September 29, 2021

Top 10 project management systems for content production teams in 2021

Project management tools

Bringing a structured project management workflow together with creative impulses sounds hard but is possible with the right tool.

This article covers the top 10 project management systems for photo and video production teams, photo studios, creative and ad agencies. These systems will make your day-to-day work as a creative team much more structured and efficient.

Here's what we'll cover:

What is a project management system

Who should use one

What are common workflows

Top 10 project management tools for creative content production teams

  1. WhoCan
  2. Assemble
  3. Atellio
  4. Dropbox
  5. Wrike
  6. Notion
  7. Asana
  8. StudioBinder
  9. Toggl Plan
  10. Airtable

What is a project management system

A project management system helps people to stay in the loop across all activities. It is mainly used for either larger teams or larger projects that span over a longer period of time. In traditional project management systems the main focus is distributing tasks, managing resources, and tracking milestones across a project timeline. However, in this article we want to specifically cover project management systems that are offering unique features for content creation teams, such as sharing media galleries or planning production schedules.

Who should use one

Have you ever felt like you lost control over a project's timeline? Did you ever struggle to find information, files or anything related to a creative project? Are you regularly working in a team on productions? If you check any of these boxes, you probably should look into a project management system. They can be useful even for freelancers and independent creatives but they become truly powerful when working in a team of 3 or more people. If your organisation has 30+ team members you're probably already set up with some system to track your work but if you are not, this is your chance to find the right fit. Here are the types for companies that should use one of the project management tools in this article:

  • Creatives production companies
  • Creative and ad agencies
  • Social media agencies
  • Influencer agencies
  • Photo studios
  • Creatives and freelancers like Photographers, Casting Directors, Producers or Art Directors
  • Marketing teams with regular in-house content creation

What are common workflows

There are two big values a project management system is built around: Saving time and staying in control of projects. Saving time mostly happens because you need to coordinate less, write less emails or make less calls. Some systems also have some cool automation built-in to remove some of the workload (we'll have a look at this in the next chapter). Keeping control over your projects is done by simply structuring all the work and data in a system for everyone to see. You'll also receive notifications and visual indications if things go out of hand.

Here are some common workflows most of these tools provide:

  • Splitting a project timeline into milestones and tasks
  • Assigning work to team members
  • Track by what date tasks need to be done
  • Track the time you worked on something
  • Share project resources in a team
  • Manage a project calendar

Some of the more advanced workflows for creative teams include:

  • Collecting client feedback on files
  • Managing freelancers and creatives and their availabilities
  • Creating a production binder
  • Manage pre-production steps like castings, location scouting, budget planning and more

Top 10 project management tools for creative content productions

WhoCan

WhoCan is a system made specifically for content productions. It combines project management, a flexible CRM and same advanced file sharing and production binder workflows in one tool.

While many other tools have a really advanced set of features, the beauty of WhoCan is it's simplicity: It let's you keep track of productions, create a database of all the creatives and vendors you work with while having file sharing and client galleries included on top. The client portal allows you to share specific project resources with clients which integrates your internal and external workflows in one place.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

Smart Files are our favourite feature of WhoCan. They work like Google Docs or Spreadsheets but are purpose-built for creative workflows like a Talent Selection file that let's you share casting boards or a Shot List file to create – well – shot lists and storyboards. It integrates into client proofing galleries so that you can share all project resources in one place. 🙌

Core features

  • Plan productions with tasks and milestones
  • Production calendar that integrates with Google Calendar
  • Media galleries for collaboration and approval
  • CRM to manage contact details of creatives, vendors and clients
  • Sharable casting and location boards to collaborate on the talent and location scouting process

Pricing

WhoCan offers a free version for up to 100 CRM records and 10GB storage which is great to get started. At some point you'll likely want to upgrade to the Professional plan at 49,00 € per month which upgrades your CRM, your storage and you get your own branding across the platform. For larger teams and studios, there's an Enterprise plan for additional storage and features.

Ideal for...

