Pre-Production

Brainstorming

A brainstorming session is one of the best ways to answer the “what”, “why”, and “how” questions from the early stages of a project. To facilitate a successful brainstorming, we need:

    brainstorm

  • At this point we don’t know what will work, so the more ideas generated, the better. Without criticism or judgement of any kind, pool together all ideas and welcome more until the allocated time is exhausted.
  • Write all ideas onto a whiteboard, so all in the group can see. Number them, so that afterwards the ideas can be discussed, and not the contributors. Numbering also serves as a score for your group’s creativity.
  • When selecting ideas, first combine them as much as possible. Then each group member votes by making a list of the numbers of the ideas s/he thinks are important or should be discussed further, up to 1/3 of the pool total. Count the votes and eliminate ideas with 2 or less votes. Then vote again, until only a few ideas remain. Discuss any that require further elaboration.

Drafting a proposal

draftingAfter the storm, drafting a proposal is the next step. As a document derived from the brainstorming session, the proposal should include details of the date, project title, names of the members involved, and a brief description, and also ask and answer several questions:

  • What do you want to accomplish by doing this project?
  • What should your audience be able to do, or what benefit is there for your audience?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the topic area you will be presenting/discussing?
  • What approach will you use?

Not to be forgotten, the proposal should also suggest a premiere date. Each team member must be formally assigned to their role(s) so that everyone knows their responsibilities, accountability, and authority. Producer, director, writer, art director, and technical director, are just a few examples of roles required on a multimedia project.

Journaling and project documentation

Along the way, this process is vital to several areas of the project. They are:

  • For keeping track of activities and accomplishments
  • Faults and encountered problems
  • Technical writing (future instruction manual, etcetera…)
  • Expenditure
  • For press releases

Pre-Production

On paper, the flow of the production, and sketches for how the production will look, need to be drawn up. Through this process we begin to identify the required resources. The process includes drafting flowcharts, storyboards, production schedules and production expenses.

Flowcharts

basic flowchart symbolsA completed flowchart organizes the topics, strategies, treatments, and options into a plan from which we can work out the details of what each screen, page, frame, or shot will look like. It is a working map of the final product, i.e. it will probably change many times as the team works through all the details of the product. Good flowcharts begin and end with an oval, they show what comes next in the sequence, what your user will do (if anything) and what will happen when they’ve done that. Circle place markers can also be used to indicate the page you need to follow the path. From Studio 1151, we have the 5-point production flowchart checklist:

__ All major elements of the project are indicated.
__ The elements are clearly labeled.
__ Sequence of elements is clear and there are no gaps or dead ends.
__ Sequence of elements is logical from user’s point of view.
__ Flowchart symbols are used correctly.

Storyboards

The purpose of storyboards is threefold. First, so that the development studio has a clear picture of what will be happening throughout the program and what it will look like. Second, as the storyboards detail everything from graphics, video, sound, text, user interaction, color, font faces, sizes, and etcetera, crew members involved in production need them to do their jobs. Third, they are useful for presenting the project to the client and getting feedback.

As for flowcharts above, Studio 1151 has a storyboard template and a checklist for storyboards:
storyboard example

__ There is a storyboard for each page, screen, or frame.
__ Each storyboard is numbered.
__ All relevant details (color, graphics 2D & 3D, video, sound, font, interactivity, visuals, etc. are indicated).
__ All text or narration is included and cross referenced with its corresponding storyboard number.
__ Each production team member has a copy or easy access to a copy of the storyboards.

from flowchart to storyboardThe job of creating storyboards is usually done by the project manager in co-operation with the designer and an information architect. To create each page of the storyboard, these people need to know what elements are included (from the functional specification), and how the page fits into that architecture and navigation. It’s a good idea to number the screens and group related screens together, corresponding with the node map / flowchart.

Later this year Adobe are planning to release (on Adobe Labs at least) a product called Story, a collaborative scriptwriting tool for film, broadcast, and rich media. Definitely worth a look into as a part of the pre-production workflow.

Schedules

In order to meet the deadline and stay within budget, every project needs a schedule. The production schedule helps keep the project on track, no matter what happens. The PERT and the Gantt charts are both used in many cases.

PERTPERT schedule chartA sort of flowchart of all activities or tasks in the production phase of the project. Completion times and names of people assigned are attached to each task.
GanttGantt schedule chartA timeline chart clearly showing when each task begins, the time to complete them, and simultaneous tasks. Multiple levels of Gantt charts are used to show the whole production phase, two or three weeks worth of activities, and current week’s tasks.
There are many steps involved in developing the charts.

  1. Use whiteboards, flip-chart sheets or other large space.
  2. List all activities involved in the production, post-production, and premiere phases of the project.
  3. Put them into sequential order.
  4. Draw the PERT chart. Adjust the tasks as needed, once you see the sequence laid out.
  5. Estimate the time it will take to complete each task, and label the chart accordingly.
  6. Readjust the sequence of tasks as necessary.
  7. Determine who is responsible for each task, and again label the chart accordingly.
  8. Readjust the sequence of tasks, until all team members agree to its accuracy.
  9. Redraw the PERT chart either
    • on a bigger sheet of paper so that it can be posted during meetings
    • and make copies for each team member
  10. Using the times on your list and the sequence in the PERT chart, you can draw the Gantt chart.
  11. Start with an overview of the whole project, then monthly and weekly timelines.
  12. Using Sunday to Saturday labels for each week across the top of the chart.
  13. Label the left side with all of the tasks (which can be consolidated under headings for an overview).
  14. For each task, draw horizontal bars from the start date to the estimated completion.
  15. When all team members agree to its accuracy, redraw it either
    • on a bigger sheet of paper so that it can be posted during meetings
    • and make copies for each team member
  16. Following the same procedure, draw a Gantt chart for the first week’s activity, putting each day across the top and each task along the left side.
  17. Label each bar with the name(s) of the team member(s) responsible for that task.
  18. Save the chart and make copies for all team members.
  19. Repeat the process for each week.

Expenses

cash wadIn the pre-production phase of the project, the client requires a budget estimate, in terms of hours and dollars, to be submitted. To create a budget, a list of costs for the various production functions is needed. Some obsolescent figures of hourly rates for roles are: accountant $20, actor $15, artist $30, cameraperson $30, computer expert $30, director $65, historian $30, musician $15, narrator $10, planner $30, producer $65, product editor $100, recording expert $30, site coordinator $20, text editor $20, and writer $30.

Apart from personnel costs, financial considerations and research will need to be made into other costs involved, as they may exceed expectations. Some other costs involved in production of multimedia projects include copyright fees, studio facilities, equipment rental, and other consultants.