How to Organize Video & Audio Project Files for Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter EmeraldHike
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May 10, 2021
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The really great thing about this post is that it doesn’t only apply to Adobe Photoshop. Nor does it only apply to video for Photoshop. If you work with audio, you can use the lessons I’ll explain below. Also, if you’re a photographer and use Photoshop merely for image work, again, you can use what I write below to your advantage. In the most basic sense, I’m going to discuss how to go about organizing files on your computer for pretty much any type of design work. Today, I just happen to be looking at video editing in Photoshop.

In today’s post, I’ll explain a few things. First, I’ll explain why it’s important to be organized. There’s a pitfall you may encounter if you have your files out of whack and I’ll tell you all about why that’s a bad thing and how to clean it up. After that, I’ll discuss a very nice system that I’ve been using for years to keep all of my files just where they’re supposed to be. Photoshop knows where they are, I know where they are and everyone is happy. You can be like this too, so keep reading below.

How it Works Inside of Photoshop​

For this section, I’m going to use an example. I’m going to open up a random video file into Photoshop.


The file size of the video I just launched into Photoshop is 21.9 MB. That’s pretty straightforward. Now, I’m not going to do anything to the file. I’ll merely save the working PSD file out to the desktop to check on one little thing. I’d like to see how large the saved Photoshop file is.


Now, if I head to my desktop and just hover over the PSD file, the size, among other information, will appear. Interesting. The saved file is only 7.16 MB. How can this be?

If you aren’t familiar with the inside workings of many applications these days, I’ll let you in on a little secret. This especially has to do with applications that handle huge files, such as video editors. When I open up a video file into Photoshop, the file isn’t actually pulled entirely into the program. What happens is that only the “essence” of the file is pulled in. Basically, the physical file remains where it’s stored on my computer. Photoshop opens and uses only what’s absolutely necessary to allow for editing. That’s how it keeps the saved PSD file so small. Can you imagine how difficult and cumbersome it would be to edit a file or files that were over 100 MB each? I’m willing to say that the entire application wouldn’t do much of anything but sit there frozen.

Okay, good. So Photoshop doesn’t open the entire video file into the application when editing. It sort of “links” to its location. I guess the next question would be, “What happens if I move the MP4 file from it regular location?” In my previous example, I had the file I opened in a media folder. I opened it and saved it as a PSD. If I close that PSD file now and move the original MP4 file somewhere else that Photoshop doesn’t know about, what will happen when I attempt to open up the PSD file again? Let’s see.


Oh no. I’ve got a problem. Because I’ve moved the original linked asset, Photoshop can’t seem to locate it anymore when I open up the PSD file. I’m confronted with a dialog box that asks me to browse for the file so it can be linked once again to the working file. If I went ahead and found the file and relinked it, things would be fine. I’d be able to edit the video the same way I always could have. In this case, I’ll click the Cancel button on the dialog, which will keep what looks like the file open, but will close out the dialog.

The problem is, if I go to edit what looks like the file in Photoshop, I’ll quickly learn that there’s nothing there, other than a screenshot. If I press the Play button in the Timeline panel, the playhead will move down the timeline, but no movement in the video clip will show. The file is essentially dead until its linked to its original asset.

When does this type of thing happen the most? When people use external hard drives to work off of. By far. I use an external drive to store my Lightroom files, including the catalog file, and I forget to plug in that drive all the time. I’m almost constantly prompted to “locate” the files that are missing.

Oh yeah – and just so you know, a ton of applications do things this way. I can remember back about 20 years when I used to use Microsoft Powerpoint a lot back in college. My group and I would create a presentation that uses a lot of graphics and then we’d move the graphics to a different location. The next time we’d open up that presentation, we’d be in for a nasty surprise. The graphics would be nowhere to be found. We discovered that it was important to store the presentation with its accompanying assets. That’s what they call them in the tech world – assets.

How to Set Up a Proper File Structure for Your Video Files​

Believe it or not, it’s very simple to set up an organized structure that will alleviate many of these types of issues. And by creating and working from a logical structure, you’ll be saving yourself from a lot of stress. Let’s take a look at some types of files someone might use and create when working with video.

Before I begin, please be warned – this is one of the systems I use. You can do things differently, but what I’m trying to impress you with here is that a system is crucial to your long term success. Over the years, things can get mighty sloppy. You may get away with disorganization for a little while, but the pain will creep in eventually. Trust me on this one. I’ve seen it a thousand times.

For this example, I’ll be creating a folder on my desktop. I’ll call this folder Media. The reason I identify this top level folder as Media is because I’ll know not to try to back it up anywhere online. It’ll simply be too large. Whenever I deal with media, I always back those files up to an external drive. Smaller files such as documents and other text files are great to backup online. Not media files. Well, if you have a slow internet connection like I do anyway.

Inside the Media folder, I’ll create another folder called Video Projects. The reason I want to specify what types of projects are included in this folder is because there are many types of media. I could also include photography and audio project in the Media folder, so it’s smart to really differentiate with folder names. Also, inside the Video Projects folder, I’ll create a different folder for each and every project I’ll work on. As I think of a new project idea, I’ll name it and create a folder for it in this folder. Nice and neat.

Inside each of the various project folders, I’ll create sub-folders that hold each different type of asset I might use when working on a video project. So, I’ll start off with a folder named Video Assets. Inside this folder, I’ll hold any different type of video clips I’ll open into Photoshop. For example, the clip I just opened would be contained in the Video Assets folder. If I wanted to use multiple video clips, I’d keep all of them in this folder as well.

Next, I’ll create a folder named Audio Assets. Since it’s quite common to add audio clips to a video project, it’s nice to have a separate folder for them.

After that, I’ll create a folder called Still Assets. In this folder, I”d keep anything that isn’t video or audio. Basically, if I were to use any still photography or different types of vector or bitmap graphics, I’d keep them in here.

Finally, I’ll create a folder to output the final rendered video file to. In this case, I could call the folder either Final Files or Rendered Files. It really doesn’t matter what you call the folders, as long as they’re in order and they make sense to you and other people.

Now let’s look at this proposed file structure for video project files. Here’s what we have for something called Sample Project 1:

Desktop > Media > Video Projects > Sample Project 1

And then inside that folder, we’d have these folders:

Video Assets
Audio Assets
Still Assets
Rendered Files

I’d say that’s pretty darn good.

The Real Advantage​

This might seem like a lot of work when compared to just willy nilly going through your files and using them to make a great video. You need to remember the real advantage to doing all this when you begin to get lazy. First, creating a project structure makes life a lot easier when you decide to move everything from one location or drive to another. At that time, all you need to do is cut and paste either the entire Media folder, Video Projects folder or one or more of the actual project folders to its new location. When you do that and then re-link your PSD file to the new video clip location, Photoshop will automatically re-link everything else. So, instead of browsing multiple times to re-link the various assets you used in a file, all you’d need to do is relink one of them. Photoshop will remember the structure you used previously and will take advantage of it.

I hope you got something out of this post. It’s sort of challenging to explain things like this, but I think I did a pretty good job. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!