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July 08
2020

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

Working Remotely: The Third Floor, Hybride and Animal Logic

By IAN FAILES

This is our final VFX Voice online article about the steps studios have taken to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Here, The Third Floor, Hybride and Animal Logic cover the areas of technology, staff safety and culture that they’ve been dealing with since the coronavirus situation hit.

THE THIRD FLOOR

Like many studios, visualization outfit The Third Floor had several locations to consider when the COVID-19 crisis became apparent. “As the crisis was unfolding,” observes Chris Edwards, CEO and Founder at The Third Floor, “we had personnel on the ground in China as part of launching our first permanent office there and acted quickly to protect our Beijing team, applying what we learned about distance working and risk mitigation to quickly put plans in place for our offices in L.A., London and Atlanta.”

Chris Edwards, CEO and Founder, The Third Floor

The Third Floor already has a distributed workforce – sometimes in offices and sometimes on locations – so it was able to adapt quickly and implement a remote login system for artists to work from home securely. “What would normally be a multi-month process, including configuring a new firewall and increasing our Internet connection exponentially, we were able to compress into two weeks,” says Edwards.

To bring our users remotely into the ecosystem, the studio implemented a software-defined perimeter (SDP). “It allows you to provision out resources and data needed for each individual artist over a secure system,” explains Edwards. “We were able to define which artists needed which assets in various security tiers and connect them securely using AppGate. Teradici has also been indispensable for reliable, real-time playback for our artists.

“The forced experience of working completely virtually has profoundly changed our prospects for supporting clients remotely,” adds Edwards. “Having been involved in advancing virtual production over the last many years, we’re prepared for future ways of working that are even more virtual and ‘real-time.’”

HYBRIDE

Hybride, which has studios in Montreal and the Laurentian mountains in Quebec, moved quickly to have employees working from home. From a technical point of view, recounts Pierre Raymond, Hybride President and Head of Operations, this was not a huge endeavor, partly because the studio already worked on the same projects between two locations.

Pierre Raymond, President and Head of Operations, Hybride

“Fortunately for us, we had already established a solid internal structure between our two studios for more than a year, and that allowed us to quickly deploy and adapt it so the entire team could now work remotely from home,” says Raymond.

“The challenges of having both studios collaborating on the same projects and the changes that had been imposed forced us to transform all of our daily studio operations to working remotely,” adds Raymond, “and the effectiveness is well beyond our expectations.

Indeed, both studio locations were already working on shots simultaneously, and group conferencing tools had been extensively tested and used. However, the technical side was not the only challenge to overcome. Raymond notes that internal communication between the supervision and coordination teams as well as the artists needed to be tightly structured and very efficient.

“Thanks to our team’s professionalism and dedication we were able to take on the challenge with success. We will therefore be able to maintain this mode of operation as long as required, although returning to the studios and seeing our fellow teammates will be more than appreciated.”

ANIMAL LOGIC

Solving technical and communications issues were certainly among Animal Logic’s concerns during this crisis, as was maintaining the ‘culture’ side of the studio, which has Sydney, Vancouver and L.A. locations.

“Our preference will always be to work together in a studio environment, with the infrastructure and resources on hand to ensure we all thrive,” says Miles Green, FX Department Supervisor at Animal Logic Vancouver. “But while we patiently wait to return to the studio, we had to focus on how to keep connections and continue the culture of the company.”

Miles Green, FX Department Supervisor, Animal Logic Vancouver

“Across our three locations we had virtual tea time and Friday night drinks, team chats about bring your pet to work day, show us your art, lots of different ways for people to stay present,” discusses Green. “Our Executive Team set up an anonymous Q&A platform for crew to ask questions, so there was a lot of transparency from the beginning and everyone’s voice was heard.”

Across Sydney and Vancouver, Animal Logic is currently working on Super Pets. Green says his team of around 14 people, which includes FX, crowds, character FX and TDs, have had catch-ups twice a day, “which means we’re having lots of reviews and the whole team is looking at everyone’s work. It feels like the work is getting more constant and consistent attention. We have our own social Teams chat, where we can share silly stuff – ‘Does everyone know about the raven checker?’ or ‘Have you seen the blue whale in the harbor?’”

“Everyone is getting used to working and talking and having a drink, and sharing screens showing the best camping spot or whatever news we’d share if we were back in the studio having a tea or over lunch. The team has been fantastic at adapting to this new way of working.”


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