with their system. The editor, who has done this in the past, has files named and organized a third way. Confusion.
The second case is your company uses an approval pipeline that involves delivering files into folders to be processed. When each artist completes a take, they send a copy to their supervisor's review folder. He then either approves it, moving it to his supervisor's folder, or rejects it moving it to the folder, GiveNotes/. The coordinator looks in the VFX supervisor's folder and tells him there are 20 shots to review (from multiple projects) and the VFX Supervisor either forwards it to the coordinator for delivery to the editor or sends it back to the under-supervisor, logging notes in a spreadsheet. Approved files are moved to an approved takes folder. Because these moves are all on one file system, the overhead is essentially zero, but the collection of files into folders and movement to advance or revise them provides a convenient approval control system for this company. The caveat is that a project identifier is needed for each shot.
Client identifiers and project identifiers are not essential. Of the two, a project identifier can be used alone. It implies a specific client and your artists are more likely, and I should say more than likely, to occasionally mix assets from one client project with another project for the same client.

Asset Management 101 – part 7: Ten Essential Rules of File Naming 10 - Include Extra Data

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