Anyone with a creative focus that does not need the most advanced project management functionality but is looking for an all-in-one solution.

Assemble

Assemble offers project management for video teams. So if you are only focusing on video productions, this might be a great fit for you.

Assemble let's you track video production timelines in a calendar, distribute tasks with others and share files for approval. It basically expands Frame.io with project management functionality. Assemble put a lot of effort into their UX and it's overall really fun to use.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

Assemble did an awesome job in managing permissions. You can create different teams, add users to these teams and then share files and calendars with different permission levels for each team. Awesome 👍

Core features

  • Set up video production schedules
  • Share video files with clients and collect feedback
  • Plan milestones and tasks within a team
  • Create a creative brief online

Pricing

Assemble does not offer a free forever plan but instead gets you started with a generous 30 days trial. After the trial, it does start at only 19 $ per month however you're limited to just 5 projects and a few GB of storage. If you upgrade to 1TB storage and unlimited projects, you'll end up at 99 $ per month.

Ideal for...

Video production teams that want project management and frame-specific video collaboration but don't need a CRM or have it outsourced to another platform.

Atellio

With atellio creating concepts and briefings and collaborate with your team members becomes easy. It also offers some project management functionality and a CRM.

Atellio lets you take control of your creative productions from briefing to delivery and is primarily made for larger content studios.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

One of their most unique feature are their intelligent meta data that keeps you informed on costs per asset and speed to market.

Core features

  • Build a custom creator base
  • Collaborate on briefing and production assets
  • Schedule and plan a project roadmap
  • Booking process of external team members

Pricing

Atellio does not have a public pricing since it is primarily used by larger companies and as such their offers are customised based on your agency's needs.

Ideal for...

Large studios and production houses that need a lot of customisability and data-insights.

Dropbox

You might be surprised to see Dropbox on this list as they are popular for cloud file sharing. However they just recently announced some workflow tools that are quite interesting.

Dropbox launched two new features for creatives to improve their online collaboration. With Dropbox Capture you can record short explanation videos, with Replay you can set frame-specific comments and draw on a video canvas. Combine this with Excel and PDF templates and you got a decent solution. However it does lack the capability to distribute work and keep track of production timelines.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

We have to go with the Desktop app/integration here. It's the best app for file sharing simply because it works in your Finder or MS Explorer.

Core features

  • File sharing
  • Frame-specific commenting and drawing on videos
  • Creating explanation and pitch videos for clients

Pricing

For individuals their Professional plan starts at 16,58 €, however Dropbox pricing is per user. So for a team of 3 or more, you're charged 10 € per user per month.

Ideal for...

Individuals with very little project management requirements or as a standalone file and collaboration platform for teams of any size.

Wrike

Wrike is a solid and battle-tested project management system that works best for large teams.

Wrike has been around since over a decade and is used by many – especially larger – ad and creative agencies. Wrike offers a lot of customisation, reports and productivity tools. No wonder it is used by over 20.000 companies.

The drawback of Wrike however is that their level of complexity is not really necessary for most of the smaller and mid-sized content creation teams. The amount of features can make things harder to understand and as such hinder productivity instead of boosting it.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

Requesting work from team mates is done really nicely on Wrike. For larger teams and for remote setups this is very helpful.

Core features

  • Distribute work with tasks and boards
  • Track working time
  • Send work requests to co-workers
  • Gantt charts for multi-level projects
  • Advanced reporting on expenses and productivity

Pricing

Wrike offers a free version with limited functionality. To unlock all features, you'll pay $ 24,80 per user per month. It's fairly priced for small teams but can quickly grow costly for teams of 5 or more people.

Ideal for...

Ad and creative agencies of 15+ people that need a lot of customisation and work across different departments.

Notion

Notion is a beautifully designed and flexible database and planning software for small and mid-sized teams.

I love Notion, as we are also using it internally at WhoCan to plan our development sprints or blog posts such as this. It is not purpose-built for content creation but it is quite flexible so you can get a good amount of value out of Notion when using it for project management.

