Why are most production workflows inefficient?
In my experience few productions – be they film or television – are well planned from a workflow perspective. It seems that people do what’s apparently cheapest, or what they have done in the past. This is both dangerous – because the production workflow hasn’t been tested – and inefficient.
In a perfect world (oh *that* again!) the workflow would be thoroughly tested: shoot with the proposed camera, test the digital lab if involved; test the edit all the way through to the actual output of the project. Once the proposed workflow is tested it can be checked for improved efficiency at every step. Perhaps there are software solutions for automating parts of the process that require only small changes to the process to be extremely valuable. Perhaps there are alternatives that would save a lot of time and money if they were known about.
Instead of tested and efficient workflows, people tend to do “what they’ve done before”. When there are large amounts of money at stake on a film or TV series it’s understandable that people opt for the tried and true, even if it’s not particularly efficient because “it will work”.
Part of the problem is that people simply do not test their workflows. I’ve been involved with “film projects” (both direct to DVD and back out to cinematic release) where the workflow for post was not set until shooting had started. In one example the shoot format wasn’t known until less than a week before shooting started.
Maybe there was a time when you could simply rely on “what went before” for a workflow, but with the proliferation of formats and distribution outputs, there are more choices than ever to be made.
Which brings me to the other part of the problem. Most people making workflow decisions are producers, with input from their chosen editor. Chances are, unfortunately, that neither group are very likely to truly understand the technology that underpins the workflow – or even why the workflow “works”. They know enough of what they need to know to get by but my experience has been that most working producers and editors do not actively invest time into learning the technology and improving their own value.
And when they’re not working, they’re working on getting more work. Again, not surprising.
But somewhere along the way, we need producers to research and listen to advisors (like myself) who do understand the workflow and do have a working knowledge of changing technology that can be make a particular project much more efficient to produce, but I have no idea how to connect those producers with the people who can help.
We’ve seen, in just a little under two years, how technology can improve workflows, just with our relatively minor contributions:
Rent a couple of LockIt boxes (or equivalent) on set and save days and days synchronizing audio and video from dual system shoots;
Log your documentary material in a specific way, and take weeks off post production finding the stories in the material (Producers can even do a pre-edit);
Understand how to build a spreadsheet of your titles and how to make a Motion Template and automate the production of titles (and changes to same).
If you know you can recut a self contained file into it’s scene components, how does that change color correction for your project;
Import music with full metadata.
These are all examples of currently-available software tools from my company and others that are working to make post production more efficiently. I wrote more about this in my Filling in the NLE Gaps for DV Magazine.
My question though, is how do we encourage producers to “look around and see what’s available” and open up their workflows to a little modern technology. To this end, Intelligent Assistance is looking to work closely with a limited group of producers in 2010 to find ways to streamline, automate and make-more-robust postproduction workflows. So, if you’re a producer and want to save time and money in post, email me or post in the comments.
If you’ve got ideas on how encourage producers move toward more metadata-based workflows? How do we get the message out?