A new way to run your VFX or animation business has arrived

Projectal’s A.I. and machine learning features help with bidding, project management, staffing and more.

Today at VFX and animation studios, artists are well looked after with a great set of creative tools. There has been a continued focus on innovating and improving these creative tools so that VFX and animated content just keeps getting better and better. However, innovative tools to help studios run their business and their projects have been largely neglected.

Management and non-artists at studios have been largely left to fend for themselves. People like the producers, coordinators, supervisors, heads of department, production managers, head of studio, bidding producers, even the finance, HR and sales teams.

Today, these people typically use off-the-shelf tools like Excel, Google Sheets or have built in-house bespoke tools using something like FileMaker. They use these tools to try to keep track of key studio data and try to share this data across the various departments as best they can.

But there’s a new solution for VFX and animation studios that can help.

A Projectal project dashboard.

Enter Projectal

Projectal is a new way of looking at workflow and project management. It’s made by specialists in software engineering, data science, artificial intelligence and project management. They know the kind of pain points most studios are suffering from:

  • Lack of visibility and trust in the key data to run their studio operations
  • Lack of understanding of staffing needs, department loads and project costs
  • Lack of accuracy and consistency when bidding and budgeting on client projects
  • Lack of efficiencies when completing projects that constantly eat into studio profit margins
  • Lack of ability to forward plan and conduct ‘what-if’ scenarios

Also, the makers of Projectal found that studios don’t learn from or data-mine their past projects. In today’s world of data analytics and historical analysis, studios should be analyzing their past projects and past performance to help determine upcoming project costs, durations, staffing needs and general efficiency improvements.

Gantt chart in Projectal.

What Projectal does

Projectal replaces all the off-the-shelf and bespoke tools used by management and non-artists to help studios bid, plan, schedule, resource, execute and deliver on their projects.

Projectal becomes the central hub for all studio data and project data. Once a studio starts using Projectal, they finally have a single tool that becomes their ‘source of truth’ across all their departments, locations and staff.

In summary, the goal of Projectal is to create a more efficient and profitable studio, and to get the entire team on the same page and making better day-to-day decisions.

What Projectal allows your VFX and animation studio to do

Projectal offers a powerful, efficient way to manage VFX and animation studios. The key features include:

Fast and accurate bidding: Projectal allows a studio to quickly import customer bid documents and perform what-if scenarios to create an optimal bid. They can bid with confidence by using actuals from previous projects and studio heuristics. Machine learning (ML) identifies data of interest within client bid documents for quick bids. Bidding producers can export their quick bids as a spreadsheet to send to their client.

Easily manage staffing: Projectal gives senior management full visibility of staff usage across all current and upcoming projects. Staff can be auto assigned using AI-based skills and availability recommendations. Interactive heat maps allow a studio to see over-allocated and under-allocated staff at a glance. Senior management can view current and future department loads, location loads, head count requirements, resource utilization and more.

Comprehensive planning and scheduling features: Projectal includes project dashboards, task sheets, Gantt charts and Kanban boards for a complete planning and scheduling solution. Use generic staff when bidding and planning or change to real staff when scheduling tasks. Set milestones and priorities for projects. Add change requests from clients. Conduct real-time ‘what-if’ scenarios.

Real-time project and staff tracking: Projectal allows production managers, coordinators, supervisors and producers to easily track the progress of projects, assets, shots and tasks, with alerts if something goes wrong (e.g. over-time or over-budget). Project data is always auto synced in real-time with other tools used by artists – such as ShotGrid or ftrack. Budget vs. Actuals, rebates, gross costs and net costs are calculated in real-time throughout a project.

At-a-glance reporting: Projectal has reporting features that keep the entire studio on the same page. Create data views that display the studio or project data that your role needs. Export data views, bids, schedules, charts and crew sheets for internal review or for customer reports. Extensive data mining and analysis features let management monitor in real-time the studio’s performance.

Department views and location views: Studios can create interactive views for each department (e.g. Layout) or location (e.g. Vancouver). View all current and upcoming tasks. View current and future department or location load. Identify head count issues. Run Kanban boards for better team-based work.

Resource tracking for projects and staff: Within Projectal, track usage of equipment required for projects such as cameras, screens and lighting. Track render farm requirements for efficient capacity planning for the Production department. Track software tool licensing requirements and hardware lease requirements for staff needs.

Knowledge retention: Projectal uses AI-based heuristics to allow a studio to capture the knowledge of how they create digital content. For example, a VFX studio may create a car explosion effect many times for many projects. Using Projectal, the studio can capture the steps, skills, duration and costs of the creating this type of effect, so that it can be re-used when bidding, scheduling and planning. This leads to more accurate, consistent and repeatable bids, schedules and plans. It also helps retain studio knowledge in-house as staff come and go.

