Timelapse data management and editing workflow


In this article, I describe my timelapse data management system as well as my timelapse workflow from beginning to end.

If you haven't seen the video I made with QNAP and Seagate yet then make sure to check it out first here:

A few weeks ago I got contacted by QNAP and Seagate, who ended up sending me a NAS system as well as a bunch of 10TB hard drives. Sweet! In exchange for that gear, I’m writing this blog and showing you how I use their tools.

To start off I might have to explain how I work on the road and how I work when I’m in my office. A lot of my timelapse projects are on the road. More often than not you’ll find me jumping planes to other states or countries to capture content for destinations or local tourism boards.

When I’m traveling I have two or three hard drives with me, the main one is a 2TB solid-state drive, it’s the drive I keep all my projects and files on. This one gets backed up on a normal hard drive. In some cases, this gets backed up a third time.

All my project files and folder structures have the same layout, these get generated by a little free app called Post Haste. All I have to do is open the app, type in the project name and it generates a folder structure for me on my desired drive. In most cases, this is on the solid-state drive. Post Haste also creates the project files for Premiere/FCPX and even includes assets such as titles or music in there.

Once I’m on the road and shooting I offload and edit my timelapse/video/drone footage on the SSD.

When I get home this drive gets plugged into my desktop computer and I keep editing on it until the project is delivered to the client.

It is important to note that throughout this process I have all the data backed up on a second/third hard drive. These drives are never in the same room and never travel in the same bag. The main working drive goes in my carry-on, the backup drive is in the check-in luggage. It is vital that you always minimize the risk of the two drives getting damaged or stolen at the same time.

Once the entire project is finalised and the master files are delivered to the client I copy the main project folder (which includes all the raw files, project files and render files) onto the NAS system. I often revisit finished projects to source footage for a new edit or to re-export certain files that might get licensed by for example an ad agency or a production company. Content licensing is one of my income streams, so it is vital that this process goes as smoothly and as efficiently as possible. With my new QNAP NAS system I will have access to finished projects from all over the world. Previously I’d have to tell potential clients to wait until I return from my trips to get access to the footage they are after. Because I have secure access to my NAS I can open up project files and RAW files and send them newly exported footage in the frame rate and resolution they desire.

I’m not just limited to what is on the NAS. I can plug in an older drive to access it remotely too (this ofcourse needs a person in my office to source the drive and plug it in correctly). Luckily I have an efficient way of keeping track of which projects are on which drives.

Let’s talk about this folder structure. Every project has a main folder name YYYY-MM-DD-ProjectName

Inside that folder you will find three new folders: YYYY-MM-DD-ProjectName-PROJECTFILES YYYY-MM-DD-ProjectName-RAW and YYYY-MM-DD-ProjectName-RENDERS

It is pretty self explanatory but just to make sure there’s no confusion here’s what you’ll find in every folder:

PROJECTFILES contains the working project files such as Lightroom catalogs, Premiere Pro projects, After Effects or Final Cut Pro project files.

RAW contains a number of folders with photos, videos, audio files, extra assets (sounds, music etc). These are all organised via the Lightroom Catalog in the Project Files folder. I always recommend to only use LR to move and rename this structure. Moving things around in your Explorer or Finder window might create errors down the track when opening your project files.

RENDERS contains the exported timelapse video files as well as any master exports that you would send to the client.

The beauty of Post Haste is that it generates project files including data. You can build a template to suit your needs.

Because I’ve been using the same folder structure for years and years it is really simple for me to find specific footage, be it exported files or RAW files.

I have a big spreadsheet that contains the date and name of the project as well as which hard drive it is on.

Every hard drive I own is physically labeled with its number (that you’ll find in the name, for example, ‘Matjoez 48’ has a sticker with 48 on it).

If a client requests footage from a certain trip/project/date all I have to do is find the project it was part of, look up which drive it’s on and plug it into my computer to re-export whichever file they are after.

As for timelapse workflows, this is how I work:

  • Shoot photos/videos and offload them onto a hard drive.
  • Import the contents of this hard drive into Lightroom using the Add method. This keeps all files in place without copying anything.
  • Organise your folder structure, separate video files from photos etc using Lightroom (you could use Bridge as an alternative).
  • Edit and colour grade your timelapse sequences in Lightroom, save the metadata for your RAW files.
  • Open up your After Effects project and import the RAW sequences one by one.
  • Create compositions with the RAW sequences and add any effects or corrections you want.
  • Send the sequences to the render queue and finalise your export settings.
  • AE will read the metadata that you’ve generated and saved in Lightroom and apply these on export.
  • Let your computer render these sequences overnight (generating video files from RAW sequences is a very processor intensive and slow process, might as well do it while you sleep).
  • Wake up and check your render queue that hopefully contains no errors.
  • Import your new video files into your favourite editing software and start your edit!

Thanks for reading!

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