This is the start of a series of articles regarding the use of Adobe Prelude in my documentary project. This is not supposed to show the one true way of using Prelude, but rather describe the various steps involved in using the software, the pipeline questions that one might ask themselves and my personal answers to those questions. Screenshots might sometimes seem inconsistent with what I’m writing, but that’s because my pipeline is evolving as I learn more about Prelude and I’m not going back to refactor my test project every time.
So what is Adobe Prelude? According to its creators, it’s a video logging and ingest software. Basically it helps you get from here:
The big reason why you want to annotate those files is that all the metadata you add to your clip will become searchable, allowing you to find the right clips much more easily in Premiere. You can organise your clips into bins, and then send the whole thing directly to Premiere Pro where all that is left to do is to start editing. The software is fairly straightforward to use, but the way you are going to use it is going to be dependent on the way you want to work.
While Prelude helps you copy your files from your memory cards and other external storage to your editing computer, it can’t decide for you what to name the files and where to put them. So before you can start using it, you want to have an idea of how what the folder structure of your project will be like: one folder per day of shooting? one per media type? one per shot type? a combination of all of these?
In my day job (making video games) I deal with projects made of several thousand files on a regular basis. I know about the importance of folder structures and naming conventions in order to make a project easy to manage and be worked on by several people. It’s almost an art form, and the “right” way to organise data will vary from one person to another.
The question I asked myself was “what’s the purpose of that folder structure?” To me, it wasn’t about organising the files according to the way I’m going to use them when the time to edit them comes. That’s what bins are for. The whole point of Prelude is that I can use it to find files in way a file browser wouldn’t allow me to. So there’s no need to have my folder structure facilitate this.
However I still needed some kind of structure. The decision was that the folder structure should make it easy to look at backups and know what’s what.
The idea behind my naming convention is to answer the question: “what is the minimum amount of information I need to make sense of this file? “. Looking back at my previous naming conventions and considering the information , I think the following is what I’m going to stick with for naming documentary clips:
- Date: I like to know when a clip has been shot, but I don’t want to rely on creation or modification date to figure this out, so I put it in the file name.
- Location: This will refer to either the place or event where the clip was filmed.
- Activity: What is being filmed? An interview? A tournament? A lecture? etc.
- Subject: Who or what is the main “character” of this clip?
The idea is to find a compromise between having a meaningful file name and not having to precisely describe every single clip.
Once you know how you want to name your file, you need to choose where they go. For each project, I’ve got a media folder in which I put all my clips. But then there are several ways to organise files within that folder.
As you can see, I’ve tried several folder naming conventions, and that folder has become quite a mess, though this is exactly why Prelude is useful, as the location of the files doesn’t really matter when it comes to using them. Going forward, I think my preferred folder naming convention would be YYYY-MM-DD-Location, or YYYY-MM-Location for multi-day shoots.
Note how I’m writing the date differently on files and on folders. I’m choosing a more readable date format for folders as the date is (to me) a more important part of the name here than it is in clips. You also might have noticed that I don’t have an “audio” folder or similar (yet). So far, most of the sound I’ve recorded externally is tied to a video clip. So I’m putting those audio files right next to the corresponding video clips and with the exact same name, so I don’t have to figure out which audio file belongs to which clip when I look at the archive 5 years later.
Single project vs multiple projects
Now that you’ve decided what your structure is like, you can create your Prelude project… wait. Should you have one Prelude project or several?
When I started using Prelude for Back to the Source, I had one Prelude project for the entire film. It made sense, the same way having one Premiere project makes sense. This way I can browse the entire footage from the film in one place.
The problem is that I got to a point where this represented a lot of data. At the time of writing, the media folder for Back to the Source weighs 429GB. That’s a lot of files and Prelude started taking quite a long time to load the project. So I started thinking about splitting it in several projects. But then again, you go about this in several ways. How do you define the split? Per type of clip (e.g. interview, b-roll, etc.)? Per date? Per topic? Per location? If you split per date, which granularity do you choose? One per day? One per month?
In the end I chose to have one Prelude project per trip. It felt simpler as this way I only have to deal with a new project every time I travel for a new shoot. Even if I split between several Prelude projects, I chose to store all my media in the same place, so I only have one location to back up.
That method proved pretty efficient when you consider the next question.
When to ingest?
During my trip to the US, every evening consisted in backing up the day’s footage and recordings (as it should be). I was simply doing a straightforward copy from the memory cards to my laptop and to an external hard drive. Then once back home, I would connect the external hard drive to my PC and start the ingest process for a week’s worth of filming. That took quite a while. The other thing is that doing it that way, my back ups were a bit disorganised and had all the same unhelpful names they had on the memory cards.
When I went to Sweden, I tried a different approach. I created a new Prelude project on site, and every night I would ingest the day’s footage. At the end of the trip, all I had to do was copy the content of the hard drive to my computer, open the Prelude project and re-link the media.
This felt much more efficient as I basically don’t have to worry about the media until I start logging. The drawback is that it took about 2 hours every day to ingest the footage (A good ingest takes more time than a straightforward memory card dump, as we’ll see later), 2 hours I couldn’t use to do something else, like more shooting, or sleeping. It’s a compromise you may want to make. Also, ingesting on site allows you to make sure you’re not starting to backup footage that you know you’ll never use (such as that 5 minute clip where absolutely nothing happens), and that’s a good thing when you’re packing a finite amount of storage space.
Once you’ve decided how you want to work, you can actually start to use the software, and in an upcoming article, we’ll take a look at the way you ingest media with Adobe Prelude.