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production Archives - The X Gene

IMAGE: A white box with its lid off, on a grey background. Communication and information

Open & Structured: How We Use the Information in Google Drive to Facilitate Communication in Production

By | Education, Innovation | One Comment

This post is about how we use Google Drive as a conduit for information and communication, and how in really understanding why we do it the way we do it, we’re actually developing the culture of our productions. Now I warn you, this is a super nerdy post. If you’re into management, information, communication or organisation, you’ll love this.

Due to much ongoing experimentation, we’ve landed on an approach that works for now, for our film crews of about 20-30 people, on projects that aren’t secret or sensitive. If you’re bigger or you wanna keep stuff secret, this may not be for you, and when we get there, we’ll see for ourselves! Regardless of size, getting a process for sorting your digital information, and nailing a cloud storage service can be tricky. Really, before you even choose from Dropbox, Google Drive, Box or one of the other services out there, you want to work out what your principles and values are in how you work with your crew. For us, it’s about

Open Access to Information, Structured Flow of Communication

The way we see it, Google’s Drive and their apps, including Docs and Sheets, combined with desktop, laptop, tablet and smart phone technology gives our crew the ability to access a film, TV or digital project’s data anywhere, anyhow. That stops a huge amount of problems – no more files kept at the office, out of reach; no more out of date pages getting mixed up with current drafts; everyone can know they’re looking at the most updated version of anything; stuff can’t get lost (as easily). With our crews, broken up around the city, rarely in one place at the same time, and often working in multiple roles, we want them to be able to access any information about our project immediately, as easily as possible.

So we treat our Drive folders as repositories of information, as consolidated as possible, with ease of access the priority. That means:

  • You shouldn’t have to click too deep in to sub-folders to find what you need.
  • Spreadsheets should make use of tabs to combine as much information in as fewer locations as possible.
  • All folders should default to Link Sharing ON – Anyone With The Link (No Sign-in Required).

Any sensitive or security-conscious files are placed in a special ‘locked’ folder that is set to Link Sharing OFF – Shared with Specific People. Then, only higher-level crew have access to that folder by invite only. But, If there’s no actual need to restrict something, then we prefer it be unbound by restriction! When a new crew member joins, we share the master folder with them, giving them access to every department’s information. It’s then incumbent on the Producer or someone from that office to walk the individual through the data that’s relevant to them.

All of this is predicated on the notion that we want people to use the digital world to find information as quickly as possible, unfettered by unnecessary bureaucratic measures. A soundie who needs to see what camera we’re using can find that information as soon as she needs it. A cast member who wants to know where we’re going next week can get location data in the middle of the night. The information is open, and we encourage each individual crew member to use the search bar, keywords, favourites, bookmarks, stars, whatever they prefer to create priority access to the information most important to them. All of this cuts out wasted time chasing information.

Structured Flow of Communication

The amount of data we amass for any one project can grow to mammoth size. Video files alone can be gigs big. With all that information, updated, added to and moved by each crew member as required, we need to keep everyone across the flow of information. That’s where structured communication comes in. There are a few different methods we employ, but the best fail-safe is the weekly conference call. If we could, we’d prefer to have a weekly heads of department meeting, around a nice big round table, with food, drink and good times – but we’re in Australia, my friend, where money for creativity is as rare as the Tasmanian Tiger. Instead, we use Skype, Hangouts or the simple phonecall (again, Australia, so shitty internet), depending on everyone’s majority preference. I’ve had people tell me they’ve taken hours and hours to get through such a call, which tells me they aren’t structuring their communication right. We have an agenda that rarely changes:

  1. The Producer first connects with the Director 15 minutes early, then brings in each Head of Dept (HoD), so by start time, everyone is on. (The Director, usually loquacious, chats with the crew as the Producer dials)
  2. After formally starting, the Producer calls on a HoD to quickly sum up what they’ve done this week gone, and what they need to do next week. No elaboration, just task lists crossed off or still open.
  3. The rest of those listening are reminded to take notes of what they need from the other departments.
  4. The HoD says they’ve finished, and the Producer throws it to the Director, who follows up with any corrections, adjustments, clarifications or additions.
  5. One by one, the Producer works through each HoD in the same way, with the Director following up. The second last is the Producer, who states their own this week/next week list.
  6. The Director is the last to state their this/next week list.
  7. Finally, the Producer goes back around the HoDs, asking each to name another department or the Director, and ask for what they need. Again, this should be quick, with any detailed discussion prompted to be followed up one-on-one outside of this call.
  8. Once everyone has had their say, the Director gives a wee pep talk, the Producer confirms the time of the call for next week, then all say I love you and hang up.

The Producer or a Production Coordinator is usually taking notes as each HoD talks through. We mark what issues there are, what actions will be taken, and who’s taking them, just to make sure after we hang up, nothing’s missed. This is kept in a single sheet, on a single tab, with each prior week pushed off to the right – all we ever use is last week’s and this week’s notes.

The point of this call is make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing – problems get solved or are discovered to not even be problems, niggling misunderstandings are shattered to make way for crystal clarity, and everyone feels appreciated, listened to and understands how important their roles are, and how their work fits in to the other departments’ work in this big beautiful creative commercial beast. Often, during these calls, one HoD’s list answers two other HoD’s questions immediately, so we’ll hear, “I was gong to ask about blah, but that’s already answered!” Regarding our information storage, the most common expressions heard are, “I’ll put that in the drive for you” or “That’s in Folder X on the drive”. Again, we’re catching each other up on the flows of information, all coalescing in our Google Drive. It takes a bit of practice, and at first the rapid, business-like pace takes some people by surprise, but that in itself helps folks fully realise the focus and professionalism of our crew. For an hour a week, everyone is serious, determined and is openly seeking help in being great.

