After years of editing on Final Cut Pro 7, it was finally time to choose a new editing software. I weighed the advantages of going back to Avid versus learning FCP X or Premiere Pro CC. Ultimately the marketplace decided for me…most folks here in Hawai‘i were switching to Adobe Premiere, and that is what they are now using at the local film school where many of the filmmakers with whom I collaborate teach.


Last summer I began editing Kū Kanaka: Stand Tall with producer/director Marlene Booth, using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, 2015 edition and we are now about 3 months into editing it. Many people have been asking if I have come up with a written best practices workflow, and so I’ve begun to document how we are editing the show. I will likely break this up into several blog posts, so stay tuned for more to come. A quick disclaimer…this is my very first Adobe premiere long form project. I don’t claim that this is the only way to organize material, or the best way. But for now this is my way. I am very open to ideas of how to make this process better.

When setting up a long-form documentary project, my main goal is to organize the footage in a way that makes it easy for me to find any clip over the long haul of the project. It’s not unusual for me to have to take breaks from a project and then come back to work on them after several weeks or months. For example there is one film, Finding KUKAN, which I’ve been cutting on and off for over 4 years now, and which has over 7 TB of footage. It’s a huge timesaver for me as an editor in the long run to organize well-labeled clips into well-labeled bins so I can find everything.

For me, it’s also important to have all my media well-organized on an external hard drive. So before I begin working in Premiere, I gather all my video footage, stills and sound files and organize them on the hard drive. This organization will be replicated exactly within Premiere Pro. The goal for me is to have clip names and bin names that match the media file names and folders on the drive.

Drive Organization

Here is a screen shot of how I organize my footage in bins on my external hard drive. People nowadays use the word “bin” or “folder” interchangably…as an old Avid editor I still use the word Bin, but when working in the Mac OS, Folder would be the correct term. The Folder on the Mac desktop will become the Bin in the editing software. But I will use the words interchangably, as one is simply a representation of the other.

So you can see that on my external hard drive there is a folder called “Ku Kanaka Media” and this is where every single piece of video, sound and stills will be stored. You can also see that I have organized footage by type. The “Archival” folder holds all video clips that come from archival sources, such as old television news stories or old film clips we have pulled from a film archive. GFX has graphics. Pidgin Documentary Footage includes footage from a previous film that includes our main character of Kū Kanaka, Kanalu Young. YouTube Videos includes videos we have downloaded from YouTube which we are using as temporary placeholder footage until we can license the actual archival footage.


Within these folders are sub-bins/folders that show more specific categories. For example, we have already amassed hundreds of stills, so I have organized those into sub-bins to make them easier to locate when I am editing. You can have as many bins as you need, so think about your film and name your materials in a way that makes the most sense to you. For documentary, I organize material mostly by thinking about how I’m going to use the footage in a scene, and so the folder or bin names will lead me to the scene in which I will use the material. So your folder/bin names will be very specific to your project.

A couple of things to keep in mind. Since you are working in your project, there is no need to put the project name in all your bin/folder names (i.e.: Ku Kanaka Stills, Ku Kanaka Music). I much prefer simpler names for folders: Stills, Music, etc.  I also don’t like the use of punctuation in file or folder names, except for an occasional underscore. Please save the parentheses and commas for when you write your treatment, and leave them out of the file names.




FootageFolderNow lets talk about the video footage that was recorded for this particular documentary, which includes interviews, b-roll and cinema verité footage. The first half of the footage that was recorded for this documentary was edited in Final Cut Pro 7 for fundraising sample reels over the last two years. Consequently that footage, which was shot on either a Sony F3 camera or a Canon C300, was all transcoded to Apple ProRes. So I organized the ProRes footage in bins with the name of each scene, i.e.: Black Point Jumping, and put all those bins into one big bin called Footage. So I know that everything in the Footage bin is in ProRes codec.

