Poll

Do you foresee fee-based Stage Management software having a permanent presence in the industry?

Yes
No
Unsure
For pre-show paperwork, but not calling
For calling, not preshow

Author Topic: Stage Management Software  (Read 8054 times)

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KMC

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Stage Management Software
« on: Oct 07, 2008, 09:16 am »
Over the past month or two there have been numerous posts about fee-based stage management software services.  As technology ties in to stage management more and more I suspect we will see more of these services offered. 

I am curious what each of you think about these offerings.  The major obstacle for most theatres when considering a service like this is going to be cost.  For the sake of discussion let's throw cost out the window.  What are some of the benefits of these services?  What are the drawbacks (aside from cost)?  Let's hear your thoughts on the subject.  I've placed links to the software services mentioned so far in this forum.  I'll add my thoughts as we get further into the discussion!


  • Virtual Stage Management
    This was most recently mentioned by SM.Robert.  I believe this piece of software has been mentioned in the past as well.
  • Virtual Callboard
    This was mentioned in a previous post by johnB.
  • Previous thread on 'The Internet'
    This is a previous thread discussing how we use the internet as a tool to communicate.  I think it is a worthwhile backdrop for this discussion.
« Last Edit: Oct 07, 2008, 10:14 am by kmc307 »
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

Celeste_SM

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #1 on: Oct 08, 2008, 01:28 am »
I've not used any of these software solutions personally, but I've explored/demo'd many options before going to my Excel/Web Site/Text Groups combo way of doing things. I think the biggest drawback is the lack of flexibility in the "automatic" capabilities. For example, if your director wants to rehearse a particular scene, the software knows what characters are in the scene, and books them for that rehearsal. However, maybe the director doesn't want a particular actor there because they are minor in the scene, or disruptive in rehearsal, or has a standing Wednesday conflict. Whatever.  For me, the work-arounds made necessary by the helpful software take just too much time to make the software worthwhile. I can handle the exceptions immediately and I have such rote systems for the standard process, that the software is pretty much "break-even" for me.

I do think there is huge value in not re-creating work for every show though. Every time I type up a cast-scene breakdown, I think "how many people have done this for this show already?"  It's a waste of resources that we can't share that information more easily.

Tempest

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #2 on: Oct 08, 2008, 12:06 pm »
I wouldn't use it, or even really consider it.  I've got my paperwork the way I like it, and it's easy enough for me to do. 
Actually, I think using an automated form of software would make me a worse stage manager.  Doing things by hand, myself, like making a cast/scene breakdown gets the information into my head much better than using one someone else has worked up.  I'm more likely to be able to answer a given question off the top of my head, instead of scrambling for my notebook, which leave me time and energy for other things.
Honestly, I can't think of anything I'd want to be automated enough to pay for...
...except perhaps a program that will automatically shut down all advanced electronics in the dressing rooms at five minute call  ;)  I swear, my current cast and their iPhones are drving me batty!
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RuthNY

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New Stage Management Software
« Reply #3 on: Mar 07, 2016, 07:21 pm »
I have no connection at all, with the development or distribution of these soon-to-be-released SM apps. Just want to keep you all abreast of what's happening in the industry, as I find out about it.

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Michelle R. Wood

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #4 on: Mar 08, 2016, 03:34 pm »
While I personally don't wish to use fee-based software (and choose open source at every opportunity), attending SETC last week showed that many people are developing fee-based solutions that are quite tempting. Rather than retyping or photocopying scripts to get them in a format I can use, these tools would allow SMs and actors to have a digital copy that allows for easy line notes, blocking notation, and other notifications. If theatres offer to foot the bill, I can see these kind of tools becoming a big part of the new digital landscape in a few years (at least at the bigger houses).
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

Mac Calder

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #5 on: Mar 09, 2016, 09:15 am »
The biggest issue I have with a lot of these solutions coming out now is they are "cloud based" or require connection to an external server under a SaaS model (Software as a Service).

Problem with that is you are completely reliant on the service provider existing into the future. The software is probably hosted on Amazon AWS or Google Compute - so I am not worried about poor service - Amazon AWS or Google Compute scales really nicely, they log in, click a button and can double the memory or processing available. I am worried that the developer will get bored, or the business model is messed up and mid run, bang, service down. I am all for using cloud providers for infrastructure, but to be reliant on (generally) small operations keeping their software up gives me the jeebies.

I really wish these companies would move more towards providing either self-deployable images for AWS or Compute, or would deploy individual instances and direct-bill the AWS instance to you - at least that way if they go down, you still have full access to the AWS instance and can keep it up until you are done with it.

I guess my 2c for those out there - ask the question before you commit to a subscription based cloud service - what happens if they go belly up?


megf

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #6 on: Mar 09, 2016, 01:00 pm »
Mac makes an excellent point. The software business has a colorful history of boom-and-bust cycles, and stage management software is unlikely be an exception to this pattern. I'd advocate a Plan B, as well as careful reading of the terms of use, transfer, etc. before committing money to any software package.

