Scheduling, calendaring and staffing at Architex - it’s all about the software.
As a technical design and management company, project management is a key component to every job we do. For every event and client, we create a detailed production calendar with internal and external deadlines, keeping us all on the same page throughout every step of the process. Whether we’re producing a film shoot, a virtual conference, or a full in-person festival, comprehensive schedules and clear communication with clients and crew are essential. Enter Propared.
Propared is a management platform that, unlike many generic project management systems, is designed specifically for the scheduling and planning of live events. It specializes in granular, complex scheduling, and an ease of sharing information that we haven't seen in any other software platform. As a company, Architex has used Propared to create production and crew schedules for five years. It was a key piece of our production planning toolkit for a multi-venue, multi-day event in LA in 2019. As a stage manager, I’ve been using Propared since Beta-testing it as a college student in 2009. In my experience, it is the most simple, streamlined, and customize-able way to create production calendars. Here’s how we use it:
EVENT PLANNING & PROJECT MANAGEMENT
After a decade in the event industry, we have all learned that there are some constants for each event. Nearly every production requires a budget, run of show, crew calls, and cue sheets, amongst other unique assets. These elements may differ in size and scope for every event, but the basic structure and purpose remains. Architex starts planning for an event by building out our Production Calendar Template. This template includes basic milestones and deadlines and serves as a guide in the initial steps of creating an event’s production calendar. For our purposes, we have created the template as its own project in Propared and have set all milestones in the past so they do not appear on current calendars.
After duplicating the template, we build a project timeline custom to each event. Some may have a graphic design component, so we add a timeline for design versions and revisions. Others may have a pre-event film shoot, followed by video editing and creating sizzle reels or award packages. Often our production calendars have a robust revision process, as many events have multiple stakeholders that need to see and approve all assets weeks before the event itself. Whatever the case, Architex creates a custom production schedule weeks, months, or even years out to fit each project, by adding deadlines and milestones to the Timeline.
We customize each calendar to the event or client we are working with the same way we would if we were creating the calendars from scratch in Google Docs or Excel. The Architex team holds ourselves to a high standard of professionalism in project management, and we want our products to look the part. Propared makes this easy with a simple base design in a variety of colors to choose from. Once we put together the overall project timeline, we duplicate it twice, creating three identical project timelines that are then pared down to:
Client Responsibilities Ex: Share initial style guide & design concept
ArchiteX Responsibilities Ex. Create Version 1 of Still Graphics
Shared Responsibilities Ex. Scheduled Production Meetings
If there are more companies and stakeholders involved, we will make a separate project for their milestones.
Propared gives you the ability to give each project a long name and a short name, so we tag these divisions in their short names for clarity. We also customize the colors to match the style guide and brand for the event. The final step in this process is to create a production book that combines all three or more timelines, giving us a visually attractive, easy to read production calendars that can be shared with clients and stakeholders, keeping everyone in the loop and on target.
Calendars are shared via a web link, so when changes occur, deadlines shift, or new tasks are added, the production calendar is live and always up to date for our team, crew and clients. Instead of sifting through pages and pages of a document, clients can choose how to view and what to filter by at any time based on their own preferences. Each production calendar also has a subscription link at the bottom, allowing them to be added to a client’s Google Cal, iCals, Outlook and most other personal calendaring systems for even easier access.
This subscription feature is also especially helpful for our internal team. ArchiteX keeps a Crew Calendar production book for internal use that bring in every item from every project tagged with specific tags, e.g.:Film Shoot, Load In, Event, Digital Event, and Load Out. This lets our team see important dates across the board at a glance and incorporate them into our personal calendars:
Propared can also be used for crew scheduling and management. The details of a production schedule can be filtered by location, which keeps sorting labor for in-person conferences and festivals manageable and easy to read. After taking in a simple run of show order from the client, our team creates a clean, shareable schedule, and as we get more information, we will add notes, such as load-in dock details or crew call hours. Crew call information is customizable by individual crew member in Propared. So, despite how many projects we are working on at once, Architex keeps crew bookings organized by sending each crew member their own calendar detailing their bookings. To do this, we create production books that are filtered by crew member name. Very soon, Propared will also function as our crew management booking and labour estimation tool as that feature is developed.
For an upcoming project at the Kennedy Center, we have created an at-a-glance production schedule that shows the span of day for each location onsite. This allows us to begin planning crew calls and identifying areas where we might have tight turnarounds or need to move gear quickly between spaces.
This can be filtered in list view:
As a chart by location:
Or as a daily schedule by location:
Every staff member at Architex has lived the struggle of creating aesthetically pleasing, detailed production calendars from scratch, only to send numerous revisions as the project evolves. Propared’s ease of editing, updating and sharing calendars is fantastic for projects that need to handle quick pivots, last minute changes and surprises- i.e - everything standard in live event production. The philosophy behind Propared’s mission, to support the people and organizations whose life’s work is to bring people together, and adaptive software goes hand in hand with ArchiteX’s ethos of adaptive leadership for event production; it’s no surprise that this software has become integral to our professional process and part of the Architex package.
For more information about Propared, see www.propared.com.