Organizing Video

Using Unique Identifiers

What is a Unique Identifier?

A product barcode is an example of a unique identifier.

A product barcode is an example of a unique identifier.

A unique identifier is a number or code that can unambiguously distinguish one object from another in a given system, and group things associated with an object together. We frequently encounter unique identifiers in our everyday lives, such as credit card numbers, phone numbers, barcodes, and book ISBNs. A credit card number, for instance, distinguishes your purchases from someone else’s, and allows all of your purchases to be grouped together on one bill.

You can use unique identifiers to organize your videos. Imagine that you have 10 video files acquired from various sources, whose camera-assigned filenames have all been changed. When you review the videos, you find that 9 are unique, and one is a copy. You can create 9 unique identifiers to distinguish the 9 videos from one another. You can also give the one non-unique copy the same unique identifier as its original to associate them together.

Use unique identifiers to distinguish and associate files.
Use unique identifiers to distinguish and associate files.

Creating Unique Identifiers

To create your own sets of unique identifiers, decide what kind of objects you want to identify, such as projects, individual files, or folders containing groupings of files.

For each kind of object you want to identify, define a template or strategy for assigning identifiers for that kind of object. For instance, you may choose to identify folders using numbers that count sequentially starting with the number “00001,” or you may want to identify projects using a five-letter code that starts with “P-”. The date recorded can be a good basis for unique identifiers for raw footage, since it changes every 24 hours, e.g. “20130623-001.” You can also use identifiers created by other systems (e.g. camera filenames, YouTube IDs).

Keep track of your unique identifiers in a registry recorded using a spreadsheet or database application. You can also use a spreadsheet or database application to automatically generate unique identifiers for you.

Keep track of your unique identifiers.
Keep track of your unique identifiers.

Ways to Use Unique Identifiers

You can organize your collection by using unique identifiers in your directory names and filenames. Say, for example, you output a master video file called “” You can name a lower resolution copy made for web upload “” Similarly, you can name the shot list “00001_ShotList.xls.” All three of these files can be organized in a folder named “00001_MyVideo”.

Unique identifiers in directory names and filenames.
Unique identifiers in directory names and filenames.

If you have an inventory or catalog, you can include the unique identifier as a spreadsheet column or database field so that you can easily retrieve each video in your collection.

If you are sharing videos and documentation with others, you can refer to unique identifiers so that it is clear what you are talking about. You can also send and receive video and documentation separately and put them together later by putting the same unique identifier in their filenames.

  • 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.
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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.
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Key Concept: Original Order

Videos should be organized in a way that preserves the context of their creation.
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Key Concept: Metadata

Metadata is the basis for organizing your content.
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Key Concept: Findability

Good organization supports navigation and retrieval, and contributes to the findability of an item.
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The Archiving Workflow

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