KMC's original question is interesting, however. I would be interested to see this survey broken out in a few ways. Institutional purchasers (like production managers, resident PSMs, resident ADs) might be more inclined to purchase, since it's not personal income they'd be spending. By the same token, students might be more inclined to buy, since a new software package could be tested and integrated into a school environment under the rationale of learning new methods -- again, without dipping into a student's person income. I would *expect* the group least likely to purchase is middle income freelancers. This group doesn't benefit from an institutional "professional development" fund. Their top priority is staying employed, and that often means adjusting their methods to the employer and team of the moment. Would this subset of SMs purchase this software?

KMC

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #7 on: Mar 10, 2016, 01:06 am »
I would *expect* the group least likely to purchase is middle income freelancers. This group doesn't benefit from an institutional "professional development" fund. Their top priority is staying employed, and that often means adjusting their methods to the employer and team of the moment. Would this subset of SMs purchase this software?

I agree with you - I suspect this would be the least likely demographic to purchase the software.  I also suspect this is the largest demographic of SMs.  These two combined would be, in my opinion, the primary reason we haven't seen software take hold in the industry on a large scale.  The freelancer needs to be agile and able to adapt to their employer - whoever that may be at the time - quickly.  Software that locks you into a process and structure that is not going to be suitable for every situation. 

Structured systems take energy to implement, and that energy is paid back over time through increased efficiency efficiency.  A freelance SM on a 6 week run is going to spend the energy up front to implement without the benefits on the back end.
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

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ambrosialx

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #8 on: Mar 10, 2016, 03:03 pm »
Hi all,  We have recently switched over to Google Forms for show reports. It's made a lot of stuff faster we found and it allows us to be really specific about what we need and not have to sift through notes to pick out things. We are a touring company so we need to track truck odometer, venue reviews and information on top of normal show report things. The graphics are also really nice for grant applications!
"I will prepare and someday my chance will come"

Michelle R. Wood

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #9 on: Mar 10, 2016, 05:08 pm »
Good points both to KMC and Mac re: upfront time commitment versus getting dividends from the that investment. The one exception to that equation that tempts me is having digital scripts that are already formatted for easy note taking. Most of us on this forum have posted a request for a script in digital format. If the big publishers agree to provide such versions (affordably), I could see that investment paying off.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

TechBoothPhantom

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #10 on: Mar 14, 2016, 01:39 pm »
I think cloud-based programs are a little heavy for everyone in a production team and cast to keep up with.  I have only ever heard "VirtualCallboard" mentioned by people who were complaining about being forced to use VirtualCallboard.  Sometimes simplicity works best, and a well-organized inbox and file system can make all the difference.

That being said, I wouldn't discourage anyone from using email-based services like Mixmax (and extensions like it) to enhance their communication and smooth out the scheduling process.  If you need to schedule a lot of fittings or meetings, Mixmax is a program that will let you send out an email with "Appointment/Availability Slots" built right in.  Your recipients select the time(s) that work best for them, and you can schedule a meeting in just one email exchange.  Your cast can select a fitting time and even request to reschedule if it doesn't work out for them later on.  Automatic emails can follow up with people later to remind them of a fitting/meeting.

Mixmax has some great email- and calendar-based features that I recommend implementing if you want to augment (not revamp) what you're already doing.  The pricing ranges from free to $50/month (I use the free services).

Michelle R. Wood

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #11 on: Mar 14, 2016, 02:03 pm »
Agreed on simplicity being the best course of action: I'm not sure about making the plunge toward this software myself yet, but I'm excited people are creating future solutions for the industry.

On that note (commercial warning: one of the reps I spoke to at SETC contacted me and wanted to know if I'd like to take part in a free beta version. I'm not really in a show that would work for coming up (more devised projects), but he said he'd welcome input from any stage managers who are interested. If you'd like to sign up, here's the link to register: http://www.mylinesllc.com/StageProAbout.aspx.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

bex

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Re: Stage Management Software
« Reply #12 on: Mar 15, 2016, 01:50 pm »
That being said, I wouldn't discourage anyone from using email-based services like Mixmax (and extensions like it) to enhance their communication and smooth out the scheduling process.  If you need to schedule a lot of fittings or meetings, Mixmax is a program that will let you send out an email with "Appointment/Availability Slots" built right in.  Your recipients select the time(s) that work best for them, and you can schedule a meeting in just one email exchange.  Your cast can select a fitting time and even request to reschedule if it doesn't work out for them later on.  Automatic emails can follow up with people later to remind them of a fitting/meeting.

Mixmax has some great email- and calendar-based features that I recommend implementing if you want to augment (not revamp) what you're already doing.  The pricing ranges from free to $50/month (I use the free services).

Jumping on the Mixmax bandwagon here, guys. It. Is. AWESOME. It makes email groups easy, you can set up templates so that you don't have to type "Today's report is attached & included below. Contact me with any questions." every day, you can set up automated email reminders, the above-mentioned scheduling feature is awesome, and, my personal favorite, is that it tells you how many times your email has been read.
You will have to sing for your supper & your mortgage, your dental coverage & your children's shoes, over & over again while people in desk jobs roll their eyes the minute you start to complain. So it's a good thing you like to sing.

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