Collaboration between Production Data & Analytics, Production Management, Artist Management, and Finance teamsMay 2020
The industry is changing. Consumer preference for what kind of content they watch and how they watch it is changing, and our studio is changing along with it. Historically, and with occasional exceptions, we have focused on producing one feature film per year for theatrical release. As we continue to produce feature films, we are also planning to create more content, and more kinds of content, than ever before.
The increase in content production means that studio planning has become significantly more complex. That increased complexity has made manual workflows and processes that we used to use to plan the studio no longer sufficient. They are slow, and in order to help us make data informed decisions in this area, we have been building a tool that will allow us to do three things quickly and easily:
Show planning: milestones and crew planning
Studio planning: consolidating show plans and adjusting the amount of content planned
Workforce planning: making sure we have the right number of artists at the right time
In what follows, we will explore some of the show planning and studio planning tools in more detail.
We have built, and continue to build, tools with the goal of making show planning easier.
An example of one of these tools is the Milestones module. This module allows production management to manage key dates such as internal screenings, the start and end of asset production and shot production, and when the film must be ready to turn over to post production. Since all of our shows use this tool to manage their milestones, we can view them for all the content we are producing across the entire studio.
Once a show has finished planning milestones, they can plan their crew around hitting those milestones in the staffing module. This module has both a tabular and a graphical view. The graphical view allows you to see department start and end dates in relation to their milestones, and even expand departments to see the individuals who make up the crew, and their start and end dates.
In order to do studio planning, we need to consolidate all the show plans. We use the slate module shown below to do that consolidation. It allows us to visualize and evaluate what the demand for artists looks like across all content and all departments. We use this view to do a two things:
Evaluate how well all the existing show plans mesh together. If there are conflicts we will revisit and adjust our show plans to resolve them.
Evaluate the timing of future content, adding more content, or removing existing content. This exercise can be very complicated. We have evaluated plans where the number of ways to program the calendar was 10^21, far, far too many to evaluate by hand. In order to help us solve this problem we developed an optimization algorithm that helps us find the ideal solution in minutes.
When we evaluate show plans or studio plans, there are often several feasible scenarios that we want to compare from different perspectives:
People: crew size, recruiting, work/life balance, etc.
Technology: render farm demand, disk storage, user requirements, etc.
Financial: film cost, return on investment, risk assessment, etc.
In the past, that meant creating static presentations that outline the results of each scenario from those three perspectives. We are working to replace those static presentations with dashboards that are connected to Playbook. Not only would that eliminate the work required to create the presentations, but it would allow us to make adjustments to any scenario while meeting with decision makers, and the metrics in the dashboards would adjust accordingly. This will allow us to iterate quickly, make data-informed decisions, and have confidence that we are choosing the best go-forward plan with the information available.