Keeping your money on the screen and off the floor


During a conversation this afternoon with a friend in Beijing regarding animation production workflows, I referenced a document that I published online in 2008 entitled “CG Production Principles:  Keeping Your Money On The Screen & Off The Floor”.

These notes were the culmination of a presentation by the same name that I delivered as a consultant between 2007-2008 in various venues – including fmx08 and SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 – based on my experience as a CG supervisor at Walt Disney Feature Animation (now Walt Disney Animation Studios).  The document’s introduction frames the content of the presentation:

How much of your money makes it onto the screen? Got a leaky pipeline? Is your workflow trickling? Does your team approach their work like a film, or like a science project? Are you paying your brain surgeons to dig ditches? Can you roll with last-minute story changes? What economies of scale do you employ? Are you satisfied with your production environment in terms of relationships, communication, adaptation and high-quality delivery

The global animation industry is as competitive as ever, with merciless markets, unforgiving audiences and increasingly lean profit margins. Yet independent and major productions alike seem content to burn through money (and people) as though they have resources to spare. This sort of waste is so pervasive in our industry that it is routinely acknowledged with a winking “you-know-how-production-is” acceptance. However, it is not only irresponsible… it is unsustainable. It is also easily addressed through insightful, considerate and fearless assessment and action.

“CG Production Principles:  Keeping Your Money On The Screen & Off The Floor” squarely addresses common production motivations and pitfalls. The course first examines the human factors and organizational considerations that are the foundation of all production (dys)function. It then proceeds to cover workflow considerations and strategies, the establishment (and erosion) of balance, common heuristic assumptions/errors, and the importance of clarity and adaptation within the studio environment. A series of “Golden Rules” for production lead into the characteristics of a balanced pipeline, an overview of a flexible and robust non-linear production pipeline, and specific departmental examples. Finally, asset management is reviewed with an eye towards organization, flexibility and transparency.

The presentation concludes with a micro/macro view on the production paradigm, and the synergistic orchestration of these parts into a transcendent whole.

You will never look at your pipeline or your studio the same way again. You have options.

At the heart of “Keeping Your Money On The Screen & Off The Floor” are three core principles:

  1. It’s a FILM, not a science project.
  2. DON’T pass crap downstream.
  3. NO treasure hunts.

These precepts were applied to Disney’s first full CG animated feature film CHICKEN LITTLE, and underpin the production pipeline that is employed by Walt Disney Animation Studios today.  Agnostic to technological specifics, I believe that these production principles are as relevant today as they were seven years ago.

For your consideration.


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