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Entering the metrics, by Rob Anderson

meOr: This data doesn’t look like a blonde?

Knowing the stage that every element of a production is at is extremely important for a production manager. The use of digital asset management tools has become essential. You need to be careful though, it can be very easy to rely on the digital data alone to judge the progress of any given department and this can result in surprising failures. The data is only as good as the user that inputs it and the interpretation of the user viewing it.

Some years ago I was involved in a production where studio “A” had spent much time and money developing a very robust asset management tool that allowed for each element in a production to be tracked from department to department. There was even the ability for a production manager to print out compiled information on where any given department was at and show against the schedule as to whether they were on time or not.

I was part of an outsourced team that was using studio “A’s” site in order to complete animation for one of studio “A’s” shows. The tracker had indicated that design had been completed on the episode we were slated to start on. The tracker had a “thumbnail” of the approved art asset along with notes from the director. All indicating things were on schedule. My team then went to download the assets only to discover that the only element that was there was the “thumbnail” and the note that it was completed. No useful elements for doing our part of the job was there. So the “data” showed that things were on track, while, in reality, they were not. The system was flawed.

How does one prevent this sort of thing from happening?

I think the first step is an understanding that any digital tracking system is only one aspect to tracking the data. Realizing that it is people that are inputting the data is paramount to your success as a production manager. Looking at numbers on a screen is only part of it. You need to take it one step further and meet with the individuals that are responsible for inputting the information. Weekly or even daily meetings with your production staff are necessary in order to get to the intimate details of any process. Get confirmation that what you are seeing reflects reality. If it doesn’t, find out why, and adjust your reporting accordingly. This doesn’t mean not trusting your team. It means clarifying the trends that you see in the data.

Meet with other team members as often as you can. Find out what they think as well. Is there an issue that one person is having but has not relayed this issue to anyone else? Does someone have an idea as to how to streamline a process that hasn’t been thought of before? Information is power.

Use the tool for what it is meant to be. It is one of many tools in your arsenal for seeing a successful completion to a project, not the only tool.

Read Rob’s blog.


  1. Moocow Moocow January 12, 2010

    Good post!! I agree!

    I find that good intentions can morph into the benchmark of failure. Intentions are only in our head, and reality usually has other plans for us. (Especially for an animation project and its mountain of unforseeable problems!)

    Meeting with the employees is only good if one actually does it! What I find will often happen … Producers become overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility that is set upon them, and then are unable to meet with people. There is a disconnect somewhere along the line, that must be watched out for. It starts out well, with meetings, laughs and productive chatter… But then as the project slowly slides further down the rabbit hole (which, let’s face it… it often does…) producers do not have the time to put as much care into communication with the team. They must scramble to do more important things; and are forced to put it off.

    Producers can only do so much given how fast paced and frantic the schedules often are. I think it is up to the people below them to take an initiative to strengthen their communication with their respective team and the Producer above them as well… Be it Directors, Lead Animators… Whatever… Sometimes Producers can use a little more help than they recieve, and I think sometimes the people below them rely on them too much. As you’ve often said before, communication is HUGE.

    So without those below them co-operating with this line of thought, the project is doomed anyways! Which I guess is why it’s important to keep those below happy and NOT over worked. Employees will hardly put an extra effort into communication if they are already putting it into their regular day work… Hence, another topic, hiring enough people to get the job done comfortably… Not being a cheap asshole! Which involves evaluating how much work needs to be done and how taxing it will be! Lots to think about. Sadly, budget retraints can kill a project before it even gets off the ground…

    I know I’ve just said a whole lot of nuttin’ here and rambled a bit… I might as well have just said “the sky is blue.” But that’s just my two cents. =]

  2. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson Post author | January 12, 2010

    Good intentions are the asphalt to hell.
    I agree with much of what you say. Communication is the key. For all involved. It is difficult to get all the points across in simplified web postings as well.
    A production is a very complex organism with many brains involved. It is a requirement for all involved to be engaged in their respective tasks and to be able to contribute to the whole. From the bottom up.

    Budgets are a topic for another time but suffice it to say that we are in an industry that is expensive to maintain and costly to create quality product in. In one of my earlier posts I mentioned elements like project scope versus budget and time. This being one of the biggest challenges to agree upon for any creative venture. On top of that, in Canada at least, it is increasingly more difficult to manage the finances to create the quality desired. That really has never changed over the years though. It just goes in spurts and fits!

    You are right in saying that one person can only do so much. That is why film making is a collaborative process. If all on the project are acting like professionals and being treated as such then you can make magic. I love it when magic happens!

  3. Moocow Moocow January 12, 2010

    It is unfortunate the the resources needed to make a project one of quality are often unavailable or held back… What does it take to have a company that CAN afford to put money into it’s product? I think in our industry companies only achieve lasting success through quality of work. Bottom line… And from that quality of work comes more money to continue doing that kind of quality… Ideally. I realize it doesn’t always work out that way… as this is not a perfect world, nor is it a society geared towards artistic expression and progress; but money.

    There are a lot of small companies that just “get by” largely through not compensating their workers properly and doing low quality work… But those companies NEVER last. It’s frustrating to observe again and again.

    I think in order to “get there” you must take a risk and put the money needed into the project to make it a quality one in the first place! Shoddy work gives shoddy reputations, and before you know it no one wants to invest in your company anymore… Or have you do work for them… I think word travels fast in our industry and if you want to do something you should do it right…

    I’ve only worked for one company that seemed to put their money where their mouth was, and in my experience this works quite well for them. Their show became one of the most successful last year and is moving onto a second season… Other companies I’ve worked for that want to do more than they can with little resources, always seem to reach a point where they think they are successful and then they fall flat on their face because they run their workers into the ground.

    Fleeting success due to do crazy overtime to compensate for lack of funding can only last for so long… It’s a train Animation CEO’s need to stop riding…

    It IS a risk to put in the amount of money needed to make a project a QUALITY project… But if it’s successful the payoff should be huge. Business is risky by nature… And I guess in our industry it is even more so! I do not think magic can happen on a project with stressed workers though. People do not do their best when they are sleep deprived and underpaid. I’ve literally had black eyes from a lack of sleep at some companies… Magic dissolves into chaos and good people become lethargic emotional messes…

    Anyway, I’m going to try and find that other post you were talking about and check that out too. Thanks again rob, I’m really enjoying reading your articles on here!

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