Organizing Video

Folders and Directories

Original Order

The key principle when organizing or grouping raw video footage into folders is to preserve its original order. In the context of video documentation, the original order is the order in which video files are recorded– for example VID00001.avi, VID00002.avi, VID00003.avi. The original order of files has evidential significance; you can infer that VID00002.avi was shot after VID00001.avi, and nothing was filmed in between. Original order also provides context to the individual files — for example, the events depicted in VID00003.avi somehow relate to the events in VID00002.avi and VID00004.avi.

Note that you may not always receive files in their original order, and that you may need to restore the original order when you organize your files.

Folders as Information Packages

A simple way to organize your videos and documentation is to make information packages. “Information package” is a term borrowed from the archiving world that simply refers to a container, such as a folder, that holds the object being archived– your video file– and information about it that enables it to be archived– your metadata and/or documentation.

An information package can be as simple as a folder containing a video file and a text file, although information packages can also include multiple video files and multiple documents.

A basic information package.
A basic information package.

Information packages allow you to:

Easily group related video files

Information packages allow you to easily group related video files, which helps maintain the original order and context. For example, if you record an event and end up with 15 video files, you can group them together in a single information package.  You can then add a text file containing metadata that pertains to all 15 files to the package.

Keep your video and metadata/documentation together

Using information packages prevents videos from becoming disassociated from the information about them over time and as you move the videos from place to place. For example, if you need to send videos to someone, you can compress the entire information package into a .ZIP file and transfer the video along with its metadata and documentation in one piece.

After organzing into information packages, compress into a .ZIP file content for easy transfer.
After organzing into information packages, compress into a .ZIP file content for easy transfer.

Search and browse your collection more easily

By using your Spotlight or Windows Search tool, you can find videos by searching within package folder names and text file contents. You can also organize your packages into directories to make them easier to browse (See “Organizing Packages into Directories” below).

How to Make an Information Package

  • Maintain the original order of the videos by only including videos recorded by one source at one place at one time in a package.
  • Do not mix video files from multiple sources or events in a single information package.
  • Name your information package folders consistently. The purpose is to make your package easy to identify and find. For example, you can name your package folders according to a “PackageID_DateRecorded_Location_SourceName” template.
  • Make sure your package names are unique from one another (creating unique identifiers for your packages can help with this).
  • If you have multiple video files and multiple documents in a single package, you can create a simple subdirectory structure within the package to make it more organized, such as:

Package Base Directory/Videos/Documentation/

Organizing Packages into Directories

As with all electronic files, organizing your digital videos involves putting them into directories in your file system. There is no one correct way to structure your directories, and the best way will depend on how you access your files.

Some tips:

Use a structure that works for you

If you primarily access your stored files using your file browser (e.g. Finder or File Explorer), create a hierarchical directory structure that reflects how you would browse for a video. For example, if you would browse first by date, then by location, then by videographer to find a video, create three levels of directories that align with these categories.

Group video files and related metadata or documentation together in an information package, and organize into directories.
Group video files and related metadata or documentation together in an information package, and organize into directories.

Video as Evidence: TIP

If you are collecting video for evidence, make sure information packages retain the original order of the videos, and organize your videos in a way that is easily browsable by creator, date recorded, and location.

Use your directory structure consistently and do not deviate

If the third level in your directory structure files content by videographer, for example, then only put videographer names on this directory level. Always spell your folder names consistently!

Avoid creating too many levels of nested subdirectories

Too many levels can make browsing cumbersome. It can also cause interoperability problems. Many Windows programs, for example, cannot handle file paths that exceed 260 characters.

Understand the drawbacks for browsing and searching

One drawback of relying on Finder or File Explorer to browse your collection is that the file system is hierarchical, i.e. browsing is done by continuously narrowing the scope of your search as you go down the directory tree. This can be problematic if you want to navigate your collection other than the way your directory structure is set up. It can also be problematic if you are trying to organize your videos according to multiple non-hierarchical attributes — for example, if you want to organize your videos by multiple topics.

To make your collection browsable or sortable by multiple non-hierarchical attributes – such as topics – you will need to use a separate database or media management application. With it, you can assign multiple attributes, such as topics, names, and descriptions to a record that point to your video. You may be familiar, for example, with how the media management application iTunes allows you to organize your music files in various ways without actually moving the stored mp3s in your file system. See “Tools for Media Management” for more on this topic.

Media management tools (like iTunes) can give you different ways to browse and sort your videos, without affecting how the files are stored.
Media management tools (like iTunes) can give you different ways to browse and sort your videos, without affecting how the files are stored.
  • Always preserve the original order when naming and organizing your files.
  • Do not rename filenames assigned by a camera.
  • Do not use “illegal” characters such as @#$%&*:”’<>?/~| or spaces in folder or file names.
  • Do not make your folder or filenames overly long (260-character limit on total filepath)
  • Name files consistently by following a template.
  • Use unique identifiers to identify and help organize your files.
  • Use “information packages” to keep media and metadata together.
  • Organize your information packages into directories.
  • Use a media management tool if you need to navigate your collection in more complex ways.
Key Concept: Information Package

Content can be organized into self-describing units of content, called information packages.
Read More

Key Concept: Unique Identifier

Unique identifiers are a helpful organizing tool for identifying items in your collection, and grouping them with or distinguishing them from others.
Read More

Key Concept: Original Order

Videos should be organized in a way that preserves the context of their creation.
Read More

Key Concept: Metadata

Metadata is the basis for organizing your content.
Read More

Key Concept: Findability

Good organization supports navigation and retrieval, and contributes to the findability of an item.
Read More

The Archiving Workflow

Help WITNESS create more human rights change

Join us by subscribing to our newsletter.