This tutorial is for a rather hard part of a “project” to wrap one’s mind around. How do I take a small group of talented artists and an idea and mange to accomplish that idea with those artists in a certain amount of time? For this I will be using a recent project where I had the role of Producer / Director with a time deadline of 10 weeks.

Step 1 – Define the Production Stages

Pre-Production is the planning stage. Starting out with writing the script. Then translating the script into Character boards and Storyboards. All of the set design and prop design should done during this stage as well. Therefore there is nothing left to chance and nothing will need designing in the middle of production.

Production is the meat and potatoes of the project. This stage is where everything for the project is created. I group certain aspects into this stage and keep them separate, Modeling, Texturing, Rigging, Lighting, Animation and Rendering. In more advanced projects Animation would include things like effects, particles / dynamics. But for more specific things they may fall into other areas.

Post-Production is where the project is wrapping up loose ends, finalizing renders and editing. I also include for a project things like DVD case design, Headshots, Biographies, Stills for Print, Opening Credits and Closing Credits.

Step 2 – Division of Project Stages over allowed project time.

Using the deadline of 10 Weeks from the start of the project. Each stage needs a certain amount of time. This amount of time is really determined by the skill level and skill set of your team members. Pre-Production should be done thoroughly so nothing in production is left to guessing. I only schedule one week for Pre-Production and one for Post-Production, any more than that wastes valuable project time.

Below is a diagram of the layout of Project Stages over the 10 weeks. I always create these layouts in a program such as Excel and allow the entire team access to the file. Allowing for anyone to know at what stage the project is at, and also allows for initiative to take on extra work if necessary.

Step 3 – Division of the Project meat within each Stage into Sub-Projects.

After the project is divided into each stage the next step is to divide those stages into their Sub-Projects. This simply means in the Modeling stage exactly which things need to be modeled. Which then need to be textured, then rigged. This splitting of the individual pieces of the project breaks down the workload into easily manageable smaller tasks. Each of these can then be assigned to the artists both verbally and visually through the same process as before.

Step 4 – Find and Allocate artist to Sub-Projects.

Once you have a good grasp on the needs of the project discuss these aspects with your artist and allocate Sub-Projects to each playing to their individual skills. You may have three modelers, but one may be better at environments than the other two. Another one may also be your texture artist. So stacking Sub-Projects so they can roll right into the next stage is the best tactic.

Below is a diagram of the artist allocation. With each completed project a red square appears next to it. Again with this available to the whole team once an artist is finished he can proceed onto another Sub-Project. The only hindrance is that the artist’s work needs to be approved to move on, and they should be warned of having to redo their work or start over if they advance to soon.

Step 5 – Begin Pre-Production

Storyboard & Character Boards have to be drawn out and designed out. Also the color schemes and the first animatic of the storyboard for timing purposes need to be done.

Step 6 – Begin Production

Start working on the actual project parts. Remember to keep things in order and have a tidy pipeline. If things start to fall behind start transferring tasks to the faster and stronger artists. As Sub-Projects finish remember to mark them off as completed once you have Okayed them.

Step 7 – Begin Post-Production

Post-Production starts during the last bit of rendering. Everything needs to be cut back together; if you planned it out correctly then there shouldn’t be any timing problems. Put together all of the pieces for sending out the short to festivals, headshots and biographies. The DVD case and Stills for print should be easy to get done.

In the end here is an important tip throughout the whole project a tight reign has to be kept on the artist and the deadlines. The worst thing you can do is extending a deadline that was feasible to begin with. This gives the artists a way out if they had slacked off. Though do use observation on the situation, if your team was there everyday all day and still could not reach the deadlines then maybe your goal was set to high. An extension of a deadline is okay for this situation, but keep in my mind extending time on any Sub-Project will cut out time from another Sub-Project if you want to meet the overall deadline. When it comes down to make or break situations being unreasonable is sometimes the only way to finish. Although it is only unreasonable in the artist’s eyes when I ask for work hours to go from 9 to 12 and the addition of 4 to 5 hours on Saturday. All of this of course is last resort, if you keep on top of the project from day one and literally drive your team, then no extra time or hours should be needed.

This is definitely not the only way of taking a small team of artists and accomplishing a large project, but it is the best way that I have found. Coming up with these parameters and bounds through trial and error over the course of different projects.