VFX budgeting and scheduling with Google sheets

  Ah the joyous days in our VFX boutique, blowing stuff up left and right, lazy lunches and CG geekery galore! Well sure, there’s that, but to even start on something fun, there’s the unsung adventure of negotiating, budgeting and scheduling a project. From a business perspective, these are in the core of running a VFX business. And while tools like Shotgun help greatly in tracking the current state of a production, preparing accurate offers for potential clients is another major pile of work. And over the course of negotiating a deal, offers need to be made quite often, and not just for prospects that end up signed. Naturally, it’s not work that can be done sloppily – too much is at stake, and offers need to be as accurate as possible both as budget and as schedule, if you want to avoid getting into serious trouble. We felt like there were great benefits in solving all that from a data point of view, and with a bit of work in Google sheets we came up with a template that is quite powerful in preparing accurate bids and schedules quickly.   1   The approach is rooted in two ideas. First – boiling down the decision work to a small number of key decisions and calculate the rest from these. Second – data mine the resulting table for insights, and use these to gain knowledge of the project, and adapt the offer and plans to it.     You can see a video showing the main aspects in the link. The implementation is straightforward and flexible. Manually input the manday rates for each department and manday cost for the typical tasks that the project involves. Then assign some of these tasks to each shot in the project. The cost per task in mandays and price is calculated by looking up at the two tables manually filled out. This results in the ‘Tasks’ sheet containing all the raw data for the offer. From here, we can start with the fun stuff, digging the data up to get some insights. We have included some pivot tables that we found useful, but that’s far from everything that can be done. These are very powerful in actually giving you an idea about everything from the volume of work that needs to be done, to opportunities for discounting prices for often repeated tasks and even hiring needs. A schedule can also be quickly set up, following the same idea of minimal decisionmaking. Set a week number for delivery deadline for each shot and you can easily arrange deadlines within a time window in a visual way that lets you arrange everything to create that elusive reasonable schedule, minimizing conflicts and overloads, and estimate capacity requirements.   2   Eventually, data gets syphoned to two other tables – one for the customer, with a detailed cost breakdown per shot and department, and one for internal use where costs and profits are estimated, giving you the ultimate big picture. We’ve used that template on multiple offers now and it’s given us a significant speed and confidence boost – simply because of the much increased awareness of what we’re getting into. Good stuff! Check it out here:





March 4, 2017 at 1:51 am - Reply

Thanks a lot.. Can i get this template ? TIA.

Ryan Parker

September 22, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

would it be possible to have a copy of this template?


September 27, 2017 at 7:35 pm - Reply

Very Helpful. Thank you for sharing.

swapnil kulkarni

January 7, 2018 at 8:37 am - Reply

This is superb..Cannot thank you enough!

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