Resource Planning, Production Scheduling, Documentary

Light & Shadow

Following the success of filming Wild Argentina with National Geographic, Light & Shadow discusses the process of organizing and managing their shoots for an upcoming nature documentary.

Head of Production Petra Löttker and Assistant Producer Jozef Kaut explain how they utilized Yamdu's resource planner and production calendar to organize their upcoming project.

Petra Löttker - Head of Production at Light & Shadow

Key takeaway

"[Yamdu] makes production planning entertaining and so much nicer than working with an ordinary Excel sheet. Everything is in one system and it’s connected, so if you shift things around, all the other parts of production will move along with it."

Petra Löttker Head of Production at Light & Shadow

Could you both start by describing your roles in the company?

Petra: I am the Head of Production at Light & Shadow, and I’m responsible for the whole planning aspect of the series or any projects we have going on, from pre-production to post. My main role is to make sure that everything runs smoothly. So I’ll stick close to the time frame and budget that we have and adapt the schedule according to the needs of the production.

Professionally, I am a biologist, so I can contact the right researchers who will cooperate with us during filming. So I’ll take care of contacting them, organizing the shoots, and getting everything ready from the ground up.

Jozef: And I am an Assistant Producer, and I would describe my role as the link between our CEO, Christian Baumeister, and Petra. Typically, Christian will have a creative vision for a project, and I will be responsible for proposing a script, shot lists, and coming up with exciting stories that we can film. After his approval, I’ll go to Petra with all the material so that she can start researching where we can film the content, who the experts in the field are, and estimate the project’s duration. Next to that, I work as a director in the field and make sure that we bring our stories home.

Documentary project photo © Light & Shadow.
Documentary project photo © Light & Shadow.

How were things managed prior to Yamdu? Were there any specific tools or management systems that were being used?

Petra: It was all done with an Excel sheet.

And was it convenient for you?

Petra: Excel is a great tool, but it has its limits, and this was especially true regarding resource planning. For us, planning is never secure because we rely a lot on the climate and the behavior of the animals. So we have to shift dates around if breeding gets delayed, or the weather conditions aren't optimal for shooting, and so on.

And with Excel, making such adjustments wasn’t ideal because I would need to do things manually. Since it’s not connected to anything like the call sheets, I would need to move every step manually and then change the dates on the call sheets again separately.

Using Excel is possible for a single film, but on a 6-part series, it's not good for visualizing all the parallel processes in production. When you’re working with several teams at the same time and in different locations simultaneously, it can get hectic and difficult to visualize the full picture.

Yamdu has this shopping cart-like system that makes it easier to see all the overlapping steps in production. I can see when a camera is being used on a shoot or when a cameraman is on holiday. I don’t need to check with different sheets or figure out if everything is possible in my head. Now it’s all in one system.

Jozef: The level of proficiency Petra has with Excel takes a lot of time. So if she were ever sick, there would be a massive problem because no one else in our company would understand how to work with Petra’s Excel sheets. But in Yamdu everything is straightforward. It could be your first day on the job, and you could understand how to adjust things right away.

Production calendar outlining the life of the project.
Production calendar outlining the life of the project.

And how did you find out about Yamdu?

Petra: We were researching for software and then came across Yamdu, so we decided to test it. We compared it with three other systems but liked Yamdu the most for production management.

Jozef Kaut - Assistant Producer at Light & Shadow

Key takeaway

"The biggest thing is that [Yamdu] makes production management accessible for everyone in the team."

Jozef Kaut Assistant Producer at Light & Shadow

Did you find it challenging to get everyone on board after deciding to go with Yamdu?

Jozef: There was some hesitation, but that goes without saying when trying to convince an entire team of a new system.

Petra: But we were able to convince our colleagues because of the excellent support we got from Yamdu. The interaction was going great and that was actually one of the biggest reasons for choosing Yamdu.

We should also mention that our camera assistant really loves it a lot now. He put in all the equipment, created bundles, and attached images to each camera and tripod. It’s really nice because even if you don’t know anything about the equipment, you can see the picture and get an idea of what you need.

An example of resources stored in the company database.
An example of resources stored in the company database.

With a lot of things running simultaneously on this project, how do you plan out the different episodes you are working on?

Jozef: At the moment we do everything in one project–so we’ll use different colors per episode to keep track of all the resources on the production calendar. We shoot the whole series simultaneously and not chronologically, as some things can happen at the same time. So we wanted to have one sheet where we can have all the shots.

Petra: For example, let’s say we need to shoot in Poland for episodes 1 and 6. This way, we could connect the Poland shoots and not have anything be independent of each other. With one project, this made it possible to see all of that.

Would you say that the resource planner is the key to getting the process started? Were there any other tools you integrated during pre-production?

Jozef: Yes, we would start with the resource planning tool, then the production calendar–since that’s how we added the resources to start scheduling everything.

We also used the tasks, call sheets, and locations to track the places we’re planning on using.

Petra: Another aspect of the production calendar is that because I can see all the shoots, it was convenient to update if there were any conflicts in the schedule.

As with the tasks, I did test it out. So whenever there were open questions regarding a shoot, I would create a task as a reminder for our colleagues. Or I would assign tasks directly to a person, e.g. for buying equipment or tools. The task overview page was especially helpful in keeping track of the ones that weren’t solved yet.

Storyboard used by the crew at Light & Shadow.
Storyboard used by the crew at Light & Shadow.

In your perspective, what is the main benefit of Yamdu?

Petra: It's difficult to say in one sentence. But I would say that it makes production planning a game-like process. It’s entertaining and so much nicer than working with an ordinary Excel sheet. Everything is in one system and it’s connected, so if you shift things around, all the other parts of production will move along with it.

It’s also visible, so everybody knows where we are in production; they can enter the system and have a look.

Jozef: For me, the biggest thing is that it makes production management accessible for everyone in the team.

Do you think you will continue using Yamdu in the future?

Petra: Yes, definitely. Once you have it, you don’t want to go back to your old system. And as I mentioned before, because the support is so great, I feel that there is a possibility to develop Yamdu together and see how it grows.

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