We spend billions of dollars at the movie theater each year. When we talk about how movies are made, we often think about on-set production and filming the actors, or post-production where the VFX are crafted and the music is composed. Yet what about pre-production (1)?
Before filming even starts, many people and different teams are at work with casting, budgeting, storyboarding, and defining the creative vision of what the film will ultimately be. With the recent rise of cloud-based collaboration tools in media and entertainment, it is easier than ever for pre-production teams to better manage their processes and collaboration more efficiently. By using intuitive cloud-based pre-production tools that facilitate asset management and communications, media projects big and small can now systemize their pre-production workflows in a way that improves collaboration and asset findability across all phases of production.
In this post you’ll learn:
- What is Pre-Production?
- Stages of Pre-Production
- Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools for Pre-Production
- What is Production Asset Management?
- How Collaboration Tools Help the Pre-Pro Process
Pre-production refers to the earliest stages of any media project, be it commercials, movies, music videos, and so on. This is the stage after a project is green lit (2), and before actual filming begins. This phase is incredibly important: while a well-executed pre-production can streamline the whole process, a poorly executed pre-production process can ultimately put the entire project at risk.
Pre-production includes essential steps such as “locking” a final draft, hiring cast and crew, managing location and logistics, and creating the artistic vision for the film including costumes, scene design, and camera shots, to name a few. Each of these elements is vital to the success of the project.
Pre-production is complex by nature, because it’s building the foundation for production and post. While pre-production is different on every project, there are some key elements that virtually every project needs. Here are a few:
Script and Storyboarding
The script is the foundation for all metadata captured during a project: characters, scenes, locations, shots, and more. Many of the later stages of pre-production are based directly on the script. While a script will evolve throughout the production lifecycle, it starts in pre-production with one that is as close to “locked” as possible.
Finances dictate all future stages of pre-production. Budgets are an evolving beast that are referred to continuously throughout a project.
Pre-production is a collaborative effort, and media projects require a wide range of professionals with highly specialized skills. Like casting, you want to find the right people for the role.
Akin to storyboarding, this is the process of identifying camera shots and even plans for VFX shots that will be made during post. Usually put together by the director and director of photography and their support teams.
First shot – 2018 Marvel previs shot from pre-production.
Second shot – Final render of the shot that made it in the film. See how they compare.
The pre-production stage is a particularly busy time for the art department. They need to develop an understanding of the director’s vision for the project in order to storyboard ideas, design and build the movie sets, and gather suitable props. Due to their workload, it’s especially important that the art department stays organized, manner and that everyone can easily refer to the original vision for the film.
Like the art department, concept artists work to define the visual presentation of the characters who make up the story.
First shot – @Wesburt’s concept art for Hawkeye’s Ronin costume in Avengers: Endgame.
Second shot – Actual costume worn by actor Jeremy Renner.
Whether it’s one location or several, the locations team has to find them, scout them, settle the contracts, manage the logistics, and coordinate with the production office team for scheduling and crew moves.
One of the production office’s many jobs, shooting schedules are established toward the end of pre-production.
Each part of the pre-production process is complex in its own right and no one tool can do the job. That said, older systems of organizing are simply not useful enough, and that includes keeping things in a typical folder-based organizational tool: there’s an increased risk of tasks and files falling through the cracks, mistakes due to inefficient communication, and increased stress and anxiety among crew members. While there will always be an element of human error, this is exactly where the strength and value of cloud-based collaboration solutions come into play.
Between email, messaging, task management, file storage, organization, creative, and commenting tools, pre-production teams rely on any number of solutions to complete their daily processes. Some tools are uniquely suited to solving one problem. Others, like CORE by 5th Kind, offer a broader script-to-screen organizational solution that helps teams across a production to collaborate and work better together by centralizing certain parts of those processes.
