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Project Naming Conventions for Animation

This is a guide for naming conventions for group projects. Of course, this guide is of no use if you use some sort of version control software. But as this is not always possible or even desired, here is an alternative.This guide assumes the usage of Adobe Premiere for editing and Adobe After Effects for compositing. But if you use other software, it should still reveal useful. And lastly, this convention is for animation projects, and doesn't work all that well for software development or real-footage movies.

Files Naming Conventions

A note before speaking about filenames conventions: Each scene should be numbered in a multiple of ten. Therefore, the first scene is scene "010", and not scene "001". In case a scene has to be added in between, this system allows for flexibility. Do not waste time separating your scenes in shots (as in "scene 1 – shot 1"). It is not relevant to the work. Each shot is a scene, or each scene is a shot. Makes it easier to track.

Ok, so; this is how a project should be structured ("[thingy]" denotes a folder called "thingy"):

[client name – project name]

  • [project name – compositing]
    This folder will contain everything related to the final compositing. It will contain three folders:

    will contain movies to be used, mostly jingles. The movies should be properly named.
    will contain the scenes, rendered. Each scene should be properly numbered. For example: [0010] would be scene 10. The folder name can include a description, for faster browsing: [0010 – opening scene]. The files inside should be PNGs, rendered with alpha layer, named as follow: "0010 – opening scene 00001", "0010 – opening scene 00002", "0010 – opening scene 00003", etc.
    will contain still images, backgrounds, logos, etc. The files should also be properly named: "0010 – opening scene – background (forest)".
  • [project name – editing]
    This will contain everything that is related to editing, in other words, sounds, renders from compositing, etc. It will contain three folders:

    will contain movies that have been rendered from the compositing folder.

    • The movies will be rendered in uncompressed format without sound output and properly named: "0010 – opening scene.avi".
    • If a movie is to be replaced, the old one should be renamed "0010 – opening scene (delete 01).avi" before importing the new one. If the new one gets deleted, it will also be renamed, as follows: "0010 – opening scene (delete 02).avi", and so on. After a while, if the folder gets too big, unused movies can be deleted, beginning with the lowest number.
    will contain all the sounds used in the movie.

    • The sounds themselves should have clear descriptive names. Avoid names such as "new record 01 final", which doesn't tell anything. If the sound has been cleaned, accelerated, etc, say it in the filename: "conversation 01 (cleaned).wav" for example.
    • store the sounds in relevant sub-folders, such as "[voices]", "[steps]", "[impacts]", and so on, depending on what is relevant for your movie.
    • If a sound is to be replaced, follow the naming convention described earlier: append a "delete 01" before moving the new one in.
    contains the music used in the movie.
  • [project name – animation]
    This folder contains each scene in its own folder, properly named ("[0010 – opening scene]"). Each scene folder contains three sub-folders:

    • [references]
      will contain everything you need to animate your scene properly. You can be as messy as you want inside this folder
    • [stills]
      backgrounds, in PSD format.
    • The animation properly speaking, is stored in the folder itself (in "[0010 – opening scene]").
  • [project name – library]
    This folder contains all graphical references, notes, whatever might be needed but can be deleted when all is over. It contains three sub-folders:

    • [assets]
      will contain plugins, fonts, and whatever needed for the file. In the case of plugins, include a text file containing registration information.
    • [references]
      will contain all references, shots, movies, sounds, that can be needed for inspiration or rotoscoping.
    • [backup]
      Will contain the whole project, that must be backupped regularly. Each backup will be named [project name – backup – year – month – day]
  • [project name – renders]
    This folder will contain the final renders. Typically, one uncompressed, one sorenson, one MPEG. this folder is not to store the renders that will be used while editing! (Those are to be placed in "[project name – editing]/[movies]"). This folder only contains the final renders, the ones you will give to the client.
  • [project name – DVD]
    Contains the assets for the DVD. Mainly, the menu and the DVD file.
  • [project name – prints]
    Contains DVD cover, poster, ads, whatever prints are related to the project

To sum it up, here is how the workflow goes:

  1. The scenes are animated inside [project name – animation], and then rendered to [project name – compositing]/[frames]
  2. Then they are edited, if necessary, in a one unique file in [project name – compositing]. Effects are added, backgrounds, whatever necessary. From there, either you render one big file to [project name – editing]/[movies], or several little files.
  3. Sound and music is added to the movie, and it is then exported to [project name – renders].

