Production and Workflow Methodologies
Although I intend to update the progress on Kernel in another post, I wanted to explain how I have progressed in my management of this project. I’ve learned a lot from this year, both in my mental approach to problems, and in being a dynamic strategist.
I began the year making a very detailed schedule for pre, production and post, establishing all areas that needed covered. This quickly proved obsolete, however, and I spent a lot of time stressing over the tasks that weren’t being completed within the allotted time frame, without the flexibility to get tasks working simultaneously and it meant I was unable to prioritise objectives.
I tried making quotas for each member of the team based purely on what needed to be done holistically, but again this method didn’t work out because we weren’t making explicit progress towards shots and the team drive to make real head way just didn’t manifest from this structure.
I stumbled across a workflow when I was doing some research for my future production career in the games industry, and felt that, in some form, it could be applied to my own projects. It was called scrum, and it basically consists of two to four week allotments of time. A list of features needing to be completed for the game will be compiled at the beginning of production and is amended throughout the pipeline depending on what features provide the most value to the customer and any new ideas brought forwards. Each scrum will first be discussed in a conference between the clients (publishers and financiers) and senior representatives of the development team. The discussion culminates in a decision on which feature will be completed in the next scrum. Within this two to four week period are what’s known as sprinting scrums, or simply sprints. These sprints consist of sixteen hour slots and will take a specific task that works towards progress on the overall scrum. To illustrate this, imagine that a scrum meet has decided that jumping is a feature that needs to be completed in the next two to four weeks. A sprint might be to complete the legs of the rig so that they can adequately move in a believable manner when jumping. In this way, breaking up the larger task, it becomes much more manageable, whilst allowing the development team to see the overall progress when each element is brought together with the other sprints.
Whilst I couldn’t create a carbon copy of scrum for my productions, it did get me thinking along the right lines. I started thinking how I can break the shots down into increments with which to work with and steered production in a shot focused direction. I started giving work based on the shots that were of most importance, setting a team focus that reflected this direction. There were a few positive results of this, and they were all anticipated. I had hoped that seeing more progress would encourage the team to work harder as they see more and more completed shots. I staggered the shots in progress each week so that we would have post production roles working on completing shots that were animated in the previous week, whilst animators worked on new shots. Each week we would then have shots fully animated, and have shots fully rendered. I won’t lie and say this is working seamlessly as there have been technical glitches and hold ups galore, but we are moving in the right direction and production is speeding up with quality work coming out at the same time.
This method has also managed to bring the team together. I believe I have inadvertently stopped people working for their own portfolios. I mean this of course in the sense that the main drive is the get work into the film for the film’s sake, instead of creating work to put in their showreel that can also be used in the film. At such an important time in our degree, it would be very easy to concern ourselves only with our own portfolio, but this drive to only get work done that is needed in chosen shots means that both the needs of portfolios and the film are satiated at the same time. People also get to see their work as part of the bigger picture more frequently, seeing how it works with all of the elements sooner rather than at the end when it’s too late to make amendments to it.
I have also introduced an employee of the week scheme in which I pay close attention to the work ethics, attendance, commitment and attainment of each member of the team, and award one person a free large beverage of their own choice. We also bring snacks and sweets to the table which works as a nice bonus and incentive when production gets tough.
Beyond this, I’ve done a lot of thinking in what type of producer I want to be. I got caught up in production output charts and started to lose touch with why I want to be a producer in the first place. I love and thrive on the buzz of a team working closely together to produce something that they couldn’t have done alone. I love facilitating that kind of creative thinking, and stepping in to help decide on ideas that go forwards and those that are impractical or not strong enough. I am first and foremost a socialiser and regardless of my abilities with organisation, prioritisation and handling data without being overwhelmed, my pride will always be in my abilities to communicate, become easily familiar with my team, know the strengths and weaknesses of those I work and associate with, and, regardless of the importance and intensity of production times, I will always take pride in my affinity to that most postiive theory in leadership that dictates that to lead, one must serve. I began losing focus of these skills, and if I have the right to be proud of anything I have done during the production of these projects, it would be that I realised in time to turn myself around and start being the producer I am born to be.