Scheduling large projects with a remote workflow


Tips & Tricks


Bronwyn Williams

Post-production scheduling for any project can be a headache. Trying to synchronise various moving parts, to ensure cost efficiency as well as hitting the deadline is usually the biggest focus. Scheduling for a big post-production project that is remote based, has added challenges. There may be different time zones to consider and the feedback takes longer to give than it would during a traditional in-house approval. Trying to synchronise different schedules across the globe, in essence, is a recipe for disaster.

When we started the post-production on four feature films in succession, it became clear early on that offline on the first film was taking longer than we had anticipated. As we could not move out deadlines, this initially looked like a cause for concern. We needed more time in all disciplines, but had the same amount of time to give. Already offline had sucked up precious time from audio, grade and online down the line, which puts pressure on those areas. Added to this, during the offline edit of the films, we needed to create teasers and trailers, to start selling the films and show shareholders what they could expect. The time to complete the trailers and teasers also cut into offline time, putting further pressure on the artists waiting to begin their work.

So what were the solutions to this?

We broke the film into reels. We passed each reel on as it was locked, instead of waiting for the entire feature to lock. Thereby minimising the knock-on effect or delay within the pipeline. This made the project easier to manage in audio, grade and special effects. The film is combined again in online. We decided to create the first reel before the edit was locked. This meant we could not change the edit in the first 20 mins and pass it onto audio to begin work. It is not ideal, as it is difficult to restrict the pace by locking the first 20 minutes. Luckily, in our case, we were able to do this, which eased the pressure.

We became firmer about sticking to deadlines. We set new schedules to make up for lost time. Schedules that we adhered to. While we all like to take our time when we are creating art, in the end, there is a budget. This drives everything. More time is more budget. So be realistic upfront with schedules. Give sufficient time for feedback. But at the same time, be strict on keeping to those from day one.

One benefit of waiting for feedback was enabling time to work on the trailer or the next project. So in a nutshell, the process does take longer. But projects can then overlap to some extent, while waiting for notes to come in. While this puts great pressure on the producer to schedule efficiently and adjust schedules continuously, it was really the most important part of completing all of the projects on time.