An intuitive, easy-to-use collaborative system can free up a lot of time for more creative work. Moreover, the streamlined process minimizes potential for confusion — from file statuses and versions to access rights — and enables everyone to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
Production Asset Management (PAM) tools combine the best of digital asset management, digital collaboration, and workflow process tools. Production Asset Management systems are designed to organize, manage, and track the continuously evolving assets created in media workflows, like film, TV, commercials, and video games. They enable media production teams to simplify their workflows and enable better collaboration. With a good PAM, you can follow your assets and workflow from script to screen, and then be able to archive and reuse those same assets for your licensing library and future sequels.
What’s Digital Asset Management?
The term Digital Asset Management refers to the organization and storage of information, in this case, production assets and their associated data. Digital Asset Management solutions, like ours, centralize and secure your files in a way that makes them easily searchable. When you upload your concept art or your set designs and models, you tag them for future reference and sharing, such as by set, prop name, or associated character or location. Your files are securely watermarked for leak prevention, and only users with permissions can see them.
How Do Production Asset Management Tools Help Collaboration?
In a good PAM, you can comment on your files, annotate on images, video, and other file types, and share within the tool so your communications are centralized. You can share the assets you’ve created in different ways – for viewing only, for download (watermarked or source originals), for feedback and comments, or for approvals. With approvals, you can change the statuses on your files, so everyone is clear as to what has been approved or rejected.
How Does a PAM Simplify Workflow Processes?
Automate making your files available to the next user down the line with user access controls. When you approve a design file, it can become available to your department PA or coordinator who knows to distribute it to the construction crew. Or perhaps you need legal to sign off first? Automating some of these workflow steps, makes life simpler for the crews who work in a good PAM system.
At 5th Kind, we employ our extensive knowledge and understanding of creative workflows to provide you with all the right tools you need to streamline your workflow. You don’t need to adapt to a whole new way of working to use our products – instead, we’ve obsessively devised every detail to fit with the way you already work.
Unlike other software, our CORE by 5th Kind system was created for the creative industry, and specifically media production. We’ve concentrated our efforts in the areas that are most valuable to you: facilitating collaboration, improving ease-of-use, and making sure your work is secure.
Easy to Use Software
- We understand that ease of use is one of the pillars of good software design. We’ve made sure to give you intuitive, easy to navigate systems that create solutions, rather than new problems. To this end, we employ a clean, modern design that allows for easy training and onboarding for new partners and crew members.
- You can draw or type your notes. Our software allows you to make notes specific to each page or asset. Also, we have version control. This helps you prevent accidental data loss, as well as track progress.
- Our software can be used from almost any device at any time. We know how fast-paced the media industry can be and we know things can get hectic. We give you peace of mind that you won’t miss any important updates and empower you to inform your team quickly when something new comes up.
- Our platform is designed with collaboration in mind. Your whole team and all your partners can collaborate on the same platform. As our platform can manage all of your files, nothing can truly get lost or fall through the cracks.
- We’ve replaced the messy folder and inconvenient file dumps with tags and multiple types of organization. Moreover, you can use our search tools to find anything you need, no matter what part of your project it was from.
- While our platform is specifically designed to suit media production, you can personalize it even further. You can configure our system to perfectly match your workflow, as well as take advantage of our feedback and version control features.
We know how important it is to take care of work in progress and how devastating a breach in security can potentially be. Unlike using hard drives, folders and other tools which can be compromised more easily, we offer you industry-leading security. Our high standards give you the peace of mind you need to focus on the creative side where your strengths lie.
How Our Software Helped Our Clients
You don’t have to take us at our word. We already have extensive experience in improving the production and pre-production process for media clients large and small.
Beginning with Iron Man, we took up the mammoth task of streamlining Marvel Studios’ production assets and workflows through our cloud-based collaborative media solutions. Now we help them sync projects across the world. Our specialized media solutions have helped them manage millions of files across thousands of companies. And Marvel has saved millions of dollars across multiple productions thanks to our services.
Contact Us Now
Pre-production can seem like an under-appreciated art, but our systems will help you take it to the next level. Contact us now to discuss how we can help you streamline your process.
(1) Featured image is Doctor Strange concept art created by MCU artist Olivier Pron
(2) Green lit means financing is approved, money is received, and the producers have the go ahead to proceed.