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I define Logistics as "all the stuff you have to do in order to be able to do what you have to do."

Yes, working in production is not just about showing up on time, getting your shots and meeting deadlines. In many cases, it is also about planning for what comes next. Sometimes this simply means having a conference call with the crew, the talent and the client and setting times to arrive on location and to manage everyones' expectations for the project.

But sometimes, and with increasing frequency, planning involves a lot more than simply times and locations. Here are a few examples:

Live Webcast

In our world, a live video webcast or point to point video conference could be a surgery or it could be someone giving a powerpoint lecture. In either case you have to first evaluate the connectivity options. Does the source of the signal actually have the means to transmit? Does the receiving end have the ability to receive? If it is an individual at a web browser, do not assume that everyone has Flash or Silverlight or Firefox or whatever. Don't even assume there are speakers attached to a computer in a corporate setting. We production folks take for granted these simple things, but a computer designed for data entry on a network of 2000 computers might have difficulty accessing a live stream of video and audio. Likewise, the receive end could be a conference center or hotel meeting room. In my experience, video conferencing is not a standard capability at even the most well-equipped conference centers. But there is usually a vendor within a few hours' drive, unless you are in some out of the way place like Cleveland. Sorry Cleveland, could just as well be Little Rock, Boise, Birmingham or Austin. Well, probably not Austin.

Next, if either the source or the receive end do not have existing connectivity, they pray you have enough time to arrange for it. Does the hotel have ISDN or T1 lines available? Does the source have the ability to transmit either type of signal or do you need a bridge? If neither site has connectivity, can we send a vendor into both locations? Can I get an ISDN line dropped into the room in time? Is Verizon or Comcast going to be able to do it on my schedule? What about IT in both locations? Chances are they do not know about the event and may not even know who it the right person in their department to address this? I once was part of a distribution list of at least 50 people trying to arrange a conference call just to find out who needed to be involved. As it turned out, the call was at 4pm on Good Friday, so only about 5 people actually dialed in, and we managed to figure out whose job it actually was. In the end, we got all the ducks in a row and we made everything quack!

Generic Hospital Video Shoot

We have been in and out of enough hospitals to know what we need to do to get in and out easily - or at least as easily as possible. Do we need immunization records? Usually. Do we need a location agreement? Sometimes. Does security, public relations or the vendor management office need to know what we are doing? Varies. We used to have to allow time to get our equipment checked by biomedical engineering. Back in the day we sometimes had voltage leaks on the BetaSP power supplies and we needed a ground lifter. Nowadays cameras are battery operated so we have an easier time. But that does not change the fact that we are hanging video cameras over open abdomens - we need to make sure the nurses are comfortable with what we are doing. And nurses are the gatekeepers in the hospital - be nice to your nurses!

Occasional Crazy Situation

On a few occasions we have shot multiple cameras in mass casualty disaster drills. As far as logistics go, all bets are off. We need to know precisely where to be and when and we can't stop what people are doing to ask them what happens next. If the helicopter is landing on the roof we'd better be there. If the fire department is hosing people down in the decontamination tent we had better capture it, and be upwind of the water! If we are shooting a motor vehicle crash victim extrication drill in a remote roadside location we had better make sure there is a generator available if we need it. You don't want to be unplugging the Jaws of Life if you need to charge your batteries. Today's Lithium Ion batteries have solved this pesky problem, but once upon a time this was the case.

When planning all the logistics for a shoot or other event, it can feel like everything is an urgent emergency. It isn't, but it feels that way because it is urgent for all involved. Or likely, it is urgent for some of the people involved but not the few who should be acting with a sense of urgency. This is your job as a manager - to maintain your cool and get the job done (because all of this has happened before and it will all happen again). Because of your experience in logistics before a big event, you know there is a 99% chance everything will work out. It's that 1% that seems like the end of the world at times, but that's just part of the process.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 1, 2010 at 3:25:39 pm pre-production, logistics, planning ahead

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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