Going Digital on Set

Going Digital on Set


Photo Source: Creative Commons Flickr

Computers, cell phones and tablets are readily available and already used for the bulk of daily communication. So, why are many film and television productions still using paper copies to communicate on set? Does paper, as a physical entity, still hold its traditional allure? Or, is the production industry ready to make the jump into fully digital production?

To answer these questions we sat down with Entertainment Partners’, George Hrico, Scenechronize® Product Implementation Specialist, and Darren Ehlers, SVP of Products, to discuss the status of digital production and learn a bit more about how production technology can be used to support on-set environmental, financial, security and efficiency initiatives.

The Four Advantages of Going Digital…

  1. Reduced Waste

With experience working on the sets of The Amazing Spider Man, Star Trek Into Darkness and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, among others, Hrico knew what to expect when it came time to circulate paper copies – “If 100 paper copies were made, ten would actually be picked up, and at the end of the day, they would all be in the closest waste bin,” Hrico told us.

The advantage of moving to secure cloud storage is that documents can still be distributed to all intended recipients without necessarily printing copies for everybody. With Scenechronize, as with other digital production programs, the potential to print a page still exists; nevertheless, the paper that is printed is actually used, massively reducing paper waste.

  1. Reduced Cost

Between start packets, one liners and call sheets, the reams of paper, ink and labor costs of distribution add up quickly on a production set. One opportunity for significantly reducing paper use and associated costs is the production start pack. Averaging 30-45 pages long and requiring distribution to all 600 or so crewmembers for a large production, the physical resources required to onboard a production crew are quite significant. Add in the process of discerning employee chicken scratch and scanning copies for each crewmember, and the whole process can take hours of labor, dozens of ink cartridges and multiple reams of paper.

Leading the industry, Universal Pictures and the NBCU Television Production Group, partnered with entertainment payroll companies to develop new, entirely digital onboarding systems. Collectively, the businesses produce 85 shows annually, onboarding approximately 50,000 freelance hires per year. With their new digital start pack system in place, the studio estimates on-set paper use will be reduced by more than 1,000,000 sheets per year.[i]  Those are serious financial AND environmental savings.

  1. Increased Security

In a world of printed copies it is difficult to keep an eye on every single page of a confidential script or document; however, with Production Office Automation (POA) watermarking technology and closed-loop security downloads, we can now manage user access and track printed and downloaded documents, adding accountability and transparency to confidential information management.

Finally, with digital payroll enrollment, personal information is instantly loaded into secure servers, avoiding the messy process of boxing, trucking, scanning and shredding the personal information of production crewmembers.

  1. Instant Access to Current Documents

With 24/7 document access via web-enabled devices and real-time updates and annotations, turning to a digital production tool reduces confusion caused by outdated materials and eliminates the need to transport cumbersome folders and binders.

This sounds great, but HOW do we go digital?

Photo Source: Entertainment Partners

Photo Source: Entertainment Partners

According to Hrico, “The most successful adoption of digital production applications and low-paper directives come from the top, down.” With a low-paper or digital directive in hand, the process of onboarding and setting the production expectation for limiting paper use and going digital has a much higher success rate.

While the idea of relying on a mobile device and digital application for all set communication may seem daunting, the best way to learn the ins-and-outs of digital production is to dive in and try. Nowadays the applications used for film and television production, including Entertainment PartnersScenechronize® and Studio Hub platforms as well as applications developed by Sync OnSet, Cast & Crew, Studio Binder and Scriptopia are all very intuitive and easy to use. Additionally, each one has available training programs and online tutorials.

The Future of Production is Digital

With the digital product support in place, Hrico’s assurance that “at the end of the day it is going to make life easier and our information safer” reflects the majority opinion of studios currently using digital production applications.

“This is the future, this is the direction the industry is moving in, paper will be a thing of the past in a few years.” – George Hrico, Scenechronize® Product Implementation Specialist

The advantage of putting scripts, call sheets and one liners in a secure cloud storage server and granting access to production documents anytime, anywhere is undeniable. “This is the future, this is the way the world is going, paper is not going to be a thing on set in a couple years,” George Hrico reiterated to us as we closed out our interview.

Looking at the seamless application interfaces, reductions in paper use, decreased cost and increased security capabilities of the new wave of digital production tools and applications, we can’t help but agree.


[i] Motion Picture Association of America. MPAA Member Studios Collectively Prevented More Than 19,000

Tons of Studio Sets and Other Solid Waste from Entering Landfills in 2014, Representing a Record High 75.5% Diversion Rate, 22 April 2015. Web. 11 Aug. 2015.