File storage is still a big issue for any CG production. The many software involved lead to a constellation of files in which it’s hard to find his way.
In a perfect world, you would use a dedicated database where files can be queried, accessed, and stored through their metadata. Unfortunately, most studios cannot afford to set up this kind of solution. The simplest alternative is to rely on a classic file system. But to avoid any confusion, it’s mandatory to enforce a file system structure. This is what we propose to discuss in this blog post.
Note that all our paths are written in lowercase, without special chars or space. These rules allow maximizing readiness and compatibility with software and tools.
The Root folder
Your root folder name should be very explicit composed of the productions folder and the name of the production:
The state folders
Before describing our content We need one folder for the working files and one for the published files
The type folders
In your production, you will mainly build assets and shots. So let’s separate clearly these two concepts:
The asset folders
To fold properly your assets, we propose you make folders by asset categories. Then each asset should have its distinct folder. Finally, we think, it’s better to have a directory for the main steps of the asset building. Don’t be too specific or you will end with myriads of folders:
prod...ing/assets/characters/rabbit/modeling prod...ing/assets/characters/rabbit/rigging prod...ing/assets/characters/rabbit/texturing
The shot folders
The folders should describe the shot hierarchy (episode/chapter, sequence, and shot). Then for each shots, we store the files in a folder describing the main steps of the shot building.
prod...ing/shots/ep001/se001/sh001/animation prod...ing/shots/ep001/se001/sh001/fx prod...ing/shots/ep001/se001/sh001/compositing
If you don’t have an episode or chapter you can skip the ep001 folder.
The main issue here is sometimes you have to deal with animation running on several shots. We recommend using either symbolic links or to work only on the first shot concerned by the animation.
The asset in a shot folders
It happens that variants of assets must be done for a specific shot or that animation is built separately for each asset. In that case, we create an assets folder inside the shot folder. In that folder, we’ll create a folder per asset. No need to add a folder for the asset type.
It’s better to transcript all the information in the file name too. In some software, only the file name is displayed in the window title. So, it’s better to make it explicit.
asset in shot:
Departments and specific file hierarchy
Some departments may have different ways to deal with files. It can be a good idea to have a different file hierarchy for each department. In that case, make sure to document it properly.
That’s it! With this simple file hierarchy, you should be able to store properly all your files. Which means less headache and less stress for your next productions.
Enforcing a file structure can lead to file duplication and sometimes more processes for your CG artists. You shouldn’t be scared of that. The file structure is part of the communication between people. And in a project, good communication is what matters the most. So it’s better to accept minor drawbacks. You will gain much more inefficiency when looking for the right files.
Even better, it will allow you to develop tools that will be able to work automatically on your file system. Pipeline tooling is mandatory to scale your studio. In later blog posts, we’ll give you ideas on what to build and how to make it.
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