In the Leantime…

Mar 30, 2021 | general blog, phungus & mowld

After trying out 3,678 or so project management solutions (and they all sucked in different ways) I finally found something that works for me. I’m using it to produce future episodes of Phungus & Mowld.

Note: I have stopped using Leantime, because installing/updating it was too much of a hassle. Although I love their system, it’s just not for mere mortals to use. I’m back on Notion, although I’m dearly missing burndown charts and now have no idea whether I’ll be completing the next episode in due time…

So now I’m using Leantime which is open source. They offer a cloud hosted and managed version that costs $5/user, or you can just download it and put it on your own server (for free). The great thing is you can also put it on a shared hosting server! (the ultra cheapo solution for running your own websites).

Open Source Has become less Open Recently

I mention this, because nowadays most web based Open Source software either only gives you a Docker image, which means you have to be quite well versed in setting up a server (I wouldn’t know what to do with it, and I used to run my own BSD servers, and hand-configured sendmail back in the day, when computers still ran on steam), or you need full server access in some other way (so usually access to a rather pricey or super geeky hosting solution). That’s a real bummer, because people like me, who aren’t alpha geeks cannot use it – this shit ain’t easy to us! This is a really sad development in my eyes, because it made Open Source software altogether less accessible to mere mortals in recent years. I recall when most web software was usually written in php, ruby, or perl you could just slap the files on your server, create an empty MySQL database, and off you went.

This Is A Lot Of Work, Folks

When some fine day Phungus & Mowld might create some revenue I’d be happy to pay for software that helps me put it together, but for now it’s a hobby and a bit of a money pit.

Phungus & Mowld has so far only produced a revenue of ca. US$ 7 (in words: seven) trough Vimeo and (no kidding) short of 50 cents through Amazon Prime Video streaming, while causing waaaay more cost (the Vimeo On Demand subscription alone is $20/month). But hey, some day I’ll be famous, I’m sure, and Hasbro or Bandai will be happy to mass produce Phungus figures…

Why does a one-man production need project management software?
Are you managing yourself?

You might think “wait, you’re a one-man production, why do you need to manage your project if it’s only you?”. You have no idea how much work it is to put together a 22-minute animation: script writing, narration, concept art, final artwork (backgrounds and props), animation rigs, animation for every scene (there are ca. 25–40 scenes per episode), final editing, then you need to prepare data for streaming/hosting, and finally create a trailer to get the word out – it seems impossible to keep on top of everything, here’s my workload for this week, for example.

14 to-do’s for this week alone – this is stuff I’m doing in my spare time, folks…

Stop Guessing

What I felt right away, when I entered the data for all the to-dos to complete episode 2 was, I finally got a tangible idea about the time frame in which I could be able to produce the episode. Well, my estimates are probably a little to optimistic, but it seems more realistic than my “gut” planning I did in the past (where I was essentially 6 months late to finish the pilot). Moreover, now I can validate my estimates by entering the actual hours I put in, so I’ll be the wiser for episode 3.

If all goes well, episode 2 should be done by the end of May

Looking at the graph above, the concept art didn’t really take me two months to produce, but I got super busy with my job (you know the one that pays the mortgage and stuff), so everything came to a grinding halt for a while, when I also had to work even on weekends.

Leantime gives me a Kanban board, so I can see at a glance where I’m at with the production.

kanban view to get an overview of the state of things

I love the Kanban view, not because everybody does it now, but I started using it with physical cards and cork boards when I was still doing video production around the turn of the millennium – it just feels very intuitive, and it’s very visual. As a designer I prefer this way of organizing my work to tables & lists.

A real kanban for video editing with a whole team (2002)

To What Purpose?

Leantime offers useful statistics, like burndown charts for sprints (it’s a way to show how quickly you burn through your to-dos, and you can judge your pace early on). The hour estimates are off the charts, because I haven’t really entered all data yet properly, it’s still a mess.

burndown chart for sprint

This time around I’m trying to achieve three things:

  • Become more systematic in producing each episode
  • Get a clearer picture how many man-hours it actually takes to produce an episode
  • Start creating a production plan/calendar so I have at least a faint idea when season 1 will be eventually complete

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