Animation: A How-to Guide for Remote Production (Part 1)
As social distancing and remote work have become the norm in many places, how can teams still create media and tell stories collaboratively and safely? Animation is one obvious solution, as it can be produced entirely remotely. That is, it can be, so long as you have the right systems in place and the right tools available.
I wanted to share some of the tools and processes that have set up our team for success as we all work remotely, and allowed us to go from client brief to final cut, all from the comfort of our house slippers. In part one (which you’re reading now — hi!), I’ll go over project management, communication, and productivity/file sharing, and in part two (stay tuned!), we’ll have a look at our creative collaboration tools for storyboarding, design, and animation.
A couple of years ago, I spent months searching for the right project management tools, ones that allowed us to work the way we wanted to work, but even more efficiently.
Finally, we settled on a combination of Asana and Instagantt. Asana is great because we can easily assign tasks to both our internal staff and freelancers, and everything appears on a calendar. When tasks are complete, assignees can check them off and get that wonderful feeling of satisfaction (who doesn’t love crossing items off their to-do list?). Plus, there’s even a unicorn that flies across the screen (seriously!) when a task is completed.
Meanwhile, Instagantt, which can be purchased as an extension for Asana, lets us chart out projects on a timeline, allocate our resources, and see how projects are overlapping. Sam, our producer, lives in Instagantt, keeping track of the status of every detail. Without Instagantt, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be nearly as efficient as we are, as it helps us schedule and allocate precious resources with a ton of precision across multiple concurrent projects.
Slack is our most important remote communication tool, by far. We create a “channel” for each project so that everything for that project lives in one place. We also have channels for artwork, animation, and ideas that inspire us; potential freelancers; upcoming events; and more.
We recently added a little app to Slack that allows us to take polls to get consensus on creative decisions. Here’s a recent one Mollie made to help us decide which music track to use for our upcoming reel:
When we need to talk one-on-one or as a team to go over an issue, discuss a design, or share our screens to go over a sequence we’re working on in After Effects, we hop on a video chat. We also meet more formally three times a week to hang out and do a show and tell. There are, of course, many solutions for this, but we prefer Google Meet, because it’s part of G Suite, which we use for email, as well as sharing docs, calendars, and spreadsheets in the cloud.
This is a biggie, as the lifeblood of our work is the creative files we’re creating and sharing, and many of those files are quite large in size. After Effects projects, Illustrator files, Photoshop files, audio and video files.. the list goes on and on.
For about a decade, we have relied on one solution that is essential to our operations and has almost never let us down: Dropbox for Business.
Why is it the best, in my view? It gets out of the way, and it just works. Create or update a file on your computer’s hard drive just like you would any other file, and it’s instantly available to your team members on their hard drive. It’s as simple as that. Need to send a file to a client for review? Right clink on the file in the Finder or Directory, and you’ve got a link to share with them. Everything is backed up effortlessly, too. There’s a great feature, called Smart Sync, that lets you decide which files actually live on your desktop vs. being stored in the cloud. This lets you download files when you need them, so you don’t fill up your hard drive with files you’re not working on, or use infrequently.
Stay tuned for part two, when I’ll show these tools in action as part of our remote production process.
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