Efficient footage filenames when using an external recorder
If you haven’t noticed, most of the tidbits I put on this here blawg are born-ed of my trial & error, my woeful miseries, and my occasional tiny logistical victories over the ruthless gremlins of Murphy’s Law. Wait, that makes it sound like this article is going to be a lot more exciting than it actually will be — you’re all “dayumm this gonna have gremlins an’ stuff in it, like some Ghostbusters 3 shii ri here.”
Nope, boring. Just filename suggestions for recording footage to an external recorder like a Sound Devices PIX 240i.
Recently I was DP on a feature, shot on a Sony F3 with one. I assume other external recorders allow for flexible filenaming with automated take number advancement, just like the PIX 240i does — which is great. Because of this, I recommended to the producers that we shoot without slating. It can save significant time on a production, especially one like ours where we had a language barrier, chaotic locations, and a tight schedule… along with all the other factors of a low budget production.
So here’s the formula I recommend for the filename structure:
(project acronym)_(scene number)_(date)__(take number)
If your film’s called “The Buried Dirtball“, you’re shooting scene #26 on July 10th, and it’s the fifth take, then itsa gunna looka lika thissa:
Though there’s one caveat… I don’t have a 240i in front of me, so I’m not 100% certain you can get all that stuff into the filename. But as I recall, you can manipulate the naming pretty heavily.
Including the date may seem cumbersome and maybe even unnecessary at first, but to me it is now essential. We didn’t use it when shooting the aforementioned feature, and that’s exactly how I learned that we should have. You may end up shooting shots from a particular scene many days apart from one another, so trying to figure out what the last numbered take was for that scene can be time consuming, if even possible at all when on location. But you probably can remember if it was earlier that day. So anyways, this can help prevent you from having shots with the same filename, which can be disastrous if one file happens to overwrite the other when placed into the same folder.
Note the three digit numeral for the scene & take numbers. That’s so if you put all your .mov files into the same folder, they’ll stack in proper order, making it easy for you to find stuffz.
Also, don’t use spaces instead of underscores… yes, I know it’s not 1997 anymore, but if for some reason the spaces cause some kind of problem for like your sound designer or colorist, then you’ll get to send a text message to yourself with nothing but a saddyface emoticon in it. Also, I’ll get to laugh loudly in your face. And I’ll probably make sure I eat something stinky immediately before. Like dog feces. That’ll teach you a lesson. Haha, in your face, bro. Jaykay, that’s just simulated schadenfreude– I would probably send you an upbeat, encouraging emoji to make you feel better, like that iPhone one of the twins in cat suits dancing.
The extra underscore before the take number is just there to visually scan better.
Also, you can use s000 (scene #0) for random unassigned stuff like 2nd unit exteriors, etc. I prefer this over other methods since those shots will all be easy to find in one place.
If you have a script supervisor on set, they can notate the “o’clock” time for shot numbers if you’re not slating (ie. shot3A was shot 2:16 – 2:38pm), and the assistant editor can then check the “date created” and rename the clips in the editing software, or just organize them into folders if you don’t need to go that hard.
Yeah, so anyways, based on my experiences on productions big and small, this format should work as a catch-all, with minimal time, energy, or headache during shooting and post. You can add more stuff to the filenames I guess, but going into the recorder’s interface to add shot numbers can be a slow and confusing hassle, especially if you’re not a fully crewed production with a dedicated script supervisor and 2nd AC. I would recommend the sorting of footage by shot be done in editing software, where it’s pretty simple & painless.