I felt compelled to write this piece because of an experience I had recently.

Chastening doesn’t come close. It had all the classic ingredients of failure: spec creep, bad communication, unfamiliar equipment, poor decision-making and software crashes. Hopefully the following tips can help you avoid the same issues I had.

a tangled mess of wires

  • Spec creep: get everything in writing and make sure that you communicate as swiftly and reasonably as possible; by email. Cover Your Arse.
  • Bad communication : be vocal in meetings, listen and ask questions if things are unclear. If the shit hits the fan 2 weeks down the line it’s no good referring to a half-remembered conversation.
  • Unfamiliar equipment: generally other people should take care of this for you, but if you want to be ahead of the game, you need to know how your work is going to be delivered. If it’s live playback; how is the video ingested? What codecs won’t break? Will you have time to render and ingest 20gb per uncompressed file?
  • Poor decision-making: Make sure you’re on the ball. Keep a clear head and get decent sleep. Don’t overdo the coffee!
  • Software crashes: Work sensibly. Don’t run source files over the network. Just because you CAN render C4D, After Effects and AME at the same time doesn’t mean you should. Keep your drives as clean as you can.

And finally some general tips:

  • Never assume – there’s no such thing as a stupid question, especially at the start of a project. Classic questions like “Who is the project lead” and “what’s the final delivery format” are overlooked suprisingly often. There’s nothing worse than trying to cajole someone who has no previous experience with the project into signing it off.
  • Test, test and test again: So you’ve got a broadcast monitor and you’re RAM previewing the whole comp at the end of each day. Fine if you’re delivering to tape, but if it’s for a live event, you need to test as early and accurately as possible. If this means finding a projector and screen to run the styleframes on then so be it.
  • Scalability: how smart are you working right now? There’s often a lot of talk about how it’s only the end result that matters, but if you don’t plan for at least some flexibility in your pipeline then you may not get there.
  • Know your hardware: if you’re delivering files over a network, know how long it takes to get 100mb over the slowest connection, because due to Sod’s Law that’s the best you’ll get when you need it the most. If you’re outputting to tape you’ve got ingest plus playback. With larger projects these extra factors can break a deadline unless you factor them in.

Have you got any nightmare experiences to share? How did you overcome them?