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