NAMING CONVENTIONS

Seems technical but it's so simple.

Make sure you look organized!

Nothing seems more unprofessional than sending over a file that reads like this:

While you might be reading this and giggle inside, I assure you we all have done it at one point in our career. Even with the best intentions, or the worst case of OCD, this is bound to happen at one point. I can not even count how many times I have rolled my eyes when receiving a file just to see someone's brain exposed into whatever the flavor of the month naming convention was at the time of saving the file.

 

This might sound harsh but whether we like it or not production crew have received this image of being super organized and not living up to it makes us look bad as a collective. Imagine walking into your accountant's office and all the folders and papers are everywhere. Now imagine You ask him about a certain document you sent him and it takes him 15 mins to find it, only to have coffee stains and scribbles on it. Well that's what a bad naming convention sends out as a message.

You might be thinking I am exaggerating, but impressions count allot in this industry and even more in the production department. It's hard to quantify all the work production crew do, we tend to multitask like crazy. However we often get judged on our level of "professionalism". This means being a problem solver, keeping Your head cool, having an overview of the entire production and yes, You guessed it ... Staying organised when others lose their ... Well You know what they lose.

"The appearance of being organised matters!

How can You ask your team to be organised

when you cant even find your own files"

So lets stop beating around the bush and get down to business:

Naming conventions are quite simple, what is hard however is to set them up without changing them in a few weeks. This is where this article comes in handy, you will find out one of the conventions that works in almost any business and once it has penetrated your brain it will become second nature. Its more important to remain consistent in your naming convention over the years than re-evaluating it and having to change your old files all over again.

As a universal rule You have to start naming your files from general to detailed components. This means that You will help the automatic sorting on your server or computer to show you the files grouped together by lets say first the project, then the department, then the contact of the document and then date and/or version.

This would look something like this:

ProjectName_Department_Content_YYYYMMDD_v###.extension

Example :

PulpFiction_Compositing_Schedule_20201230_v001.xlsx

 

 

Now notice how I have used Capitals only when I start a new word. This is called "CamelCase" and helps the readability of the often very long filename. 

Camel Case: First letter of every word is capitalized with no spaces or symbols between words. Examples: UserAccount, FedEx, WordPerfect. A variation common in programming is to start with a lower case: iPad, eBay, fileName, userAccount.

 

When someone sees this file, they immediately know by reading from left to right that the projects is "Pulp Fiction". This is a file that has to do with the Compositing department, apparently its the schedule and we can read the date of creation and which version it is.

 

So we went from the biggest component, the film being "Pulp Fiction" to the department and the content of the document being the schedule and the date and version. Using this convention we know that for the other versions of the Compositing schedule of "Pulp Fiction" we will only change the date and version from now on. This will mean we can accurately go back in time and check older versions of the same document. A priceless thing to be able to do when You need to project where You are going or if You need to do a post-mortem.

Therefore the constants are ProjectName, Department and Content and the variables are Date and Version.

Understanding the difference between constants and variables helps figuring out how to name new files You create.

Now why a date and a version, why not just a version? Well sadly when You send files around to collaborate, they get saved again and again, which means the date inside the metadata of the file changes constantly. Therefore if You ever want to see which are the oldest files, You can not sort files by date using metadata, and You have will have to open them one by one and guess.

And why not just v1, v2, v3 etc. Why have these 3 numbers all the time. Again, once You hit v11 of a document, the computer will sort version 11 after version 1 and this will make a mess in your file browser. Keeping 3 numbers will make You go up to 999 versions and never have this issue.  And no one goes to 999 version anyway.

And lastly why have the year, then month and then day? Well because this is only normal for a computer to be able to understand these numbers. The computers sees this number in the name as literally one big number, he doesn't care about our conventions of dates being different in the world. All he wants is to be able to sort from biggest number to smallest. This way of doing it helps the sorting.

Lets have some more examples:

  • PulpFiction_Compositing_Schedule_20201230_v001.xlsx

  • PulpFiction_Compositing_Schedule_20210123_v002.xlsx

  • PulpFiction_Compositing_Schedule_20210126_v003.xslx

Isn't this nice and tidy?

  • TheWire_s01_e01_Breakdown_20011013_v001.xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_Breakdown_20011105_v002.xlsx

Here we have added season and episode to the mix, again from bigger to smaller. Something to note in regards to detailing in naming conventions; there is a reason we don't add "BreakdownFromScript"for instance. This might look useful so we could also add "BreakdownFromRushes" or "BreakdownFromEdit" as this helps You find the file more accurately than just "Breakdown". Well this is a good case where this info is something that could be added inside the Xl file instead of in the naming of the file. Why? Well because if we would add it into the naming we would get this on our server: 

  • TheWire_s01_e01_BreakdownFromEdit_20021012_v004xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_BreakdownFromScript_20011013_v001.xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_BreakdownFromScript_20011105_v002.xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_BreakdownFromRushes_20020605_v003.xlsx

Do You see what happened? v04 just jumped to the top of the list, because for the computer the E in "Edit" is earlier in the alphabet than the S from "Script". If You want to keep your files clean, readable and tidy, then just add that info inside the XL somewhere instead of the filename and things will look like this:

  • TheWire_s01_e01_Breakdown_20011013_v001.xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_Breakdown_20011105_v002.xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_Breakdown_20020605_v003.xlsx

  • TheWire_s01_e01_Breakdown_20021012_v004xlsx

Muuuuuch nicer ;)

Ahh that calms my OCD.

There will be many variations of files presenting itself and over time using this convention, you will be able to to find your files in no time and people will also notice how organized you are. As I said, there are some other conventions out there and if your company already has one then adhere to that. The most important thing is to have a convention and remain consistent.

So get out there and rename away!