Lina Johansson

Senior Designer

CommonMarker

Product Development

Overview

CommonMarker is a productivity tool for film crews. They are a secure, easy-to-navigate platform keeping film professional’s information seamlessly organized all in one place. Their technology focus is asset management, IP security, and leveraging analytics giving crews better oversight and feedback. Using the IoT devices used on set (lighting and camera equipment, etc), they will track all assets through the whole production process.

The Challenge

To anyone familiar with film production, they know when visiting any set and you’ll find all the production materials manually printed and distributed via paper. This includes scripts, shooting order, schedule updates, reports, hiring information, to name a few. A typical filming day will see a constant flow of changes resulting in the previous paper copy quickly becoming obsolete.

The biggest frustration plaguing film crews are communication breakdowns. These breakdowns haunt every production from the smallest indie to the latest Marvel blockbuster. Crews work in extreme locations from remote deserts, and jungles, to big studio sound stages with no wifi. That is why they still rely on Xerox copies. These setbacks cost time and money at all levels, and if communication lags, the entire project falls behind.

Design needs:

  • Easy to use
  • Layering information - surfacing only what is needed
  • Distribute documents to industry standard
  • Manage a ton of data seamlessly

The Solution

How do you design a platform that keeps up with people who need to move fast? Looking at other production management platforms - they all had the same shortcomings. They have been clunky, dependent on the cloud, hard to use and get in the way of people’s workflow. This is why the majority of the Industry has stayed with their tried and true method of formatting MS Excel or Google Sheets to make their production documents.

The goal was to design a platform to help your workflow, not get in the way of it. I eliminated redundant input fields and tedious (mouse) clicks making the information accessible from one dashboard. Eliminating as many friction points as possible makes the platform less draining to use. I was inspired by emergency management where only the most important information is displayed first. That is how the split-screen dashboard was born. To me, it was the most effective way to give a large picture overview while offering more detail to any portion the user chooses to click on.

The Process

The process involved beginning with sketches, and high fidelity wire-frames. This helped the development shop hired to spec out the features and functionality needed. We decided to focus on the two documents that the Production Department generates every day of filming; a callsheet and a production report. As a bonus, we decided to include a crew list so we could distribute all of the information easily to everyone on set. After designing the visual high-fidelity designs we did rounds of user testing. Inviting in film professionals to use the image-linked prototype. From the feedback we received, we were able to fine-tune the user experience to make it easier to use. Our biggest pivot was moving away from separate dashboards for call sheets and reports - and it became simply your filming day. Code development started officially on May 29th, 2018.

The Takeaways

What I find most exciting about CommonMarker is the potential to change the way people make content. Not just to lessening material overhead but also reducing excessively long work-days. How a film production is managed determines what kind of work-life balance you (the crew) have throughout that project. If poorly managed, it often results in long work hours, additional filming days and more stress.

The average $50 million budget feature produce 4,000 metric ton of CO2. There are multiple benefits of using online production management, with mobile efficiency potentially saving 1,500 hours on an average feature. Not only will the trees be happy, but it is keeping productions on time and on budget. The design of the platform helps eliminate redundant data entry, using our database to calculate and track crew hours, filming minutes, pages etc. Tasks that computers are excellent at doing, eliminating human inaccuracy and miscalculations.