Today we talk about the benefits of using version numbers when naming files and what you need to keep in mind to put this concept to full use. It can literally save your whole workday!
You can always go back in time
The biggest advantage of saving versions is quite obvious – you have multiple states of your work always available.
This is not only helpful when you have to assemble making-ofs after the production, but it also helps you to avoid one very common mistake: You accidentally delete a layer or frames, precious work you have already done, without realizing. If you don’t save in a new version but save over the file you opened, all your hard work is gone.
With “versions” you just need to go back to the previous file to get the part of your animation that is broken from the past and with a bit of luck those two parts will merge to one complete, fixed masterpiece (which you save as a new version – of course). It’s like a time machine!
And there are many more instances where a previous version will come to the rescue: For example when the software crashes while saving and therefor writes a corrupt file (this happens!) or when the director wants that nice little arc back that you had in a playblast two weeks ago.
No more final2 or finalfinalsuperfinal
The highest number will always indicate the most recent version. No more guessing if final3 or superfinal is the version to send to the festival.
Date vs. version number
In general, consider writing dates in the format year, month, day (example: YYMMDD = 150619). This way your files will be displayed in the correct order because most file viewers sort them alphabetically.
The problem with dates in file names is that you sometimes might want to save several versions on the same day. If you didn’t think about this, file names might get inconsistent as team members (or even just you) will mix numbers and letters. So, why not add a space for the version right away (filename150619_01).
Tip: Save a new version immediately after opening
If you make saving a new version the very first thing you do after opening a file, you can always revert things to a state before you went the wrong way or deleted something by mistake. It also prevents you from overwriting an existing version and ensures that version 14 is always version 14. This is important for backups or when you hand out files to somebody else.
Tip: Use leading zeros
If you name your version 1 instead of 01 the alphabetical sorting in most file viewers will sort version 10 and up after version 1 (1, 10, 11, 2, 3, 4, 5). Confusing! So whenever you expect to crack the two or three digits, you should start with some leading zeros right from version 1. This way everything will stay in order: 008, 009, 010, 011, … , 099, 100, 101, …
Do you think about naming conventions for your files? What are your experiences and tricks for keeping track of versions?