How to do Non-Destructive Editing in Premiere Pro

Getting to know a fellow editor’s project file can be a huge time suck. This guide is aimed at reducing that time (and the number of headaches) involved in swapping around Premiere Pro project files.

1. Edit in a non-destructive way.

Disabling

non-destructive-video-editing-1
Video track 2 is camera 2. Sections are disabled, not deleted.

The key to multi-user editing is to edit in a way that leaves options on the table for the next editor. In the image above, video track 1 has camera 1 and video track 2 has camera 2. Disabling (Shift + E), rather than deleting, sections of video track 1 is a non-destructive form of editing. Camera 2 in video track 2 is not gone. It is disabled. The second editor does not have to dig through the files to find that particular shot from that particular camera and resync everything. It is there and ready to be enabled if needed by pressing Shift + E.

Selects and edited sequences

Another example is with a selects sequence and an edited sequence. In the photo below, the selects sequence sits pancake-style on top of the edited sequence. The selects sequence contains all of the selects. Nothing is cut out. Everything is organized by topic. Clips from this sequence have been dragged to the edited sequence to form the narrative. If you have not read up on pancake editing, do. It is amazing. Sometimes editors will delete as they go and then have a hard time backtracking.

non-destructive-video-editing-2.jpg
The top sequence is a selects sequence. The bottom sequence is an edited sequence.

2. Use a consistent file structure.

Name your folders (or bins). Put all content in the right folders. Have a graphic? Put it in the graphics folder. Have music that has been purchased? Put it in the music folder (and inside a “Purchased music” folder if there are sample soundtracks in the main music folder). Do not leave any stragglers outside the folders other than active sequence versions.

Active sequence versions

With active sequences, every time you begin an edit based on feedback from a client, you are turning the version they saw into a new active version. Duplicate the version of the sequence that you had exported and sent to them, give it a new version number (ex. “v2”), and put the old sequence (“v1”) in a “previous sequence versions” folder.

When exporting, keep the same naming structure. Specify in emails which version is the final. Don’t name your exports “final” because you will inevitably have “final final” and “THIS IS THE FINAL” final versions. It can get confusing, so use version numbers.

non-destructive-video-editing-3.jpg
The visible sequences are active versions that have not yet been reviewed by the client.

Folder names

Also known as ISO 8601, the standardized date and time naming conventions created by (as boring as it sounds) the International Organization for Standardization help add consistency to a file structure:

YYYY-MM-DD

YYYYMMDD

Details that go after the date and time, such as the project title, follow a hierarchy of importance. The main folder of a project looks like this:

20180914-CompanyName-YourName-ProjectName

Folders beneath this main folder would follow where needed:

  • Assets
    • Graphics
    • Music
    • Stock Footage
  • Footage
    • 20180914-CompanyName-FootageDetails-Etc
      • Audio
      • Cam 1
      • Cam 2
      • Cam 3
    • 20180915-CompanyName-FootageDetails-Etc
  • Premiere
    • Adobe Premiere Pro Auto-Save
    • Adobe Premiere Pro Previews
    • 20180914-CompanyName-ProjectName-EditorName.prproj

Ideally, the current Premiere project file and its autosaves would be saved on a cloud service that can be accessed by multiple editors or retrieved if the hard drive fails.

When (not if, because it will happen) a hard drive goes corrupt, it is not a problem. Just copy over those backups of the raw media and relink the footage from the cloud-saved Premiere project file. You will be up and working without frustration.

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