By Grant Bowen
Issue: May 1, 2004


By Grant Bowen

Applications Support Specialist


VANCOUVER, CANADA - In the late 1990s, Rainmaker was facing a dilemma. The software the post house used to generate work orders and invoices - in other words the financial backbone of the company - was aging. Since early in its history, Rainmaker had used an older Unix-based program, as its A/R and general ledger system. But support for the text-based program was about to end and a new solution was required.

It wasn't an easy choice. Rainmaker's original system had been purchased to not only handle facility management, but to schedule the complex day-to-day operations of what is now Western Canada's largest post production facility, including a 24/7 film lab, six film transfer suites, three online edit suites, 30-plus visual effects suites as well as a multi-format duplication operation. But despite that, the scheduling portion proved insufficient for Rainmaker's purposes and was largely abandoned. Instead, paper scheduling 'bibles' were used to keep track of day-to-day schedules.

Enter ScheduAll, from Holllywood, FL-based VizuAll. Chosen from a short list of competing software packages, ScheduAll offered what Rainmaker needed. The reason it won out was configurability. Rainmaker wanted a program that could be changed to suit its time-tested business practices, not one that would force it to change how the successful company worked.

For a year prior to going live, a single person from Rainmaker's information technology staff was dedicated to the project. That person met with senior operations and financial executives, designed custom interfaces and reports, trained users; basically molding ScheduAll to the way Rainmaker worked. The main issues were operations workflow, security and efficient accounts receivables. Disruption was minimized by mimicking some of the old software's attributes while taking advantage of ScheduAll's visual user interface.

During this critical period a dedicated implementation manager from VizuAll, the company that makes ScheduAll, was available when needed to help find solutions to the tougher issues.

In the end, the transition went relatively smoothly. Now with a 50-user license package, the 150-plus people at Rainmaker who regularly use ScheduAll can quickly see a visual representation of what is happening anywhere in the facility. Conflict checking prevents double booking. Hundreds of work orders for long-term projects can be scheduled, modified or updated simultaneously using extended operation tools. Access to sensitive data such as client information is restricted using user-specific interfaces which prevent some users from accessing the data while allowing some to read and others to change it. Since ScheduAll went live, Rainmaker has created over 52,000 work orders in nearly 4,000 projects while using more than 2,000 resources and billing codes. The program has also kept pace with an explosion of visual effects workload and personnel.

Despite all the tools and technology, human mistakes still happen. But using the audit trail built in to ScheduAll, any and all changes to work orders are tracked, allowing the problem to be traced back to the source and measures taken to prevent the problems from reoccurring.

For added flexibility Rainmaker chose the SQL Server version of ScheduAll, which allowed for virtually unlimited growth in the database. Technical support from VizuAll has kept pace as well. Bugs have been addressed and requests for changes in functionality, many requested specifically by Rainmaker, have been incorporated by VizuAll into new versions.

One of the most useful tools in ScheduAll has been its integration of Crystal Reports database reporting software. On top of the hundreds of stock reports supplied with the program, Rainmaker has added nearly two hundred custom reports and constantly adds new ones to meet management's needs for financial and scheduling information, work orders, tape and shipping labels and more. At times intensely complex reports have been needed and VizuAll has been able to provide them at a cost. But the bulk of custom reports have been made in-house, often for the same pre-printed forms used with the old system. The reports can also be exported to numerous formats including MS Office applications or PDF for distribution.

ScheduAll's library module has not only been used to track client's tapes but to implement custom tape labels. The basic personnel manager module allows artists and operators alike to see their personal schedule at a glance. Rainmaker?s duplication operations are complex and large-scale involving dailies, show and commercial dubs. While Rainmaker has not fully implemented the Duplication module's tracking system, the ability to customize both interfaces and forms have kept this integral part of the business running smoothly. The program has even been used to create virtual rooms used to track work progress in the visual effects matchmoving department, something never intended by ScheduAll's programmers, but rather entirely created by Rainmaker staff.

Despite all the tools and technology, mistakes still happen. But using the audit trail built into ScheduALL, any and all changes to work orders are tracked, allowing the problem to be traced back to the source and measures taken to prevent the problems from reoccurring.

One piece of the puzzle not supplied by ScheduAll was general ledger. The good news is ScheduAll provided custom tools to quickly export accounts receivable transactions to third party G/L and A/P products. For this Rainmaker chose the Solomon accounting package, also running on SQL Server.

And the evolution will continue for ScheduAll at Rainmaker. Still to be implemented are a full shipping and cost tracking modules.

You cannot say that ScheduAll has made Rainmaker's film transfers better or their visual effects more realistic. But it has done exactly what is expected of a facility management system: kept the paperwork out of the way of the creative flow and allowed the company to grow and prosper.