Movielabs Case Study: Transforming Pre-Production in the Cloud with Yamdu

Rote Rosen, one of Europe's most successful telenovelas, transfers its script and product management to the cloud.

Movielabs is a research and development venture founded by the major Hollywood studios to find innovative solutions for the film industry's challenges. The group's Vision 2030 plan is a bold technology roadmap for the adoption of new technologies to aid content production.

Since 2022, Movielabs has been publishing examples showing the implementation of parts of Vision 2030. During the Hollywood Professional Association's Tech Retreat, a new case study was presented to the public, which shows how the web application Yamdu transformed telenovela Rote Rosen's script and production management in the cloud.

The production company responsible for Rote Rosen, Studio Hamburg Serienwerft (SHSW), introduced Yamdu in 2020 to boost the digital transformation of its production processes. Since 2023, it can even use Yamdu to develop very complex scripts. Consequently, Yamdu served as the cloud-based center of production workflows from development to actual production.

1. Why Rote Rosen Wanted the Cloud

A daily program requires a factory-like production approach. More than 120 crew members and 80 actors and actresses shoot a 45-minute episode very day, five days a week, which corresponds to one shooting block. While the main storylines are conceived before each season, 40 scriptwriters have to deliver all episodes of a block each week with three weeks' notice for filming preparation. Production of the other shooting blocks naturally continues simultaneously.

Before the introduction of Yamdu, the writers wrote individual episodes in either Microsoft Word or Cast & Crew's Final Draft and exchanged their drafts and scripts via email. This was necessary each time a change was made. Only after approval, the finished PDF file of the script was emailed to the creative departments (costume design, set design, make-up, etc.), the assistant director and all other recipients.

The individual departments then created their script excerpts using Excel or Word templates. The assistant director used a specially developed program to enter scenes and all the necessary details for the shooting schedule. The second assistant director or a coordination office then used Microsoft Word to manually derive daily schedules from the shoot planning data and send them to the staff and cast via email.

The casting section of the Yamdu project.
The casting section of the Yamdu project.

In reality, however, neither scripts nor shooting schedules are ever final. In fact, the shooting schedule for each location is regularly updated once or twice a day. Up to now, every new update triggered the resending of the PDF files, which had to be created manually. Unsurprisingly, this process involved a lot of work and tied up a significant volume of work that was actually intended for other creative or administrative tasks. The error-prone nature of the process was also a headache.

Like any good "factory owner", Managing Director Jan Diepers and his Production Manager Kai Pegel were looking for a more efficient way to manage their large-scale production. Together with Yamdu, they came up with a new assembly line to completely redesign the familiar process.

2. Optimizing Workflows with Yamdu

Diepers and his colleagues envisioned an optimized process in which everyone works on a single cloud platform, bringing authors and departments closer together. The aim was to eliminate the need to print anything out and to break down the data silos of the individual departments in order to work more efficiently and reduce the susceptibility to errors, particularly in communication.

Yamdu provides a central storage location for all production data. In particular, for the script, the breakdowns of the individual departments and the production planning data.

First AD Eberhard Grün uses Yamdu’s shooting scheduling to plan a shooting block.
First AD Eberhard Grün uses Yamdu’s shooting scheduling to plan a shooting block.

A key objective in the development of Yamdu was accessibility for all employees in the film industry - regardless of their experience in using technical aids. Yamdu was therefore developed as a browser application, so that no software needs to be installed. Thanks to its responsive user interface, it can be used on all devices with a modern browser.

On their home screen, Red Roses project members see a general overview of what's new in the project and upcoming tasks. Everyone only sees the areas of the application that are required for their respective role in the project. For example, department members from costume or make-up and hair can see most (but not all) information about characters and actors and actresses, while someone from set design can access all information about sets and locations. Yamdu also points out changes and conflicts that need to be dealt with.

The individual departments provide data on a single cloud platform, ensuring consistency across all narrative elements.

At the end of 2023, the final piece of the puzzle of the production company's major goal became a reality when the authors of the series also switched to Yamdu. This also meant that the start of the production process was mapped directly in the cloud for the first time, without having to take the detour via a final draft import.

All blocks, episodes and scenes can therefore be created and written in the cloud for the first time, meaning that all artifacts such as props or motifs can be used again and again. Treatments and scripts can be commented on and immediately revised collaboratively. Instead of being sent by email, scripts are now made available in Yamdu on an ongoing basis, which means that the entire staff can work with the latest version immediately whenever changes are made.

Sabrina Hömberg and her colleague from the art department tag scripts in Yamdu.
Sabrina Hömberg and her colleague from the art department tag scripts in Yamdu.

Although script versioning is handled by Yamdu, the process is flexible enough to still allow writers to work with Final Draft, for example if there is no internet connection available when writing. When a new version of Final Draft is imported into Yamdu, all departments can start working on the excerpts immediately.

However, changes can still be made in Yamdu's extensive editor and can even be exported to Final Draft. The FDX export contains all versions and changes to the script, as well as the marked elements of the excerpts from Yamdu. For example, images can be split into several sub-images for planning reasons (e.g. 2A, 2B, 2C) or names of the same object can be merged under different names (e.g. if the train station and the main station are identical).

Authors can now obtain sets or roles from the same library as all creative departments or the scheduling department. The system also provides statistics that can be used to ensure that the most important resources are used as efficiently as possible. This is the only way several units can simultaneously shoot up to 28 scenes a day.

Changes to objects automatically trigger notifications. For example, all staff members are notified when the shooting schedule changes and their data, such as day-out-of-days reports, are updated at the same time. As a result, the set designer, for example, not only sees all the motifs and locations, but also the props that are required for a particular combination of motif, image and shooting day.

These examples showcase how Yamdu is dedicated to providing an innovative workflow to help enact the many changes the Vision 2030 plan envisages in the industry.