I recently had to jump head first from a cliff to escape a T-Rex. I am on vacation, and I can't stand having nothing to do, so, I decided to run a little vacation project. Because I am interested in photography, never outgrew my fascination with dinosaurs, and read the occasional comic, I decided on a Lost World photo comic project.
If you are into management, I highly recommend running a non-profit, all volonteer project now and then. Because people won't get paid in coin, you have to do something else: You have to make it interesting and educational.
You also have to find the right people: People who share your interests. Preferably people who get a bit obsessed when they are doing something interesting. They need to be creative, and learners willing to try new things. Oh, and they have to be able to work well together.
The Plan: The Lost World
|Running from dinosaurs|
When I was a child I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World (Wikipedia article) about an expedition that finds dinosaurs on an isolated mountain plateau in South america.
Doyle's book spawned an entire literary genre. Edgar Burroughs (Pelucidar), Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and many others have written Lost World genre books. Doyles's book has been filmed eight times, directors who have made genre movies include Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park) and Peter Jackson (King Kong).
Writing a Lost world book would not be original enough. Making a movie would be fun, but also much too expensive. There was however another option.
One of my little hobbies, is photography. My idea was to make a Lost world photo comic. I knew it would be possible to accomplish this with a very small budget.
Putting the team together
|Team members clockwise from the left: Petra Brewitz, Petri Olderhvit, Jesper Andersson, and Robert Johannesson. Not in the photo: Marie Eriksson and Lennart Guldbrandsson.|
For this project I knew I would need help. I needed to put together a team of dedicated people, willing to do a lost world project just for the fun of it.
I have spent about eight months building a loosely coupled network of photographers. When I come up with one of my over-the-top photography projects, this is where I go to recruit.
Anyone in the network can initiate any kind of event, ranging from having lunch, to launching a major project. Of course, most members are not interested in the more advanced, and time consuming projects, but with 120 members, we do have a pretty good base to recruit from.
Thus, recruiting for the project was pretty easy. I wrote a one page proposal, and published it in our Facebook group.
I also put the ad out in a couple of other forums. While a few people responded and joined, when it came down to the crunch, the people showing up where already members of the photography network. The exceptions are Lennart and Marie. Lennart is an old friend, and Marie just happened to be in a café where we held a meeting. She was interested in the project, and joined up.
Prestudy and planning
We did not have the budget, nor the time, for a Hollywood movie quality project. I decided to simplify a bit. I would have liked to go with 3D dinosaurs, but we simply did not have the prerequisite 3D modelling skills.
Instead, I opted for a much simpler solution: Toy dinosaurs. The toy manufacturer Schlecht makes a line of very realistic dinosaurs. we could use them, and use digital composition to make people and dinosaurs interact.
Good as they are, close up the Schlecht dinosaurs are not quite photo realistic. It is possible to fix this by digitally adding skin, but it is very time consuming. Also, compositing people into a miniature set, or a miniature into a full scale set, is difficult and time consuming.
A simpler solution is to change the viewers expectations: A photo is expected to be realistic, but a drawing is not. Converting a photo into a drawing is a quick and easy process, so that is the route I decided to go.
Even with this simplification, we'd have plenty of challenges.
Lots of planning, but very little scheduling
|After each session, I update the panels we have shot. When all panels are done, the project is done!|
For a project like this, a plan is indispensable. A long term schedule, on the other hand, is not. There is a lot of uncertainty in a project like this, and this makes long term scheduling inappropriate.
Instead, I made a plan: I layouted the entire story, as a comic, with empty panels, and brief descriptions of what was to go into each panel. I also scripted the dialogue.
This gave us a framework to work with. It also gave us a lot of flexibility. If something changes, adapting the outline is quick and easy.
We do have to schedule photo sessions, of course, but these are scheduled with rather short notice. We use a Facebook chat to discuss scheduling and other topics, and then schedule an event when we are as certain we can be that everyone needed will be able to attend.
If you are familiar with agile planning methods, you will recognize the similarities.
So far, so good!
|After each major session, I put together a collage. I publish the collage in the photography group. The purpose is dual: It keeps everyone informed that the project is progressing, and it may entice more people into joining future projects.|
As of now, we have had six photo sessions, and we are more than half-way through the project. There is a lot of photo editing and compositing work to be done, but that is no problem. The priority is to get the principal photography done.
The project has begun to attract some attention, from dinosaur buffs, photographers, and also from the IHM Business School in Gothenburg. I blogged about the project there, and they asked for pictures to publish, which I of course sent them.
I still have a bit of vacation left, so now it is back to the project for me.
Be seeing you!
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