Video metalogging & project organization in Premiere Pro

An essential guide

  • Frequency: New fitness programs were being shot almost weekly. Our team had to be adaptive, decisive, and swift in order to produce video content at the required pace
  • Delivery & handling: Footage was shot in Los Angeles and shipped to our team in Vancouver via hard drives in the mail. Some of us were occasionally on location for a shoot, and we doubled as videographers now and then, but occasionally an editor would be seeing the footage for the first time in the editing room
  • Logistics: Multiple editors may lay hands on the same project, so it had to be well archived, organized, and metalogged. We also wanted to be cost-effective and be able to re-use footage from a shoot for promotional videos in the future

What is metalogging?

Metalogging is the process of organizing, naming, describing, and ingesting footage. It’s a crucial process to optimizing editing workflow and efficiency. To an editor, opening a well-metalogged project is even better than opening a cold Coke on the hottest day of the year. That’s how helpful it is!

A guideline for good metalogging

At its very essence, video editing involves two basic processes: 1) searching for footage and 2) laying out selected footage on a timeline. The latter is the creative part, and not what we’re discussing here. The former is mostly technical and sometimes frustrating. When you can’t find the footage you’re looking for quickly and efficiently, it can severely cramp your workflow. That’s why metalogging is so important.

  • Shot size—Wide (W), Close Up (CU), Medium Close Up (MCU), etc (use consistent, documented language and abbreviations here, so a third party would know what words to use)
  • Camera move—Dolly, Pan, Truck, etc (again, use commonly understood language here, and have a reference sheet so that language is consistent between projects)
  • Shot content (depends on project, but only use pertinent nouns and verbs to describe the footage, don’t bother with conjunctions)
  • Predetermined adjectives—Have a limited, predetermined list of adjectives to pull from to describe your shots (such as dynamic, glamourous, fast, shakey, powerful, etc). With no reference list, an editor won’t know what to search for, and with too many adjectives, it is no longer highly searchable.
  • Slate information (if you’re using a slate—take number, shot number, scene info, camera info, shoot day information, etc)
  • EX_flat barbell bench press rest drink water
  • GLAM_pose smith machine flip hair stretch legs
  • PHOTOS_GLAM_posing barbell jump run seamless
  • BROLL_landscape mountain sunset ocean
  • BEAUTY_model flowers dress field sunlight lens flare
  • BEAUTY_BTS_model photos posing set photographer

Category Prefixes:

  • INT#_ (Interview) Primarily interview footage, ie question and answer with the athlete in any interview setting. Interview clip numbers (ie INT1_, INT2_, etc) should correspond between cameras/angles (INT1_ on tripod should be same section of interview as all other camera angles.
  • EX_ (Exercise) Primarily exercise footage, usable as exercise demonstration footage. Should be slated at beginning with exercise name. If the slate includes additional pertinent information (EX#, superset), include that in the cip name. If it’s a superset, indicate with an “SS” at the end of the clip name. For example: EX_29_Lateral raise, EX_32_Pushups x Pull Ups_SS
  • GLAM_ (Glamour) Posing, modeling, smiling, footage of athlete primarily for use as filler, coverage, b-roll
  • CANDID_ Serendipitous moments like laughter, joking, asides, or between takes. These have a different look and feel to the scripted or planned shots, or when an athlete knows they’re being filmed.
  • SWEAT_ Moments when an athlete is pushing themselves particularly hard, visibly sweating or straining themselves. This was particularly desirable footage for most of our edits.
  • BTS_ (Behind the scenes) Footage showing crew, equipment, set, breaking the fourth wall. This was sometimes desirable for a certain style of edit.
  • PHOTOS_ (Photoshoot) Footage of athlete during photoshoot (dark lighting with flashes going off/athlete posing for photographs).
  • SBYT_ (Sound bite) Short sound bite, phrase, encouraging statement, or introduction from athlete that doesn’t fit as part of standard question & answer interview, ie “I’m Michelle Lewin, and this is my Fitplan”. Often off-the-cuff or unplanned/unscripted.
  • MISC_ (Miscellaneous) Footage that fits in no other category.

Descriptive keywords

Descriptive keywords are added after the category prefix (directly after the underscore, ie “GLAM_Posing squat rack”). Use common terms to describe footage, so searching through footage can return expected results, and be consistent throughout projects.

A screenshot of the project panel of a metalogged Fitplan shoot. You can see how, when extended to a multi-day shoot with hundreds of clips, this would be quite simple to navigate using the search bar.

Using bins effectively

Organizing footage into folders (called “bins” in Premiere Pro) can help separate footage into broad categories. Too many folders, however, can become confusing and make the project over-complicated. In developing this system, I tried to take a balanced approach and used bins to collect like footage and separate it from unlike footage.

Metalogging interviews

In the context of Fitplan, besides exercise demonstrations, interviews were the bread and butter of our videos. They formed the spine of our promotional content, as we focused on telling the athlete’s story and communicating their personality. Our interviews were often long and detailed, and so required metalogging to properly navigate.

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