In the following I will often use the terminology of visual effects. This is because the specific case study that I am thinking about (but usually not mentioned) often involved a "visual effects" like project, if not actually visual effects. I refer to "shots" where a shot is distinct quantifiable unit of film which is to be cut into the movie. Visual effects is bid and scheduled around this concept but other projects are more all-inclusive. A game is likely to be considered "just one thing" and not a bunch of separate but related elements, but even then one will still have discrete deliverable elements, approvals, deadlines for art direction, and so forth.
Perhaps the most important of these ideas, and the one that was the hardest to learn, is the first, what I comically number "zero". It is as follows:
0. No R&D on a production project.
The early days of computer animation were rife with this sort of problem. The whole process was R&D so how could you not do R&D on a project? Well, we learned that one the hard way. It will be the subject of another essay. Some of the lessons learned are as follows.
Do your programming ahead of time. Do your tests. Work with your client to define a project based on those tests, not based on your belief of what it can be. People imagine different things even though the words are the same. Work with your clients to develop a look and then, using that look, bid and schedule a project. Nothing major in the realm of the unknown should be attempted on a production schedule. Ever. Period. No way. Not unless you are the client, and maybe not even then depending on how crazy a client you are.
14. The first dinosaur may be 90 percent of the work.
This aphorism refers to the unfortunate situation whereby the work necessary to get the first dinosaur approved, its look, how it moves, and so forth, may be most of the work of getting many shots with that dinosaur done. In other words, you have to put a tremendous effort into getting the first shot, but then the other shots will be routine. This is very hard for some clients to understand or accept and even experienced clients may suffer from some anxiety because of this. But the phenomenon is real and it requires special scheduling, effort and management.