Software for tracking project quotes/hours/costs
We're thinking about adding new in-house shooter/editors and we want to be able to have a centralized location for keeping track of hours put into a project, quoted pricing and information, and room to update as we go. If we add new folks it'll be due to a new contact that'll keep everybody hopping at nice pace, and we want to be able to have one place to track all projects and pricing, as well as communicate new info.
For instance, I get a call from Client A and they want blue text in their commercial. I update the project file and leave. The editor opens up the software and sees the note about blue text. Blue text means he has to revise the white text he used yesterday, resulting in two extra hours of work. And all this is tracked.
We've looked at solutions from http://www.centraldesktop.com and http://www.37signals.com but I was wondering what you guys use.
37signals makes great stuff. The only problem with these types of solutions is you have to pay, and pay, and keep paying as long as you want it up and running. Also, what if your network goes down? You lose all ability to get to your project info (as far as I know, but 37signals may have some local backup option or something).
While not the easiest, my studio built our project/time management app using Filemaker Pro. It's pretty easy to do if you understand databases. We can fully customize every detail to our liking, create our own graphic interface that is branded to our studio, and we never have to worry about accessing it because it's served locally and on the internet from our Xserve.
Other VFX shops I've worked for had similar Filemaker Pro setups, it seems pretty common. If you don't want to learn the program or build your own system, there are thousands of freelance FMP designers out there who could whip it together for you in no time.
Every few months on the COW I recommend Basecamp (37signals). I love it. If projects dry up I "archive" them which doesn't count against my quota and drop to the cheapest tier. If I need to re-enact a project beyond the three I pay more then, but only then. Works for me. The software is kind of amazing. I even use their simple word processor to write scripts; producers in the field can access it, make changes which are tracked, and voice guys access the same script from wherever, and drop MP3 files using the integrated FTP which is really simple and easy to track.
A big problem is the timetracking; something about it doesn't work for my line our work (post) It was easy to track hours by person but not by job... something like that.
I've heard of someone using the free Palm Desktop to book his edit suites. It might have been here on the COW too. Each room is a Palm "category". This solution sounded just brilliant and free.
Finally, as Brendan suggested already, most guys use Filemaker. I've set up Filemaker databases for tapes and simple bookings but it gets confusing kinda fast. You need a dedicated office manager person to keep it running smoothly and without being boxed in. He's right you can change EVERYTHING which is good or bad depending on your POV.
Discrete Editors COW Leader
http://www.dolish.com - http://www.digitalimagefest.com
I've been building and using my own timeclock program in PHP and MySQL for the past year. It can track hours worked, expenses, add tax, and generate invoices. It's capable of handling multiple projects per client, and keeping track of hours for different individuals within the company. It's got a couple different interfaces, so clients can see how many hours have been spent on a project, when, where, and by whom, and I can clock in and out and check on totals from my cell phone.
I am not by nature a particularly organized or detail-focused person, so it's been a great tool to help me easily keep track of my time. In my spare time, I've been polishing it so someone else might be able to use it more easily -- actually, there's a lawyer in my area that's interested in using it for his business, so I'm setting a deadline for myself for the end of the month to have something that's user-friendly to someone other than myself.
Is there anyone that would be interested in helping me beta-test my system? It's been useful for my needs, but I just don't have enough business experience to know what other people would need in a system like this, but I think it's something that could be useful to small outfits. Email me if you're interested.