Is it best to Copy source files??? Absolutely not. The only time I copy files is if they have to be packaged up and sent to someone else to work on. Organizing your files and keeping things so you can find them then those best practices extend to everything digital. Most people have incredibly disorganized data storage. One of my clients stored almost everything on her desktop in Untitled 1, Untitled 2 and son on folders. She could never find anything she worked on and her hard drives were always filling up.
After Effects is totally non destructive to the original files so there's no need to ever make copies on your system for your use. You just need to figure out exactly how you are going to organize your projects, your footage and your backups so you don't loose files or end up with duplicate data.
For me all of my video is stored on a separate drive that uses level 1 raid (duplicates). Video is the only thing on that drive. All of my still photographs are also stored on a separate raid drive. All folders are labeled by date, client and job. Every drive or card from the field gets it's own folder. All photographs are organized into collections in Lightroom. Any illustrations that I do using Illustrator or other drawing apps and all other supplemental material is stored in my main Projects drive under each client and project by date. At least every week I swap out one of the pairs of drives and put it in a safe or move it off site for safety so I always have 3 backups of all of my original files. Using a mirrored raid that has hot swappable drives means you never have to remember to manually run a backup, all you have to do is swap out a drive every few days. When I'm working on a big project that I'm into every day I swap out one of the mirrored drives every day.
The most important thing is to work out a workflow that makes it easy to backup your data and find things. As long as everything from personal projects to work for clients follows the same workflow you never need to worry about loosing something or going back months or years later and retrieving those assets.
I'm not going to go into detail about how I organize files for a feature film or a documentary but I can tell you that those complicated projects all start in the same way, a folder with the date, client and project in the name, then everything else is in sub folders. If the project takes more room than will fit on a single drive I assign volume numbers by dates.
Thanks, that's very helpful. I was thinking it might be useful to include a copy (or move the original asset) to a folder underneath so that all the assets that a required for a production are contained together, rather than risking assets being moved and the AEP file no longer working when you open it.
... rather than risking assets being moved and the AEP file no longer working when you open it.
you just made my point about organizing your workflow and file structure. If you have a standard that you always follow this will never happen. Almost every person I know has absolutely horrible file management practices and no real plan. Every true professional as a system set up that they follow religiously.
What I have opted for is following the same structure as when you do "Collect files ..." and when you generate a render with Adobe Media Encoder, so, for "Some project.aep":
- Some project (this is where the AEP file goes)
--- Some project_AME (renders from AME go in here)
-- Adobe After Effects Auto-Save (automatically generated)
-- Renders (renders from AE go in here)
That way I can move the folder to a different location in DropBox for example, all assets will be available on another machine. I can also create a copy of this folder as a starting point for a new project.
That workflow will work for small projects but will fall completely apart with large collaborative projects with tons of footage. For example the last movie I worked on was a one hour made-for-TV. We had 27 hours of original footage, more than 80% was double system sound that needed to be synced up, 20 background plates that need to be inserted into 20 different shots, a couple of dozen other visual effects shots, and everything had to be accessible from anyone of six different editing stations at any time. If people started copying or moving assets around the whole production would've turned into a huge mess in a big hurry. If footage had been copied into subfolders or moved to where the AE project files were the folks running the editing would've gotten quickly lost.
Whatever workflow you establish needs to be as bulletproof as possible and you should avoid duplicate footage whenever possible.