Notion is a to-do list, an Excel sheet, a kanban board and a calendar in one tool. Viewing the same data in different views is what makes Notion so flexible.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

I'm definitely not the first to say this but the large emojis on every project and data record just make working with Notion more fun. By far the best feature. 💯

Core features

  • Create data sets like lists, boards, tables or calendar dates
  • Display data in different views
  • Collaborate with a team
  • Customise field types the way you need it

Pricing

Notion costs $ 10 per user per month.

Ideal for...

Teams that work on smaller projects with reduced planning efforts and not exclusively on content creation.

Asana

Asana is an all-time favourite when it comes to project management and used across all industries.

Asana cannot be missing on any top 10 project management list, and that is due to it's popularity across all industries from startups to corporates. The reason it is not on the very top of this list however is the lack of content creation specific features and the complexity which can be overwhelming for small and mid-sized teams.

The beauty of Asana is that it has everything you'd want from a project management system like project timelines, resource management and to-do lists.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

Asana's analytics and dashboards on your teams' workload and the project status are really smart and intuitive.

Core features

  • Create tasks and distribute work
  • Project timelines, calendars and resource planning
  • Track your teams performance with analytics
  • Many integrations into popular tools like Slack, Google, Zapier

Pricing

Asana costs 13,49 € per user per month, but does offer a free forever version with limited functionality to get started.

Ideal for...

Any team of 3+ members that wants to dig deep into project management but has other solutions for file sharing and CRM in place.

StudioBinder

Made for larger film studios, StudioBinder lets you create your entire production binder online.

StudioBinder is a great fit for larger studios focusing on video and movie productions. It let's you create your production binder with Call Sheets, Storyboards and more online. On top of that you can create production schedules and have a basic task module built-in to distribute work.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

The by far best feature of StudioBinder has to be the creation and send out of Call Sheets. They look good and every team member gets a personalised sheet via SMS or email and can even RSVP.

Core features

  • Set up a production binder online
  • Collaborate on larger movie and video projects
  • Create production schedules
  • Keep track of props, talent and crew members

Pricing

StudioBinder for individuals starts at $ 49,99, production company plans start at $ 249 per month.

Ideal for...

Film and video studios with 20+ team members that are looking for an all-in-one solution to manage their projects.

Toggl Plan

Toggl Plan is a great alternative to Asana and offers a well-rounded toolkit for project management.

With Toggl Plan you get everything you need to setup your production management – but don't expect any magic on client collaboration or industry-specific tools. It's a great alternative to Asana and in my opinion a bit easier to get into.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

In my opinion, Toggl Plan offers the best project timelines of all the tools on this list. They are smooth and easy to use, can be customised and shared – everything you'll want from a project timeline.

Core features

  • In-depth project timelines
  • Milestones and tasks
  • Highly customisable to-do items
  • Checklists, i.e. to keep track of gear items or props

Pricing

Toggl Plan is similarly priced to Asana with $ 13,35 per month per user.

Ideal for...

Any team of 3 or more that want highly customisable project timelines and project management for all sorts of projects.

Airtable

Similarly to Notion, Airtable is not primarly a project management system but can be customised quite a bit to fit any needs.

Airtable literally re-invented the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are still very popular to keep track of all sorts of data and Airtable enhances this with more functionality like custom field types, drag and drop, image uploads and much more. It's a great tool for anything: From making shot lists to keeping track of your production team.

✨ Personal favourite feature ✨

Airtable's customisability is not really one specific feature but rather the whole idea behind Airtable. In it's core it's a better spreadsheet but that by itself is huge. I like Airtable i.e. to build shotlists.

Core features

  • Highly customisable tables and spreadsheets
  • Custom reports and analytics
  • Build your own templates for production binder resources or use existing templates
  • Collaborate in a team and even embed Airtables on websites

Pricing

Airtable offers a free forever plan but you are limited to 1200 records/entries. Their Pro plan starts at $10 per user.

Ideal for...

Any team of any size that wants a lot of customisation for collecting and presenting data and doesn't mind the initial configuration setup.

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