One of the key point of production management is to keep information
about the current state of the production up to date. It ensures
everyone is on the same page and that nothing is missing. Better yet,
once collected, the data will make it possible to have both a macro and
a detailed point of view such as: overall progress of a department and
back-and-forth communication for a given task. Though this may sound
good in theory, but updating data all along the production is a tedious
task. Which is why, in this article we are going to explore how to meet
that manually and automatically.
Two ways to track the information
To log all the information about the production, you have two options:
- Having a strong team of production managers
- Make CG artists report their progress by themselves.
The first option sounds more natural but it can become risky if your team doesn’t perform well. When the studio grows, it will bring new challenges to your production team, scaling can become complicated and hard to handle.
The risk there is that the production keeps on grabbing information while they should plan the production, anticipate future issues and give the overall direction.
The second option relies on collaboration: everyone report by himself his progress. It may sound obviously more efficient, but CG artists are
working under a lot of pressure and reporting is not their priority. It
could lead to a bad quality for data. But when your studio scales, you don’t have much choice. In the following, we will discuss how to build a collaborative tracking in your studio.
Quality over precision
Before going further, we would like to note something. To make tracking works, you need qualitative data. If the information you are looking at is wrong or incomplete, you won’t be able to take good decisions. The reporting you will look at will be misleading. Something that should be helpful becomes a problem.
To achieve quality you should not insist for too much precision. It may
not sound intuitive but nitpicking for details will make tracking harder
and more painful for everyone. People won’t do it properly. Your data
won’t be good. That’s why you should look for the minimal information required and make sure you have correct data before going for more details.
Let’s take an example. If you have a complex asset, you may be tempted to divide the work in many tasks. If you have only one artist, it’s useless to do that. Even if you have several people working. The overhead created by this addition may confuse you more than having all the details you want.
Define your workflow
Before jumping right into the tracking, you should clarify your workflow. Once you have a clear idea about how things are going, you will be in a better position to decide what to track. Do not try to track everything from day 1. Start small then go iteratively by adding elements to your tracking setup on a regular basis.
Examples of things to track:
- Progress through task status changes
- Time spent on a task
- Daily quotas of animation (in seconds)
- Impact of an asset modification on the rest of the production
Tools to report time spent
Time tracking is one of the most wanted information. To achieve it, most of studio owners want to rely on automation to track CG artist progress. With a strong and efficient pipeline, it can be partly done. For instance changing a task status to work in progress and saving the start date are things that can be automatically set. Another example is when the CG artist opens and saves a scene related to his tasks, it could save the information in the database. It’s the same to note when the task is finished.
It gives you an idea of what started when. So tracking time spent could be done the same way: you could measure how long an application is active on the CG artist desktop. It looks good but it can lead to unexpected result, people may be tempted to cheat the system and unexpected situation could lead to wrong data.
Another option is to rely on a manual tool that can be accessed via the CG artist todo-list through a web app or through the CG tools.
To ensure people are motivated enough to report in the tools, the first thing is to provide them with good UIs. If there are any difficulties to report progress, the artist can be irritated to use the tool and tend to forget to fill information or worst fill it with wrong information.So you should make sure artists can find quickly his task and report time spent. Make sure there is no need to think to submit his report.
To make it short, provide clear and simple UIs that go straight to the point.
Give back data
The more information the CG artist can see, the better. By allowing him to see an overview of the production, giving him notifications about changes on his tasks or related tasks, you show him/her the benefits of reporting. It brings the information, he needs to work more efficiently. This way he feels responsible and more motivated to share his progress.
To finish you can even make it delightful. For instance you can publish recent previews and allow them to show their approval by liking a preview or not. When something is done, you can reward this success with a funny picture. You can show him too analytics demonstrating his progress over the time.
To lead properly your production, you need as much data as possible. But what matters most is the quality of the data. To achieve that you should make everything possible to allow CG artists to share information about their progress: have a clear workflow, provide them with good UIs, show that the information can be helpful, and make the reporting fun!
With the right data, you will be able to manage a full production with serenity!
At CGWire we propose a production management software dedicated to small and mid-size studios. If you are interested, visit our website and give us your feelings about what we do!