The Basics of Creating a Workflow

The Basics of Creating a Workflow

This week, we are talking about workflow and why finding one that works is essential to any professional that wants to “get stuff done.” To learn more, we start with Michael Kammes, Director of Technology for Key Code Media, who explains what a good workflow is and how to set one up.


Larry Jordan: In his current role as the director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology and best practices in the digital media communication space. He also has a strange love of codecs, process and workflow. Hello Michael, welcome back.

Michael Kammes: Hi Larry, great to talk to you again.

Larry Jordan: Today we’re focusing on workflow. How would you define what workflow is?

Michael Kammes: Workflow to me would be looking at the process of creating media from conception to distribution, and the steps involved at each point to successfully create and get that media out.

Larry Jordan: Is workflow hardware or is it software, or is it a list of to do points that’s written on the wall?

Michael Kammes: It’s actually even more than that. It’s not only hardware and software, but it’s actually the people who are involved with doing it. Being able to plan out a successful workflow, whether it be production or post production, involves looking at each step of the process and the manpower or person power that you need to complete that task.

Larry Jordan: Why is this so important?

Michael Kammes: I think there’s an inclination, and I think there’s a lot of hardware and software manufacturers that push this, which is “Just use our tool and just create.” I think there’s the immediacy of being able to get results from shooting something or editing something without taking a step back, and saying, “I need to plan everything out, so not only do I have the best product possible, but I do it in the most efficient and cost effective way possible.”

Larry Jordan: I want to stress that point, because I think what happens is, we can get jobs done without ‘a workflow,’ but if we’re charged with getting it done on a deadline, and on a budget, workflow helps us keep it within the budget, and get it done within the timeline. In other words, to be efficient. Is that a true statement from your point of view?

Michael Kammes: I couldn’t like that statement more. What we don’t want to do is step on each other’s toes. We don’t want to retread over the same media we’ve already worked with or steps we’ve already worked with, and we don’t want to have the finger pointing. The more efficient you can be, the more product you can make, and then you can jump onto your next project and continue to make that art, and continue to make that money.

Larry Jordan: Let’s say that we’re setting up or renovating an existing studio. What questions should we be asking that helps us to get answers to this workflow question?

Michael Kammes: It’s a little bit of a cliché term, part of the seven habits, but begin with the end in mind which is where you’re exporting to, where you’re delivering to. Then, once you have that, you can start planning out little nodes, as I call them, nodes of what existing technology you have. Nodes of existing experience or person power to accomplish that, and once you start putting that together, it’s a lot like a puzzle. You can now start filling in the pieces you don’t have that go along with the pieces you do have.

Larry Jordan: One of the concerns that many of us have is technology is changing at such a blinding speed, that we need to make sure that we’re future proofing our decisions. Is it even possible to future proof, and if so, what do we consider to do that?

Michael Kammes: That’s a very tough question because there’s not one single piece of technology that you can buy and say, “Look, in ten years it’s still going to be running as well.” That’s just not rooted in reality. So that’s where consultants come in, folks who see the forest for the trees and also these consultants who are engineers also look at multiple ways to skin the cat. Meaning, if there is a single point of failure in that workflow, is there an engineered way to accomplish that with that workflow having that deficit?

Larry Jordan: So use it like a three year old estimate? If I can get it to last for three years, then consider that the reasonable life of a piece of gear?

Michael Kammes: I mean, if we’re taking a look at the financial aspect of it, most ROI calculations, the return on investment calculations, are usually done over three years. Some stretch to five. But when we’re talking new cameras and new codecs and such, three years is almost an eternity when you’re trying to be bleeding edge with newer formats.

Larry Jordan: You mentioned something I want to come back to, that maybe we need to hire consultants. How do we determine the consultant that we’re hiring actually has a clue what they’re talking about?

Michael Kammes: That’s a real good question. Just like an actor you may hire, or just like a financial person you may hire, you want to see who their client base is. You want to see what they’ve done in the past that can justify. What I love to do is say, “We have a roster of clients we’ve worked with, why don’t you call them, get real world input? Don’t take my marketing BS as gospel. Here are some folks you can call that we’ve helped out, and they’re going to tell you the skinny on that.” I think that’s a very important thing for end clients to do when they’re shopping around looking for intellectual property to hire.

Larry Jordan: Michael, how do you determine what’s a reasonable budget?

Michael Kammes: As I mentioned a few minutes ago, begin with the end in mind. What do you stand to make on the project? I know that’s going to be a very difficult number for some folks to come up with. You know, am I going to sell to distributors? Is it going to go to VOD? But there has to be a, what is the end game in terms of return on the project, and from there you can reverse engineer, but determine how many person hours and man hours it would take to accomplish this, and that whatever’s left over would be for, you know, the technology needed to accomplish this, either buying or renting it.

Larry Jordan: One last question, when should we do this ourselves, and when should we get help?

Michael Kammes: I think before you pick up a pen and write a check for anything, you should be discussing workflow and know what you’re going to do before you even hit record.

Larry Jordan: This all goes back to trying to get good help and people that can give you good advice, which is where Key Code comes in. Where can we go on the web to learn more about the services that Key Code provides?

Michael Kammes: You’ve dropped the name several times, so people can go to or check us out on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll be happy to engage with you.

Larry Jordan: Michael Kammes is the director of technology at Key Code Media. Michael, this has been fun, thank you for your time.

Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure Larry.

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