Friday, July 10, 2009

#0011 Another hour -- the CG Supervisor's budget nightmare

It's happened to us all:  working hard on a project and someone from accounting comes in with the news of doom --the project is over budget. 

You've worked hard to make sure everyone has the tools they require and the information they need.  You've busted your tail and so have your CG coordinators to make sure the materials pipeline is flowing, command and control pipeline is productive, and every artist and tech is passing the torch as planned.
Yet, there's this budget thing.  Over.  Too high.  Bad news.
It's happened to us all...  
the project is over budget.  
Take a moment and consider this scenario:  a company with a staff of 40 artists cranking away on the project.  One by one, as the weeks go by, without anyone noticing, they are all missing their production goals by a measly one hour per week.  Your best compositor needs an extra hour to bring his shot into the sweet zone the vfx supervisor's looking for.  Your modeling supervisor isn't satisfied with the detail on The Big Bad Ugly Monster, so the organic modeling specialist is going to need an hour to fix things up.  UV's are off.  An hour.  The matte painting still looks fake.  An hour.  The camera and layout were not as ordered.  An hour.  The transition from running to jumping when your hero character comes to the rescue is awkward.  An hour.  An hour. An hour. An hour.
"I just need an hour to fix this."  We've all heard it.
Now, our crew of 40 artists and techies has each spent an extra hour to get the work done, so now, your either a week over budget (or should we count that as time  and a half?) or a week behind schedule.  Behind schedule is not an option.
An hour per person per week is, and must be within your budget tolerances.  That's 2.5% of your labor costs, and that should be in your safety margin.  But suppose it's an hour per person outside that safety margin?  You need an extra worker to cover that hour (or, should I say 97.5% of it) per week.
Put another way, each artist who misses production goals by 2 hours a week, adds 2 weeks production cost to a forty week schedule.  Each artist.  Multiply 2 hours of lost productivity by your entire staff and by the average wages paid, and you've got some serious money fast.  It's the death of a 1000 tiny cuts.
 Four hours extra a week = 10%  over 
As a CG supervisor, you need to allow for inefficiency in the workplace, and your company has to decide how much it can tolerate.  This is a subjective and artistic endeavor, after all, so plans can and will go awry.  That's why your producer is doubling any number you give; that's why the Exec Producer should be adding something on top of that.
The issue cannot be solved just with budget padding.  At some point it becomes your problem, a problem you need to face with imagination and diligent watchful management.

Think about it.
I'd like to hear some of the ways you solve this problem.
Please leave a comment 
Best success on your projects!
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