From Script to Screen: Empowering Production with Technology
Netflix has changed in a lot of ways since it launched over 20 years ago, and it has also brought change to the very way stories come to life. As Netflix has evolved to become a global producer of entertainment, we’ve also become responsible for the end-to-end process of story creation. Production is a complex and sophisticated business, but the process has not utilized technology to the extent that many other industries have to enable innovation, collaboration and communication. For Netflix, we have a unique challenge when producing in dozens of countries around the world and at a growing scale -- with tens of thousands of production personnel creating entertainment for and on behalf of Netflix. We have been exploring this problem for the past two years and are excited about the opportunities we see to shape the intersection of technology and production.
One focus of this effort has been an initiative called Prodicle. At its core, Prodicle puts a variety of production application technologies into the hands of our freelance production crew. By creating this foundational environment, we’re able to leverage existing technologies (like Google’s G-Suite) to collaborate with our productions in real-time. Furthermore, we’re able to introduce new technologies that reshape the fundamentals of production planning and logistics. For example, here’s a look at our first progressive web application called Prodicle Move.
Move seeks to answer one simple question: “What is happening on set right now?” We want to put that information into the hands of every user, using a mobile app that showcases key shooting data. The concept in and of itself is not groundbreaking, but the prospects of taking information once found only in emails and PDFs and centralizing it in real-time, opens up countless possibilities for efficiency across the production and back at the studio.
We’ve been piloting Move for several months on a few of our biggest productions. Our partners on GLOW and A Series of Unfortunate Events are just a couple of examples who have been amazing in their willingness to change keys areas of their workflow to try something new. Within weeks of piloting the software and collecting feedback, our agile engineering teams were able to turn that feedback into new features which created a solid feedback loop for development. It’s the ideal partnership that we will continue to learn from and build upon.
Historically, the 'business' of filmmaking is arduous, complex and layered with countless forms of inefficiency. Think about it: hundreds of people who may have never worked together before gather in new places around the world and spend millions of dollars on the basis of a single idea. For productions that include multiple global locations, this adds an additional layer of organized chaos with travel, time zones, multicultural business practices, etc. This appetite for flexibility gives immense freedom to the creative while simultaneously burdening the production in compounding organizational processes. Filmmaking as an art form must be encouraged and preserved, and improving the operational elements that support that art are an important element of that effort. Why? It eases the burden of operational processes and empowers our crew to spend more time contributing as creative experts.
Many of the rudimentary processes of any business are prevalent in the production space. People management, facility/vendor relations, planning and logistics, global communication, safety and security are all core fundamental business needs included within the business of content creation. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the production environment, these needs have been underserved by modern technology. Having recognized the need, several software houses have attempted to solve for the production market. However, these solutions are not robust, nor modular enough, to fulfill the needs across our content variables. At Netflix, the nice-to-have benefits of software become the need-to-haves at scale. We seek to support production software growth by being an advocate for this challenging, yet necessary, change.
We strive to support three key personnel initiatives: time, empowerment, and impact. Time: everyone’s personal currency. Empowerment: the feeling of significant contribution. Impact: the results of that contribution via time well-spent.
We are focused on leveraging the power of technology to enable our creative partners and strip away the tactical burdens of managing productions at scale for the artists and the crew. Empowering people to do their best work while working on a Netflix project is something we are passionate about and we believe technology, paired with great creative talent, will help us get there.
The challenges we face are many. Adoption will not come easy as we tackle an environment steeped in legacy dependencies. We believe success is dependent on finding and developing solutions that equally benefit the production and studio environments. The partnership between Netflix, the tech community, and the entertainment production community is key.
Follow our tech blog for future posts and more details regarding our development efforts and our forthcoming tactical strategy to bring technology into the production and studio environments.
Chris Goss is director of studio technology at Netflix
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