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USE A FILE STRUCTURE
By having a file structure and set naming convention for each project, asset chaos will never be future you’s problem again!
Prepare a template project file and save it to a template project folder, including all other folders you might need for a motion design project.
I like having a separate folder for each stage of the project, with a number in front of the folder name to signify the succession of the stages. Inside my animation folder, I have all my project files, assets (in separate folder per asset type) and a draft render folder. I keep my draft renders separate from my final deliverables.
Inside my project folder, I have my After Effects project files and an archive folder. Each day I work on a project, I create a new, dated version and move the old versions into the archive folder for less clutter.
USE VFX NAMING
By using the 0#0… naming convention for comps, inspired by the VFX industry, your scenes will sort numerically and alphabetically.
The first 0 in the number sequence allows for sorting 01, 02, …, 10. Even though After Effects uses an alphanumeric sorting system – that will sort 1, 2, 3,…, 9, 10 instead of 1, 10, 2, … – it is still useful to get into a habit of using the same naming convention across all your files and folders. This is partcularly useful when switching to a lexicographic sorting system like Windows File Explorer that sorts from left to right based on character value (1, 10, 2, …). Keeping the same habits, no matter what the work conditions or project dimensions are, helps keep projects tidy and makes working in a team easier.
The last 0 in the number sequence, allows scenes to be inserted in-between a numbered set without disrupting the sorting. If you pre-numbered your Illustrator scene files or After Effects compositions and want to add scenes in-between 020 and 030, for example, you can number them 021, 022 etc. and they will sort in the right order after 020 and before 030, without having to change the succeeding numbering to fit them in.
The alphabetical suffixes signify children that are part of the same parent composition. For example, 010a, 010b etc. are pre-comps inside the parent comp 010. The alphabetical order is time-relative. 010a is for pre-comps that appear first in the timeline. 010b is for comps that appear after 010a in the timeline. Pre-comps that appear in the parent comp at the same time or are not time-relative are all named 010a. This means I sometimes end up with multiple 010a comps in one scene.
By using a reverse date naming convention for files, you always know which one’s the most recent and don’t
end up with ‘final’, ‘final1’, ‘finalfinal’, ‘FINAL’…
It’s good practice to version your files, in case you mess up and want to go back, the file gets corrupted or you want to bring back something you may have overwritten. I don’t delete old versions for these reasons.
Additionally to my reverse date versioning, I also use a version number at the end of the file name. Instead of something like V01, I use my initials and then a version number. This is useful when working in a team. By the initials, you know who worked on that files last and can directly speak to that team member, if you have questions about the project. I only change the version number, if I make changes the same day and need a new version or make significant changes and want to keep previous work instead of overwriting it.
I have a resource folder with a set folder structure for animation projects. It holds an After Effects project file, including my animation preset comp, which I use for all new projects. Instead of creating a new AE project file every time I start a new project, I copy my folder structure and use the AE template project inside that.
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