yes we can
Our de facto tagline, “Yeah… we can do that,” came about during many months of conversations last year about rebranding the company. We were looking for something to sort of replace the “specialists” tag on a previous iteration of the CVWmedia logo—a little extra piece that further explains who we are. Here’s a deeper dive into how we embody, “Yeah… we can do that.”
When I came on board in 2010 as CVWmedia’s first-ever full-time project manager, I was tasked with organizing a knowledgeable, expanding team, where each editor had overall different capabilities and areas of interest. They were also largely responsible for the communication and management of their own projects (a practice that, for the most part, they let me wrest away with little to no resistance).
As I learned the ropes and saw what kinds of projects we did most frequently, which ones caused the most headaches, and what we were most confident or best at, I developed a philosophy that became the precursor to “Yeah… we can do that.” It started with me being unable to really manage a project if I didn’t know how it worked, and us as a whole being unaware of and unable to tap into other resources on our team due to the pace, volume, and client-specific specialization of our work. A team-oriented company can’t reliably provide something to clients if only one person on the team understands what that something is.
The first step in overhauling our mindset was to get a bird’s-eye view of every moving part. For that to happen, every person on CVW’s team had to be able to tell me what they did—from how they talked about it to our clients to what their first, second, final steps were in production. This process took a long time and was fraught with misunderstanding and a million questions asked and answered, but eventually the pieces came together.
Then onto documentation: We scrapped our printed reference manuals in favor of an easily searchable CVWmedia company wiki. (If a piano falls on me tomorrow, the wiki will be my legacy.) We still maintain and use it frequently, and it contains everything from phone extensions to client preferences, standard project setup and render instructions, and a deep well of troubleshooting information so nobody wastes time fumbling with the same problem twice.
Can’t remember how to archive your old e-mails? It’s in the wiki.
Smell something weird in the basement and want to know what it could be? That, unfortunately, is also in the wiki.
From there, we worked on leveling the skillset playing field. The employment heavens blessed us with our Technical Director, Micah, whose previous job teaching at a digital media institute made him invaluable in terms of cross-training. A preternaturally talented problem-solver, Micah’s bread and butter is figuring out the “how” of things, and he’s highly capable of breaking things down into manageable steps…and then, critically, relaying those steps to others. He’s taken the lead on a lot of production team issues, but especially training.
In practice, to further emphasize the “we” in “we can do that,” CVW spends considerable time making sure each person on our team is on board and moving in the same direction together. This manifests in a few ways:
Our strict workflow rules:
We have a pretty clear-cut framework for how to do almost any type of project. File naming conventions, archive formats, how to organize After Effects layers—we all do all these things the same way. These practices are probably the most difficult learning curve for new employees, but they also mean that at any point in the lifespan of a project, any editor on our team can step in and take over if needed. From a scheduling perspective, this makes things feel less like juggling and a lot more like putting things in their right place. From a production perspective, it means no one person ever has to take the lion’s share of work during a busy time.
Our research and development process:
Idea for a new artistic style, piece of software, or animation method → Independent research → Independent practice → Establish a workflow → Teach everyone else what you learned!
On top of all the general services we offer, our team is diverse in personal styles and interests. When someone hits a creative or technical wall, we know where to go for the assist. If the problem is audio processing-related, we have a couple people who excel beyond the basics in that department. Same goes for 3-D, videography, print design, IT, or just having someone willing to come in and make dramatic changes or decisions about a project.
As a tagline, “Yeah… we can do that” doesn’t stem from the breakdown of all these things but from what they’ve meant to us when confronted with a challenge. Just in the past few years, we’ve taken on so many new types of work, whether self-imposed or at the request of our clients: complex character animation, daredevil drone videography, highly experimental video editing, 3-D projection videos for basketball courts…the list goes on. Our foundation is strong because each person here has enough knowledge to help everyone else here in a myriad of ways, and that makes every new thing that comes our way seem far less daunting to someone who knows they’re not taking on a challenge alone.
So odds are, if you have an idea for a project but don’t see it in our portfolio, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask if we can do that type of work. I bet I know what we’ll say.