To my surprise, people responded to an earlier post about process asking to hear about the Big Board, which is the organisational system I use for album recordings. Well, then, okay! Welcome to the Big Board:

Not the Big Bird

(Many of the photos in this post can be clicked upon to enlarge them.)

The Big Board is based somewhat on kanban, an inventory control system based on moving cards around to trigger ordering supplies. In my case, I’m moving post-it tags around to trigger actions and show status. If you look at one implementation of kanban to management of processes, you’ll see something that looks similar – the heijunka box.

The colour codes indicate actions needed. Orange means recording. Yellow means verification and/or adjustment. Blue will mean we’re happy with that individual track. Nothing at all means nothing at all needed; we’re not planning on that instrument on that track.

Since they’re paper tabs, they can carry notes. For example, an orange tag which is scheduled will have the date and artist’s name written on it. An orange or yellow tag in an “other” column could list the relevant instrument(s).

The album side in a little more detail shows ALBUM (in all caps), underneath which are tracks. The next columns are all instrumental parts expected for each track.

Also not the Snuffleupagus

To the right of the album section is the artist section. This is a list of artists, a column showing very general availability, and then their next scheduled date in studio:

And not the Big Band

There is also a corresponding Big Book. The Big Book has pages for each track and each artist. The pages are plastic protector sleeves, into which colour sheets are inserted. The colour sheets for each song page correspond to the tab state of the songs on the Big Board; notes are made either by putting them into the sleeve in front of the colour sheet, or just taping them onto the plastic cover.

Orange means the files are set up, but all recording is needed. Note the album and song title in upper right:

Orange you glad I didn’t make another muppet reference?

Predictably, an orange page has no notes on it. Yellow means, “we have some recording but need more work.” Here’s a yellow page, with a couple of notes attached:

Tweety is a right bastard, he is. Just sayin’.

Blue means “we’re basically done with this.” There will still be mixing changes and tweaks, but the heavy lifting – and all recording – is over. I have no blue pages yet. ^_^

The backs of all the song pages are blue, because I pre-stock all the plastic sleeves with all colours, in order; then it’s just a matter of removing a top layer – first orange, then yellow – as the work progresses. Since they aren’t written upon, they can and should be reused.

Artist pages are green, and each artist on the Big Board has an artist page. This is also for notes. On Ellen’s page, I have a post-it showing mic choices, locations, and distances for her hammer dulcimer. I also took photos, for backup, but I hope not to need them.

Notes about Kermit’s banjo can go on ANY page

I’ve used systems like this before, when I was a small-press publisher. I didn’t have the book part, back then; it wasn’t necessary because there just weren’t as many notes. But that version of the Big Board was huge.*

I tried to do a smaller version of the board with Dick Tracy Must Die, just on paper in a binder. When that didn’t work, I tried again in spreadsheet software. That was a total disaster, combining too little space in front of me with too little need and too much trouble, since I was doing all the performing and could just, you know, remember. Plus, I hate spreadsheet software. Worst of all worlds, ahoy!

So now we have my new Revision 3. I’m really liking it so far. It’s uncomplicated, but flexible enough to let me add anything to the notes file without having to retype it or scan it or make it fit into a spreadsheet cell or link a document or write any code, while nonetheless being physically small despite still having a big board that I can check at a glance. I’m pretty fond of this revision.

But we’ll see how it goes in practice as more people get involved. I really do need something, with all the different work going on at the same time, and being second-studio in collaboration with Fae Hollow/SeaFire down in Oregon. It’ll be more than worthwhile if it just helps us keep everything in sync.

So, that’s how it works. Any questions? Fire away!

PS: The Big Book also has my cable inventory chart. I don’t need one for mics yet, but will if I keep buyin’ the damn things:

Some of these are VERY custom

*: No, I mean seriously, huge. I’d take it down and put it up because it was too big to leave out. Imagine a physical implementation of page preview for an entire magazine. Yes, actual full-size page drafts in an 8×7 grid. With notes. It needed an entire wall (or more often, floor) and was kind of nuts, but it worked.