Now that the projects done we’re looking back at what went right and what went wrong. This postmortem collects and generalizes many but not all of the issues that were common throughout the year, and all members. For a more detailed report see individual postmortems
Communication was a big issue for the entire process, and ultimately the cause of the things that went wrong. We started concepting ideas in the Summer and met once a week to discuss ideas, with Avery Skyping in from New York. While meeting regularly not much real progress was made over the summer, and it was mostly in the fall that we really fleshed out an idea. Scheduling during the fall was rough, as there were almost no times where all five schedules had openings for meetings. Because of this we really only met once a week with our advisor, and had a hodgepodge of meetings at different points. There wasn’t a very clear line of communication that ran all the way through the group, and while Slack is nice it doesn’t replace being in the same room. Many of the deadlines that we had and needed to hit fell apart because people did not have the sort of seamless communication that is needed for a project of this scope within the time given.
The issues with communication improved in Winter, but not to the degree where any of the production could run without miscommunication and oversights. Progress on shots, models, and rigs, were often only updated between A B and E during one or two meetings a week, with the rest of the group in the dark unless it was posted to slack, which was not a common practice throughout the group. Majority of the group was working from home, and between files with strange corruption, and the simple fact that we were not progressing at a quick enough rate demanded that we all be working in the same room at the same time. When we started this the production picked up a lot, and we were able to get closer to the mystical “Beta” than we would have if continuing to work in isolation. By Spring, with clearer schedules and less to focus on other than sproj, mandatory dailies were implemented 6 days a week, with the option of coming in for 7. Attendance was spotty and eventually waiting for dailies to start was more detrimental to productivity than simple one on one meetings when people got in. By the end of the quarter we were just coming in and starting work on comps immediately, and receiving feedback on them throughout the day/time people were in.
Overall the communication never got to the level of clarity that would be needed in a professional setting, but as it was our first time working in a group of this size or a project of this scope, the progression and improvement of communication was natural, and now that it’s done everyone has a better understanding of what does and doesn’t work when working on a project with other people.
While poor communication caused several issues with things being turned in on time (or at all), the times when communication was good skyrocketed performance. When we did have a solid chunk of things to look at in dailies there was always a wide range of feedback, most of which could be quickly implemented shortly after. When people were all in the same room working there could be several rounds of feedback in the same amount of time it used to take one person to message on slack, for someone else to see it, then to respond to it, and then to receive the change. It was advised from before the start that we all work in the same room as often as possible, and it turned out to be sound advice.
The most obvious positive should be (and is) that across the board we all learned at lot. We learned a lot about working in a group, and for a wide range of reasons we all learned that this was maybe not the ideal group to work with for whatever individual reasons and production problems that occurred. We found ourselves iterating faster and faster as time went on and with each iteration getting more refined instead of a drop in quality. There were a slew of technical problems that came up nearly every day that had to be overcome, and while some of them ended up being more complicated than others, keeping them under control kept the production from grinding to a standstill. Many of us learned to pace themselves better, how to work on something consistently and still have the extra energy to burst things out at the end. Across the team the average number of hours per week was usually along the lines of 35-37, with highs being at 50 most times and lows at 20. This was a far cry from the average of 15 in fall, we think we all found that we could do a lot more and work a lot longer than we maybe thought we could before this project.
And that was the point of all of this. While everyone is pretty much on death’s door and hating this past year, we all learned a lot, and if the word of previous graduates are anything to go by, we’ll come to appreciate it all more as we get farther from it.