Breaking Down Offline Editorial: Gantt chart view (Part 2)

In part 1 of this series I describe the process of using a Gantt chart as project management tool for unscripted television post production. In this post I will zoom in on one specific part of the editorial process: offline editing. And meditate deeply on how we think about editing as an activity in the project management scene of the word.

In project management terminology:

An activity is a component of work performed during the course of a project. Activities take time and consume resources; you describe them by using action verbs. Examples of activities are design report and conduct survey.

This is tricky, because your activity is someone else’s project. For example: Change Car’s Oil might be an activity to you; drop car off at the mechanic and pick it up 30 minutes later. But from your mechanic’s point-of-view Change Car’s Oil is a series of small activities that require unique resources and multiple stopping points.

There are some flaws with Car Oil example, but you can also think about something like renovating a house. As a homeowner you might see macro activities like: renovate bathroom, rennovate kitchen. But your General Contractor sees hundreds of smaller activities that need to be planned in coordination with each other. As a homeowner you hire a GC so you don’t have to worry about “the details,” but knowing the details will help you understand the cause of delays when they eventually crop up.

The Post Supervisor faces a similar dilemma

One way of looking at the post schedule is macro: “The team has six weeks from start to rough cut.” Therefore, you’d see this component of offline editorial as one distinct activity. If you are a Post Supervisor you probably see your schedule this way.

An editor sees something entirely different. They see hundreds of smaller activities. Even something like “cut act one” is broken down into much smaller activities: cut scene 1, cut scene 2, cut scene 3, cut transitional segment between scene 1 & 2, cut transitional segment between scenes 2 & 3, cut bump out, etc etc etc…

This difference of perspective isn’t a problem, until you have to understand and explain why a cut is late.

If you only see the macro picture, you can know that a cut is late. But you won’t have the information you need to troubleshoot the cause. Even if you breakdown your activities into something more ganular, like acts, you still won’t have the information you need for a diagnosis.

How Changing a Car’s Oil is Different from Editing

At this point it might be logical to think that the answer is breaking down offline editorial into more distinct activities; the “cut scene 3, cut transitional segment between scene 1 & 2” from above. This is how a general contractor and mechanic does it. But editing is different for two reasons.

Firstly, the order of activities is usually not important. An Editor can work on a scene in Act 3, then score Act 2, and finish the day assembling a transitional montage. Without critical dependencies, a Post Supervisor can go mad trying to track all of the editor’s activities each day.

Second, more importantly, the creative process is messy by its nature. Perhaps you’ve seen this inspirational meme around:

Creativity doesn’t happen in a strict linear fashion. It requires exploration and false starts. The truth is that every creative endeavor, even network television, will never be finished, only abandoned. More often than not, post production is an exercise of accomplishing as much as possible in the allotted time.

The point of applying project management techniques to television production is to maximize the amount of time your team is doing the fun creative work instead of waiting for resources to become available. It’s not to limit creativity, but to unleash it!

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