You will also notice that there are separate bins named Interviews, RAW Media_C300 and RAW Media_SonyF3. The Interviews bin includes all the interviews that were recorded early in the production process and transcoded to ProRes. However, once we determined that we were going to edit in Premiere, we stopped transcoding footage to ProRes and chose to edit this material in the native camera codecs. So everything that is in the Canon C300 native codec is in the folder called RAW Media_C300 and ditto the RAW Media_SonyF3. Different footage from different cameras may need to be treated differently when we get to the end of the editing process and begin color correcting and finishing the film. It’s important to me to know which codecs are which and so organizing the material this way will help me find that footage quickly. I know that some editors still transcode everything to a single codec before editing and there may be compelling reasons to do that. For us, we knew we would have a lot of temp footage coming from multiple sources, including internet downloads. Not having to transcode everything before the offline editing can begin is a huge timesaver, and also takes up far less space on our hard drive.


You can see that the Raw Media Folders contain a sub-folder that has a particular naming convention. This is how I like to name footage folders: Date of Recording (YearMonthDay) _KeyWordDescriptor_Camera. So for example, the folder called


was recorded on 2/27/2015, and it is an interview with the characters Gwen and Kimo recorded on the C300. The “2” means it was Card 2 recorded at that time, which lets me know that there is another folder with the footage from Card 1.

Inside that folder you see a lot of subfolders…these are the folders that are automatically created by the camera on the card when it is recording. Note the difference between the C300 Raw Media folders and the Sony F3 Raw Media folders. Every camera has a unique file structure, and you have to keep that file structure intact in order for your editing software and camera software to know how to treat this footage. So when I get footage from the DP or the DIT or the director on a hard drive, I copy it over and leave the folders exactly as they come to me. All I do is change the name of the highest folder (which usually comes to me as Card 1, Card 2, Card 3 or something like that), and rename it with my typical naming convention, as detailed above.

We have spent a lot of time organizing footage and haven’t even launched Adobe Premiere yet! But it is so, so important to get this file organization correct early on, and to name your files correctly before you import them into Premiere. This is going to save oodles of time down the line. Also, for young people early in their careers, this type of project organization is often the work of the assistant editor, or the editing intern who aspires to be the assistant editor. Getting it right will make you shine in the eyes of the editor, who will heap praise on you for making their work so much easier.

MediaBrowserOk so it’s finally time to launch Adobe Premiere Pro. After the software launches, create a New Project and give your project a name. Our project is named Ku Kanaka 2015. Then use the Media Browser to begin importing all your footage into the project. There are many ways to import media. Personally I like the “Drag and Drop” method, which means to drag a folder from the Media Browser and drop it into the Project Window. To do this you need to arrange your windows in Premiere so that you can see both the Project Window and the Media Browser Window at the same time, as you see in the image on the left. You also need some empty space at the bottom of your Project Window to drop new bins into.

I like to import footage into my project one bin at a time, and then carefully check each bin to make sure that every bin and every clip is present and accounted for by comparing the bin with the folder on the external hard drive at the Finder. Occasionally, an empty bin will import, and I will need to do a second import to get all the clips into Premiere correctly. I don’t know why, but that is why I double-check everything. When you finish importing clips and bins using the Media Browser, your project should look exactly the way your folders look on the Finder.

As you add new footage or music or sound effects to your project, just follow the same protocol: place the media in your Media Folder on your external hard drive in a well-named bin (or an existing bin, as the case may be). Then use the Media Browser to import the new footage into your project.

You now have a new organized project with all your bins and clips. Before you start editing, this would be an excellent time to make an exact copy of all your organized media on a second external hard drive and then store that drive in a safe place, preferably in a different location than where you store your main editing drive. That way if your editing drive crashes or is lost or stolen, you will have all your media backed up and ready to get back to editing. This is such a life saver…back up your media and your project, always, always, always!

Now that you are ready to begin editing, notice that I created a bin called SEQS Shirley. This is where all my edited sequences will go. Now you can create a new sequence and begin editing some rough assemblies of your footage.

The first sample reels of this film were edited in 2013 and 2014 on Final Cut Pro 7, and we did import already edited sequences from FCP7 into Adobe premiere. I will cover that process in an upcoming blog post.

Got any questions about this blog post? Or ideas about how I can make this process of setting up a documentary project better for Adobe Premiere? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a question or a comment. And you can always reach me via my Facebook or Twitter accounts as well.  Happy Editing!