I'll never stop saying that a huge part of editing is to be very organized. Before a project even starts, all editors should have a "mise en place."
According to Wikipedia:
"'Mise en place' is a French culinary phrase which means 'putting in place' or 'everything in its place.' It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients..."
Essentially, there are certain things a cook knows they might need for every service, so they have a station where it's all ready to go. The same thing exists for editors, because no matter the project, certain things always need to be readily accessible. Basically I'm just talking about project templates, but I like thinking of things in terms of food.
Here are the components of my "mise en place":
It's absolutely essential to always have your shortcuts available so you can edit as fast as you can think. Most professional editors have their own set of keyboard shortcuts that they've optimized for maximum efficiency and speed. If you don't have your settings saved online, it's good to have a copy somewhere like on Dropbox or saved in an email attachment draft.
Some editors use the default shortcuts so that they don't have to go through the trouble of transferring settings over, but I feel that's the exception to the rule. Also, many shortcuts have no default setting!
Every editor needs a well organized library of sound effects at their fingertips. When you need a sound effect, your thought should be: "Which whoosh should I use?" not "Where is that one whoosh?" If you're not organized, you'll waste your time on the latter.
Sound effects with specific filenames like: "jungle ambience, birds, wind, rain" can be located via searches, but filenames for hits, whooshes, rises, swishes etc. are almost never easily searchable. That's why it's important to take the time to organize your sound effects so that your favorites are in a place that you can find in seconds.
Some editors keep a bin of sound effects clips, and remember by name or do bin-specific searches; I keep sequences of sound effects that I organize with labeled markers, this way I can quickly listen to one after another to decide which one I like. Whenever I get a new sound effects library I'll make sequences just for that library, and append my favorites to my master sequence of favorites.
Whenever I work at a new agency, I create a project where I organize their sound effects library to my liking; this cuts down the time between the producer making a request, and me presenting them with a new option. It's also a good activity to do when waiting on producers to look over my newest cut.
I have a template folder structure that I duplicate for every single project that I work on. It's constantly evolving, but it's pretty solid right now. Here are the folders and subfolders in it:
Approvals - Exports sent to the client. I keep numbered subfolders just in case it ends up being a campaign with multiple trailers. Most recent cuts are at the top level, and old cuts end up in a folder labeled "zOLD"
Documents - This includes documents to organize my thoughts, contracts, spreadsheets, copyright information, or client notes. I name client notes by date to keep them organized; keeping them in here saves me the trouble of digging up emails or Slack messages.
From Client - Includes all materials from the client whether it's music, Photoshop files, game builds, game footage etc. These are also put into dated subfolders so that I know if an asset is outdated. This folder could probably use some more organizing, but I haven't thought of a good way to do it yet.
GFX - Everything related to graphics for the trailer: Bitmaps, vectors, sound reference, video reference, renders, templates, mood boards, design boards etc. This is basically a project folder within a project folder!
Media - All the media I capture, videos I download for reference, and footage I receive from the client.
Music - Temp music, and official music sent by the client. Occasionally I have to use dated subfolders to make sure I'm using the most current music versions.
Project Files - My project files for Premiere, After Effects, and Screenflow etc.
SFX - Sound effects needed for that specific project which get sent from the client or I download from sites like freesound.org.
VO - Voiceover files both temp and official
Most agencies that I've worked at have their own project folder structure. Everyone has a unique system, but the goal is to have a place for everything you receive during the course of a project.
An organized folder structure makes it easier to revisit a project in the future, or to pass it off to another person. If you work alone, your future self will deeply appreciate it!
My Premiere project file has all the above categories with a few additional bins:
Cuts - Contains all of my current sequences at the top level, then subfolders for: exported cuts that have been send to the client, old work cuts that are just part of my process but don't get exported, templates for each game platform's video specifications, nested sequences, and nested sequences for music or sound effects made to reverb out.
SFX - A bin for my organized sound effects sequences, a bin for the files, a bin for SFX "picks" which are specific sounds pulled just for that project, and a bin for sounds from the client.
VIZ - a bin that holds the sequences with all my organized visuals, selects strings etc. I separate footage I've captured into different numbered "sessions" that each get their own sequence. This helps me keep track of what footage is most recent; for example every time I get an updated build I start a new session so that I know if/when something is old and has to be replaced.
GFX - At the most basic level I have things like a white PNG file which I use for white flashes . It seems like a little thing, but since it's always there, I don't have to recreate it every project. The reason I have a PNG file instead of generating a color matte in Premiere is because I can easily load it into the Source monitor by double clicking it; if you double click a color matte file, it opens the color picker. No thing is too small to go into a template. If it's something you find yourself doing every project, then it should be in a template!
There's also a folder for embedded After Effects comps, a very well organized folder of game platform logos, ESRB & PEGI ratings, and other things that go on end slates. I also have 3x3 grids that I can overlay in my sequences to help with shot composition (since Premiere doesn't have guides in its Canvas window)
So that's how I stay organized! (as of the writing of this blog post). If you're an editor you probably have your own "mise en place", but if you don't then hopefully this inspires you to make one! It's very satisfying to keep everything organized, and looking at my folder structure is a very geeky way of looking at a history of my career as an editor.
Even if you're not an editor, there's probably something you do all the time that could be done faster if you have a template for it. Organize your own "mise en place" to maximize time making difficult creative decisions, and minimize all the little things that make us go off track.