I’ve barely touched on the actual detail of how we use Google Drive, but soon we’ll show you how to fine tune the sharing settings in Drive to match our standard setup. The above is to emphasize that no matter what aspect of the creative process you’re fiddling with, starting with a candid appraisal of how you communicate, and what role you want information to play is crucial. Once you really know that, then the tools you need become obvious. It’s less about features and price and platform – those things come into it, but they all must respond to the answer to this question:

How Do You Use and Communicate Information?

The answer to that question will set the tone for your productions every time. We want openness and clarity in what we do, which means there’s a lot of stuff, and that that stuff needs to be made clear for everyone. Siloing information, like it’s some sort of treasured prize, doesn’t really do it for us, because each crew member is so specialised in their craft – that is their value. In order for them to do what they’re good at, they need to use their specialised brains to grab exactly what they need, and maybe a little bit more, at any time, to create their part of the project. Why slow someone down by having them request access to a document? Why delay their lightbulb moment because they’ve got no signal? We use information as a tool for our artists, and we communicate information to ensure visions are aligned. In doing so, we communicate how important that vision is and where it’s coming from, and give free and open license to our artists to use all the information they can gather to do their exceptional work. It seems to go all right for us so far.

A golden Mercedes Benz

Why Go Pro Video: The Reason it Costs What it Costs

By | Marketing, Technology, Video | No Comments

Here’s the thing about video – anyone can do it…but only professionals can do it well.

I’d be a moron to dismiss or ignore that as digital swept through and technology got cheaper, making videos became more accessible. A smart phone today will shoot some pretty nice footage (I like how the iPhones oversaturate). This all means businesses promoting themselves can have the same sort of fun with video that we have every day.

My job as a producer at a Melbourne video agency is to make content that promotes businesses, not-for-profits, individuals – anyone with a message. The challenge is finding a place for ourselves now that anyone can afford the basic tech.

Some companies have decided to go for bulk. Buy or build a studio (because that’s something harder to get) and pump out a huge volume of video content at a cut-throat rate. It works for these companies, but they’ll freely admit they are missing one thing: quality.

The X Gene has gone a different route. We’ve moved away from cheap. We come in when our client wants a premium product. A potentially lucrative contract with a big international firm? A line of clientele that take part in the finer things in life? A large audience, a large investment, high stakes? These are the types of things a little clip in a poorly green screened studio won’t help.

If you want big returns, you need high quality. That’s The X Gene. High-end cameras, complex lighting and audio setups, multiple edit suites and specialised post-production software – yes, we have all of that, but we also have something far superior: the years of experience and proven talent to utilise all this creatively. We create the best videos we can, and then push ourselves to do better.

That’s what you’re paying for when you get a video made with us. That’s why it costs more than the quick and dirty alternatives, or the overseas options from sites like freelancer.com. I’ve heard business owners in seminars talk about getting a video done overseas and not being happy with the result. They end up making three or four mediocre videos that probably cost them more than they budgeted for anyway. I’ve also been proud to see other owners and our clients show off a premium video and say it was a bit more expensive, but the results speak for themselves.

The old cliche is true; you get what you pay for. With all this talk in the news of Australia needing to accept it can’t compete on price when working against nations four to ten times cheaper, I hear a constant refrain, “IP and value added skills and expertise are the way forward.” That’s us. Quality in a service industry, making excellent content to make you cut through and stand out. That’s why you go pro video – to be better than your competitors. We strive to be better than our competitors, so who better to team up with to take over the world?

Data on how audiences react to video content

DIY + Professionally Produced = More Sales, More Happiness

By | Advertising, Research, Technology, Video | No Comments

Sales and happiness aren’t necessarily one in the same, and conversion is the preferred industry term, but isn’t happiness better than sales or converting? Yeah, agreed.

At The X Gene, we produce videos to make people happy, but ultimately to get our clients sales, conversions or just getting a thumbs up. We’re completely aware that with technology advancing and prices for that tech falling, folks can make videos at home or in the office. Obviously, we’re really good at it and would prefer to do it for you, but ignoring the growing trend of DIY would be insane. Our producers actually come out and consult with companies around Melbourne, giving them hints or showing them even more cool stuff out there.

It turns out, when you combine us with you, the results are even more impressive than just DIY or pro video production on their own. That’s marriage, baby, and it’s happy.

This study by comScore and EXPO found that offering viewers and potential customers both a user-generated video along with a professionally produced how-to video, the sales, conversions and happiness increased way more than just one or the other, alone.

So, chat with us to combine your DNA with ours, and we’ll make a beautiful conversion sales happiness baby.

LINK: comScore Study Finds Professionally-Produced Video Content And User-Generated Product Videos Exhibit Strong Synergy in Driving Sales Effectiveness

Use video for magazines

Got A Brand, Magazine or Website? Produce TV!

By | Video | No Comments

After finishing up on 4WD Touring Australia, a 13-part half hour series airing on Aurora, Foxtel’s open channel, we want to make use of our fabulous production team to develop more series with you.

In particular, we’re after brand funded content. This can be media that has an existing advertiser base (magazines, websites, eBooks) or a product that ties in with something that people enjoy as part of their lifestyle.

For example, 4WD Touring Australia was first a magazine, but the owners turned it into a TV series that their existing advertisers took part in funding. The idea is to create a program people enjoy, while also giving them access to the elements of that lifestyle they’d be keen to buy or make use of anyway.

Our skill is in working with you to create a concept that incorporates your brand personality, and then planning, shooting, editing and generally executing the show. Aurora is the channel that airs the content around the nation, and they loved our work last time, keen to work with us again.

That’s as simple as we can put it, really! Please get in contact with us if you think you have an idea.

 

While we’re at it, here’s a great article about brand funded content from Mumbrella.