The Benefits of a Detailed Post Production Schedule

Do you ever get that overwhelming feeling? You know the one where. Where you look at your list of to-dos (the one that looks like it could be published by Encyclopedia Brittanica) and you just go limp. Numb. Frozen. For me, I tend to lay flat on my back on my bed, staring up at the ceiling in a catatonic state.

But through the encouragement of my wife, I get up, dust myself off, take my thumb out of my mouth, take a deep breath, and with her help, put together a detailed post production schedule.

Notice that the birthday of the wife is totally kept clear? Just sayin'. :)

This is something we started doing years ago, early in the business. She’d find me curled up on the floor in the fetal position, blubbering about how there’s no way in the world I can finish all the projects I need to finish and in the time I need to finish them. She then had me write a list of all my projects and their estimated times to complete. Next she put all the projects on a calendar with specific start and stop times for each.

After doing this, something miraculous happened. The stress and anxiety disappeared. First, because I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I realize I COULD get all the work done and I could see WHEN it would get done. Second, it helped me see exactly what to work on and when. So, instead of the sense I was drowning, I just took it one project at at time. Working on them at the appointed hour.  As long as I stuck to my schedule, I knew it would all get done.

Ever since implementing the method years ago, it has been a key part of my post-production workflow. Admittedly, sometimes I don’t get around to doing it, and I often end up paying for it by getting the overwhelming feeling again. But, when I take the time to map out every thing and put it on a calendar, the overwhelming feeling is replaced with a sense of peace.

Step by Step

Here’s the step by step process for creating a detail post-pro schedule

  1. Make a list of all the projects you need to edit (this is equally applicable to photo as well as video)
  2. Prioritize them based on due dates.
  3. Include the estimated time for completion. Be conservative. Put how long you KNOW it will take (not the time you like to tell your clients. :) ) In fact, add a few hours just to be safe.
  4.  If you’re a small business without someone to do accounting, email, sales, etc., then make sure you include those activities too.
  5. Add the projects to your calendar, whether you use Google, iCal, Outlook, or even if you do it by hand.
  6. Go step by step through the calendar, without getting distracted. If you need a Twitter or Facebook fix, go ahead and add those activities to the schedule too. But then stick to it!

The “To-Do List Time Continuum Quandary”

Another reason this method is good not only for post production work, but all work is what I call “The To-Do List Time Continuum Quandary.” It’s easy to lose track of the temporal component of a task when it’s just one line item on a to-do list. I could have on a to-do list  for the day, “Call the IRS.” However, that one task could literally take 2 two hours. If I have five other things on my list, one of which is “Finish Client Edit,” realistically, they are not all going to get done. That adds to the overwhelming feeling as items get pushed to each subsequent day. If you attack your schedule like this, you’re prepared .

I guarantee that if you adopt something like this into your workflow, it will add years to your life. What are some of the ways you like to schedule your post production work? Are there any tools or programs you use? Share in the comments.

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3 Responses to “The Benefits of a Detailed Post Production Schedule”

  1. Ron,
    I feel your anxiety and understand your situation, my work is managing documentaries post production for a large cable network, without a scheduling partnership between myself and the production manager, generating correct and complete deliverables for air would be very difficult. Our major tool for for proper scheduling and effectiveness is communication; phone, email, microsoft sharepoint, etc. If you don’t have positive communication and all team members acting as a team, you’re doomed. We create production / post production calendars in outlook for every show we work on. These schedules are thoughtfully collaborated on with the filmmakers production team. You have to be flexible, because projects can change scope before picture lock is achieved. When the schedules change you roll with it, and step up to make the creative teams vision a success.

    • Thanks for sharing your ideas Russ. It’s encouraging to know that even at the highest levels of post production workflow, the basic foundation for this system is maintained.

  2. I work for a large company as the head of the in-house video department. we have a very complex schedule and without proper project management tools and style, we would soon end up behind schedule.

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