Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why Do Group Projects Go Wrong? - Six Rules For Success

Group projects are something we take very seriously here at Escape Studios. Why? Because animation is a team sport - almost all of our graduates work along side other artists on group projects.

And developing the skills to work on collective projects is essential for success in our industry.  It's the feedback we hear regularly from employers - "we want team players, not soloists".


That said, group projects can pose a number a problems.  The danger on a group project is that individual members of the group may tend to think that, where there's a job to be done, someone else will do it. If this happens, the result is paralysis.

So, how do students make a group project work? Below are our Six Rules for Group Project Success.

Rule 1 - Make sure everyone has a job for which they alone are responsible
At a minimum, you will need to decide who is responsible for the following jobs: Producer, Director, Art Director/designer, Writer, Editor. If it's a CG project, you will need a digital supervisor as well. Each role must be filled by one person (never divide roles) who is responsible for this part of the project getting done.

Someone must rule.
Rule 2 - Decide who is in charge
Film studios, even small ones, are not democracies. Someone must be in charge. On any film project there are usually two people in charge - Producer and Director. Each job is different.
  1. Producer. It is the Producer's job to organise the show, to set deadlines, to make sure deadlines are met. The Producer is organiser-in-chief, the project manager. 
  2. Director. The Director's job is to provide creative leadership. The director must make the key creative decisions, working with the rest of the group, coming up with fresh ideas, inspiring the team. The Director is problem-solver in chief. 

Learn how to use a spreadsheet
Rule 3 - Make a schedule, and set deadlines.
Without deadlines, projects don't get done. When will the script be done by? When will the mood boards be done? The storyboards? The animation? The final edit? The Producer must make a spreadsheet (learn to love Excel, Shotgun, or Google calendars) so everyone knows what the schedule is. Without a schedule you will struggle to get anything done.

Rule 4 - Meet Your Deadlines
Deadlines are there for your own protection - you must make them on time or your project will hit trouble. Treat deadlines with respect. Meet them every week. Be disciplined. Someone will need to create a schedule, probably in Excel, and then stick to it.

Rule 5 - Have a Plan B

If someone on your team isn't working out, replace them. You cannot have a smooth running machine with components that cannot or will not work.  If any individual won't deliver, replace them or do their job yourself. Nothing must stop the train.

Rule 6 -  Understand How Films Get Made. 
Understand how film-making works. Every project starts with a script, closely followed by visual development, storyboards, animatic (usually with voices, music and temp sound effects), then animation, lighting and rendering (if it's CG), post production (eg final sound design), and final output.

You can watch this free film here to get you started. Know the process of film-making thoroughly and don't try to re-invent the wheel.
The cartoon at the top of the blog is from www.origami.com. For more on Group Projects, try this link.

---Alex

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt in the Art of Computer Animation starting in September 2016, see this post. And to apply, follow this link.

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