Projectal dashboard widgets.

The data you need for your role

Because Projectal touches all departments in a studio, everyone from the top down can benefit. Explore the kinds of data you can extract from Projectal depending on what you do at your VFX or animation studio.

CEO / Head of Studio: Monitor operations of the business via dashboards. Monitor progress and Budget vs. Actuals for all projects. Monitor performance of each department and office location. Perform ‘what-if’ scenarios to plan for studio growth. Generate data views and charts for board reports.

CFO / Finance: Monitor progress of all projects via dashboards. Monitor and be alerted when payment milestones are reached. Monitor Budget vs. Actuals for projects. Generate data views and charts for board reports. Connect Projectal to accounting and payroll software for accessing up-to-date staff and project data points such as artist work effort and milestone completion.

Sales / Bidding Producer: Import client bid documents directly into Projectal using machine learning (ML) and create a quick bid response within Projectal. No more need for standalone bidding Excel spreadsheets. No more copy and pasting. Use heuristics for more consistent bids. Use generic staff for staff assignments. Look at previous projects for historical actual costs and durations of ‘like’ projects, shots and assets. Conduct ‘what-if’ scenarios. Export bid response as a spreadsheet to send to client.

Head of Production: Manage and monitor Production staff pool. Manage and monitor all projects via dashboards. Identify when staff pool needs to be increased or decreased. Create management reports for senior executive team. Be alerted to tasks that have issues within pipeline.

Executive Producer: Track progress of a project. Keep notes of shots, assets, tasks and milestones. Monitor Budget vs. Actuals for project, shots, assets and tasks in real-time. Conduct ‘what-if’ scenarios. Export a spreadsheet as a weekly client update document.

Production Manager: Create project schedules. Assign staff to tasks. Track progress of shots, assets, tasks and milestones. Get alerts via dashboards when things go wrong. View history of a project. Add client change requests. Real-time sync with tools such as ShotGrid or ftrack.

Supervisors / Coordinators: Track progress of projects, shots, assets, tasks and milestones. Get alerts via dashboards when things go wrong. Maintain client and artist notes. Real-time sync with tools such as ShotGrid or ftrack.

Human Resources (HR): View departments’ load and identify type of staff required for upcoming projects. Understand whether to extend freelancers / contractors. Real-time sync with popular HR tools for up-to-date staff information, salaries and time-off.

I.T. Department: Track the number of software licenses required for artists in Production department. Track number of computer leases required for studio. Track size of render farm required by Production department.

Artist: View list of assigned tasks and projects. Track all assigned tasks from start to finish. View client or producer notes. Add work effort and notes as tasks progress. Real-time sync with tools such as ShotGrid or ftrack.

Staffing data in Projectal.

How Projectal works with the tools you already have

Since Projectal acts as the central hub, studios typically want Projectal connected to the following tools for real-time sync of studio and project data:

  • Artist asset management and task tracking tools (such as ShotGrid and ftrack)
  • HR staff management tools (such as BambooHR or Employment Hero)
  • Timesheet software
  • Payroll software
  • Accounting software
  • License asset management software

Projectal can connect seamlessly to all these tools via its RESTful API and Python client library. Connectors can be created that fully integrate into the workflow and tools used by a studio. A studio’s software developers can create their own connectors, or Projectal’s Professional Services team can create the connectors for the studio.

Projectal can analyze a studio’s existing tools and data requirements and then develop connector apps to fully integrate Projectal into the workflow, ensuring that critical data is always in sync and that no double entry is required.

Projectal’s API also has webhooks that enable software tools to be notified in real time when events in Projectal occur. For example, when tasks are updated or when staff are assigned to tasks, ShotGrid or ftrack would be updated. Going the other way, if HR added a new staff member into BambooHR or Employment Hero, then Projectal would be automatically updated.

OK, I want to know more about Projectal

To learn more about Projectal, visit https://projectal.com.

Projectal has simple, straightforward pricing. Information is available at https://projectal.com/pricing. Designed for a hybrid workforce, Projectal is a web-based, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tool, allowing users to login from anywhere, via their phone, tablet or computer. A free trial is available at https://projectal.com/try.

For more information, contact Shane Workman, Product Manager of Projectal – shane.workman@janusks.com.

Brought to you by Projectal: This article is part of the befores & afters VFX Insight series. If you’d like to promote your VFX/animation/CG tech or service, you can find out more about the VFX Insight series here.
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