You may have read a few weeks back about our organizational software Demeter. We did a good job of touching lightly on the importance of project organization, and you can expect to read more on Demeter later this week. There is still a lot to say about the subject though, so I want to spend this post delving into the subject in a bit more detail.
The need on the post production side is pretty easy to boil down: things get complicated. At the risk of getting too technical – It’s common in my work for a single shot to have three or more separate After Effects Compositions (Adobe’s name for a self-contained sequence in After Effects) with 50 layers each. Since we average about 20 visual effects or animation shots per video, things get out of hand quickly. When you realize we are frequently working on multiple videos for multiple clients simultaneously, keeping it all together can be daunting to say the least.
But organization is important. When multiple projects are in the pipeline (a fancy way to say “on our to-do list”) and deadlines start to get tight, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour looking for a file you need. It’s common for an artist under pressure to want to take a shortcut – be it saving files to the desktop instead of their designated folders, not naming his or her Photoshop layers, or keeping all the images, videos, and sound effects they plan on using in one huge, unsorted folder. It takes time to get everything in its proper place, and as an artist, I understand the desire to just jump in and start creating, but as a manager I also understand that putting a little work in at the beginning of the project can save a lot of time when it matters the most.
What about the client? Obviously you would rather work with someone professional enough to understand structure, but there are plenty of super-talented artists out there with absolutely zero organizational skills. If the results are great at the end, why should it matter to you how they got them?
Think about this: do you want to be able to make changes to the project? Even in the short-term, an unorganized or poorly managed project can be a nightmare to change (Every Photoshop user has experienced the heart-wrenching pain of realizing too late that he or she has flattened the wrong layers). But the real problem comes when you want to change a project that was done several years ago, or create a new project using some of the same artwork or assets from the old project. If the person or group you are working with isn’t structured and consistent in their approach to their projects, they may not be able to remember how they built their previous project, or worse, they may not even be able to find the project at all.
Just as importantly though, great work almost never happens on the first try. It takes hours and hours of iteration to find the exact element that will make a composition sing. The more time an artist spends trying to remember which layer they are looking for, the less time they are spending actively making the project better.
At some point in the future I’d like to show you some specific examples from our past work, but I think I’ve gone on long enough for one day. Till next time, try to keep your head on straight.