Q: How to manage a video production team to give them better output??
Video Studio Owner
A: I’m assuming better output means increased output.
We can answer this question in three parts.
The first part refers to software that will assist production workflow and measurement
The second part is to discuss is it possible to get staff to work harder or more efficiently to increase output which I suspect is a big part of this question.
The third part is about basic studio management.
Software: Workflow Management & Measurement
Telescope offer a range of products such as Video Studio, Powerpoint Studio, Creative Studio which are all purportedly aimed at improving workflow and creativity in a studio by standardising every aspect of video studio production.
I have not used their software, and suspect it is aimed at larger corporate users with in-house studios or larger media and television agencies. But it appears professional and is probably worth a look.
If a studio is small with less than 6 staff, as most are, then some form of PC-based timesheet could be used. Accountants and solicitors use these all the time to ensure they get their billings correct.
Using a PC timesheet would allow you to monitor the different aspects of studio work, such as logging, audio editing, graphics, editing, editing amends after rough cut, and so on.
Once standard times were measured then theoretically work expectations and consequently production could be increased or made more efficient.
Then pricing will become more accurate, reflecting the true realities of production rather than simply an expectation.
But is this really so? Read on
Getting more work out of staff
The issue here is Creativity.
Every studio owner sometimes gets frustrated because jobs seem to take too long to produce, and it is felt that there must be a quicker and better way to get productions finished more quickly – get more bang for your buck from production staff if you like.
Pushing for faster workflow will lead to a formulaic approach to video production.
And working to a formula will produce work that looks like it was produced to a formula. Clients will spot this quickly enough, as there’ll be less creativity apparent in the finished production.
In fact creativity will start to vanish as all the effort is put into completing work faster.
And once creativity goes, then price will go down with it.
Studios can charge higher prices when their productions are creative and grip audience’s imaginations, being more persuasive and influential. This is how business messages are effectively delivered.
This higher price is fair, because it takes longer to deliver a more creative, and therefore more effective, business video production. And usually the more skilled staff required for this will demand higher rates for their creativity and skills.
The result is that the customer pays more, but they get more value in the form of more effective productions.
Contrast this with producing to a formula, where graphics have to take no more than an hour, while logging mustn’t take longer than 2 minutes per runtime minute, or whatever the standard allotted time is.
You could say: More formula = less quality.
Studio staff have to be creative. This has to be allowed for. And because projects vary quite enormously in the amount of creativity they require, some projects will be slower to produce.
> Developing a graphic sequence that has to look compelling can take longer
> Editing a series of Voxpops in to a richer flow of faces and talk takes longer than quickly cutting up a few sentences
> When adding post production effects, time needs to be allowed for subtlety, as nothing looks worse than gross-looking effects.
While an experienced guess can be taken as to how long these production steps will take, it is almost impossible to say “this takes one hour and no more” or “this takes 12 hours, and no more”.
If staff are pushed too hard in this way, they’ll respond by producing less creative work, in order to meet the demands for increased speed.
Reputation will soon suffer, and the better clients will disappear.
So a video business has to decide if it wants:
> Regular repeat clients who are happy to pay for creativity – at a price
> One-off clients who are initially attracted by low price, but don’t return because creativity is weak.
Managing Studio Staff
Studio staff are very aware that they are under pressure to deliver to deadlines.
It’s important to regularly meet to discuss their projects with them, and find out if there are any problems or hitches looming on the horizon.
These problems can be very varied, which is why they need managing.
> A given sequence of footage needs to take twice as long to edit if it’s to look interesting and appealing. What should the editor do? Bash on and produce lower quality work? Or discuss the problem with the studio manager and see if a solution can be found
> A graphics designer might have recently produced a series of original and inventive works. And now today they’re absolutely stumped for ideas. Are they prepared to discuss and admit this and ask for more time? Or are they going to deliver less creative work because they’re under pressure?
Hopefully the answers are becoming clear.
Studio staff are creative people. They need looking after. They need to discuss their issues with a friendly spirit. They need managing in a different way to a machinist in a factory.
Continuously forcing them to reduce production times will lead to lesser work which customers will notice.
Studio owners have to take note of this, and price their productions to the realities of the staff they have, and the level of creativity they want to achieve that will meet their clients expectations, and thus their own business plans.
Last but not least: Ensure all the equipment and facilities are working properly. For example that there are no shortages of disk drives, or fast computers, or blank DVD stock, and such. Everything should be in perfect working order.
Use software to measure production times over a series of projects, and establish norms.
Know that: Formula = Less creativity = Lower price
Understand the problems staff face and help them, rather than insist on deadlines at all costs
As a last word, as a studio owner, I know that it’s all to easy to price jobs too low to win contracts, only to find that the production takes longer than was estimated.
This is a problem every studio owner has to solve.
But the answer isn’t to be found by simply pressing staff to work to rigid time slots to make up for pricing ineptitude.
© Studio Rossiter 2007