Photoshop Conventions

  • If your file contains animation, store all the relevant frames in a layer folder; each frame should be a multiple of ten, to allow for in-betweens. All layers names should contain the scene's name, as follows: "0010 – 0010", "0010 – 0020", etc.
  • If your file also contains a background, it's fine if you need it as a reference, but it should not be there. Create a new file for it. Same as for the animation, name the background parts properly: "0010 – background – tree", "0010 – background – cloud 01", etc.
  • Do not use the "background" layer of Photoshop to draw on. You can use the "background" layer as a canvas, in order to draw on white but not on transparent, but it should not be used in the final animation. You can include notes or references on it.
  • Same as the scenes, never delete an old version. Just rename it. You can include some precision on the state of the file that you are renaming. Let's say you are replacing a file that had no colours with the coloured one, you rename the old one to "0010 – background (delete 01 – uncoloured).psd".
  • Be careful: if you get a sketch file that you must ink, or an inked file that you must colour, pay attention: do not move the layers. You should neither move the layers' order in the layers stack, nor move the layer itself with the move tool.
  • Your file must be created properly. If you are using pal, then the pixel aspect ratio should be pal, at the moment of file creation. It leads to problems if it is done later. Also, it must be a 75 DPI file, and must be also slightly larger than the final composition (730×586). If you are more confortable working at larger resolutions, do so, but name your file, let's say "0010 – jump (300 DPI)", and save a copy in the right size. the 300 DPI copy is just for you, it will not be used in the final composition.
  • If there is going to be a zoom on the composition, don't make it just larger without thinking. Know how much larger you need it and make it exactly that much larger. Calculate it or make trials until you get it right. If you are working on a Photoshop file that contains several assets, some of which will be zoomed on and some not, move the other assets to a new, smaller file. It doesn't make sense to create assets fourth time the size they are going to be used. It eats memory for nothing.
  • Situations where a file should be larger than the final composition are:
    1. zoom in or track in (or zoom out or track out), or if the asset moves closer to the camera (which is the same, compositing-wise)
    2. motion blur (applying blur eats the edges of the image)
    3. wavy camera or impact that moves the camera (you need a little border, or a big border, depending on how much it moves)
  • Do not forget safe frames!
  • And lastly, when you add color, be careful for transparency spots. To check, turn the "background" layer on, make it 100% white, see if it shows through your drawing, correct as necessary, then select your background, make it 100% black, and check again.

After Effects Conventions

Each after effects file should have the following folder in its library:

  • [scene number – stills] folder for all your stills.
  • [scene number – frames] folder for all your frames.
  • [scene number – solids] for whatever solids and adjustement layers are used. Each solid should be properly named with the scene name also.
  • [scene number – references] for your references.


each and every asset used should be stored in a composition. In other words, it is not acceptable to have a keys on a layer.
Anything having keys, or that can potentially have keys, or might sometime in the future take keys should be a composition.
In doubt, just nest everything is sub-compositions. This allows for easy replacement of the asset in case of need.

Also, don't forget:

  • You should check everything you import has the right specs. If your movie is Pal with 1.07 pixel aspect ratio and 25 frames per second, make sure all the files you import are correctly interpreted. This is important. Do not forget.
  • Your compositions should be slightly bigger than what is needed. If you are working in PAL and therefore need 720×576, make sure you create your comp at 730×586 to allow some room in case of needed movement, blur, whatever. Don't overdo it. If the composition is not going to move, then it is pointless to eat precious memory by making it too big.
  • If you use a plugin or a font, include it in the "[assets]" folder as well as in your scene's folder.
  • Do not forget safe frames!

File Formats

  • All sounds must be wav, snd, or aif format. No MP3 allowed!
  • All files imported in after effects are either PSDs or sequences of PNGs (with alpha information)
  • All files exported from after effects are uncompressed AVIs with no sound
  • All files exported from Premiere are uncompressed AVI with sound.

Last Notes

  • Every number used should be preceded by zeros. Nothing can be named "scene 1". It must be named "scene 001". If you expect more than 999 scenes, then it should be named "scene 0001".
  • Use your head. If you are working on a group project, then it means that most probably, someone else is going to take your file to work on it at some point. Prepare your file in such a way that other person doesn't have to ask you any question. Include notes (on hidden layers so they don't show in the animation) if necessary, do whatever is needed, but be smart and thoughtful.
  • Make sure you are using the same software version as everyone else. It is ok to use an older version of a software, but it can be a big issue if you are using a newer version.
  • Never use an asset that is not present in the project's folder. Every sound, every plugin, every image, every tiny little file that you use must first be copied to the relevant folder, then used. Using external files is taboo with no exceptions.

Well, hope that helps. I'd be happy to hear comments or about other methods.


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