Monday, January 21, 2008

VFX Schedules

More reader questions regarding schedules

What is a 'Shot Timeline' this some sort of
device used to tell the amount of time the shot should
last for or what. You also made mention of some types
of, magnetic boards, modified storyboards or computer
software which is most effective.

Scheduling is a big issue since you have a lot of resources and need to deliver in a timely manner.
There are at least 4 types of schedules. They can be corkboards, on the computer, magnet strips, etc. The specifics are
up the vfx production team (producer and supervisor)

1. Schedule of the shots. This is the true linear time estimate and is usually in a timeline. That timeline will be the length of the production.
It may list that shot KR030 starts June 14 and completes August 19. The shot itself is likely to be budgeted for less time but you have to take some delays into account. (changes from the director, waiting for feedback, shooting an extra element, etc)
Each shot laid out may also show the different stages (animation, TD, roto, etc)

2. Target shots - These are shots due in the next couple of weeks. These may just be names of the shots or their storyboards on a simple wall chart that's broken down by days.
The production team can review this and say next week they expect to complete KR040 on Wednesday. If shot RM125 won't be done this Thursday as planned then it will be moved to the next week at the likely day. This is so the team can focus on the immediate needs.

3. Storyboards - This is all the storyboards laid out in film order. Each has a breakdown of the different tasks and the initial scheduled dates. As work is done a colored dot may be applied that indicates which stage is done. (i.e. finished with matchmoving and layout, ready for animation) Red dot signifies a completed (finaled) shot or folding up the corner of the storyboarded breakdown. The storyboards may be replaced or augmented by stills from the actual footage. Most productions attach bulletin boards in the production office for this. This allows everyone to see the big picture. You get a true sense for what's been done, how much work remains and if there are some shots that are being overlooked.

4. Schedule of artists - Your key resources are the artists. There's a timeline with each artist (TD, animator, compositor, etc) that lists what shots they're scheduled to work on and when. An artist may be working on 1 to 5 shots at a time. After completing a shot the next shot for them is already scheduled. If a director adds a additional shots or something changes in the schedule then the production team will review this board/timeline to see who's available and what they should re-assign. If they need a shot sooner than expected it may have to be moved forward in the schedule and given to a different artist.

How are 'final shots' determined. If the feature
film has about 25 effect shots how can I conclude that
I am expected to get 5 final shots a day for 5 days.
Also, what happens if the finals isn't what the
director had in mind...will the shot be repeated and
isn't this waste of time.

A shot may be internally finaled by the supervisor but it's not truly finaled until approved by the director.
It's important to understand the director was involved in all stages of the shot (from the original design, the shoot and now post production) The director will have seen the shot tests from animation and at least preliminary renders and composites. This has to be done so they can cut it into the film and judge it context. Changes can occur at any point. If the director doesn't final the shot when it's expected to final it's usually because the final polish hasn't been done to their liking. Note that even after a director has finaled a shot it could still be unfinaled at some point later (studio hates it, new concept). In these cases that's a major change order (time and money).

Time - If you have 25 shots due in 5 days then you have to final an average of 5 shots a day. To calculate this you take the the number of shots left to do and divide by the remaining time you have (assuming 5 day week that the director can approve them). This will give you the average number of shots per day. You can just as easily calculate number of shots per week or average days per shot. The initial time is based on the date when you have the turnover of the shots (when they've been edited and production tells you these are the takes, shot numbers and details).
You're likely to start off woefully less than the average at the start of post production since you have to fill the pipeline and it can take some time to get the film scanned, cleaned, matchmoved and ready to work on. The number of shots actually finaled rises exponentially as you get closer to your finals date (contractual day you have to complete so they can get it in theaters). More things will have been worked out, the crew has hit their stride, the director and supervisor are now seeing through new eyes (200 shots in the next two week, akkkk!), you're waking up in a cold sweat at night and hopefully the studio has stopped fiddling with the shots.

Time's a wasting

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