Asset Management

Asset management is a discipline that helps one archive content when working on a project so that when accessed later, it’s easy to understand what the assets are and where they belong in the process pipeline.

Every studio/artist has their own method of asset management. This article covers one of the more efficient methods of folder organization when working solo or with a small team of animators.

Here’s a quick rundown on the folder organization.

Create three folders in the root directory:

  • 1. Input
  • 2. Production
  • 3. Output

Using numericals before a name helps sort the list in the right order.

The Input folder may contain the following folders:

  • Notes
  • Reference Files
  • Audio

The Production folder may contain the following folders:

  • 01. Art Direction
  • 02. Concept Art – Character
  • 03. Concept Art – Background
  • 04. Concept Art – Props
  • 05. Character Turnaround
  • 06. Action Pose
  • Cleanup
  • Rigging
  • Voice-Over
  • Storyboards
  • Animatic
  • Scenes
  • Exports

The Output folder may contain the following folders:

  • Tracks
  • Effects
  • Edit
  • Render

Categorize all assets into folders so that it’s easier to sort though all of them down the road. I’ll now cover what each of these folders may contain.

Input Folder:

Files received from the client can be classified into reference files (mainly images), audio files or notes. These files may be links, scans of concept notes, voice-over audio files, audio soundtracks, rough sketches and/or illustrations, animation demos, etc.

Production Folder:

Art Direction may contain any styles or directions that you’d like to use in the project. It may contain color pallets, line art style or art direction that would suit the project or any reference that you would draw inspiration from.  A friend of mine, a former alumni from National Institute of Design (India), calls it the “Mood Folder.”

Concept Art contains roughs of characters, backgrounds and props. Character turnarounds and action poses contain roughs of the characters in different poses and action shots. Cleanup and Rigging contain versions of the character that are digitally inked. Voice-Over contains the scratch track and final voice overs used in the animation. Storyboards contains thumbnails, production boards and possibly rendered boards (if the project demands it). Animatic may contain the first pass animatic and final animatic. Scenes contains different Flash source files for specific scenes. Exports contains the exported format of the animation, which may be PNG sequence files or uncompressed AVI files which are then sent to Edit.

Output Folder:

Music used in the animation is stored in Tracks and audio effects are stored in Effects. All the animation edits are stored in Edit and when editing is complete, the rendered files are stored in Render.

Asset management in bigger projects or studies are taken care of by an Asset Manager. An Asset Manager may use professional software like Toon Boom Harmony and Toon Boom Manager that can not only display the state of asset completion, but also check on day-to-day production.

In conclusion, the best way to tackle a project, whether big or small, is to treat it professionally. The idea behind organization of folders is to standardize the whole process so that when a new person is introduced into the project, she or he is able to understand the way the project’s assets are stored. Practice archiving assets so it becomes second nature when working on any project.

Disclaimer: every animator has his/her own asset management practice that they follow. The method listed here is just one of the many standard approaches.