Quantum F1000

Category Archives: Working From Home

Alkemy X: VFX supervisors share work from home process

By Bilali Mack and Erin Nash

On the heels of joining Alkemy X’s VFX team, what we expected of our first few weeks was quickly interrupted by a global crisis. After getting to know the company and settling in, we were tasked with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and transitioning the staff to remote work as quickly and efficiently as possible. As a headcount, that would be 42 artists, three supervisors, three pipeline engineers, three in editorial and the I/O department, and eight production management personnel.

Erin Nash’s WFH setup

We were fortunate that Alkemy X already had systems and processes in place and ready for these virtual workflows. It was just a matter of making the decision to get ahead of state mandates and make the shift early to set ourselves up for success. Our pivot to a remote workflow was structured and executed the week prior to March 16. We began to build our plan starting Tuesday, March 10, and by that Friday, the engineering and pipeline team had built on its pre-existing security-compliant processes to roll out to the entire staff of artists and production.

The company uses RGS to connect artists to a low-latency screen-sharing session on their work computers. Since the remote artists are working off the computer they normally use at work, they still have access to all of the software, licenses and tools they have when at the office. Agile and innovative responses have made our jobs easier, despite these circumstances.

Alkemy X built an openVPN server to allow secure, encrypted, multi-factor authentication and remote access to our internal network. By working remotely, we are able to maintain security and keep assets contained within our secure network. Artists have access to their files via high-speed file servers, with no need for time-consuming file transfers.

Bilali Mack working from home

Alkemy X uses Shotgun to manage our shows and workflow, but we are leaning on it more heavily now as a first-line review tool before heading to high-resolution reviews through HP RGS. Our traditional dailies have been replaced by rolling spot checks in Shotgun followed by more exhaustive reviews of full-resolution media.

We use Google Meet for meetings, screen sharing, video chat and telephone calls. We use Slack extensively on non-networked computers for team communication, keeping everyone connected and up to date and to quickly get assistance with any technical problems.

Priority is still placed on building and maintaining the company’s culture in addition to the quality of creative work, but we’re doing so behind the top of a dining room table or bedroom-stationed desk and within steps from our kitchens.

Erin Nash

As we move from our former posts, here’s how we are individually navigating working from home:

Erin Nash: Although managing a team remotely is a new experience for me, I can’t say I have found it very difficult to transition. While the team as a whole is new to me, I have known many of the artists for years. Being able to guide their creative process and help them solve difficult technical problems from afar isn’t as different as I would have expected. Now instead of saying “Can I drive your box?” it has become “Let’s do a screen share.”

People by and large do all the same things from home that they would do in the office, with the main difference being that now nobody can tell if I’ve gone for a workout over lunch.

Bilali Mack: Starting out at any company takes time to get up to speed. Add something like a global pandemic, and you would think it would be nearly impossible not only to get up to speed, but also to manage teams, collaborate on creative and retain our company’s culture. We adapted by preparing artist and production remote on-boarding documents and deploying necessary hardware and software to any and all artists on our team.

On a cultural note, we’re still holding company happy hours and open Google Meet “office” hours, just because it’s nice to be able to jump on and chat with each other about how things are different now.

Bilali Mack

Alkemy X built an openVPN server to allow secure, encrypted, multi-factor authentication, remote access to our internal network. Alkemy X uses RGS to connect artists to a low-latency screen sharing session on their work computers. Since the artists working remotely are working off of the computer that they normally use at work, they still have access to all of the software, licenses, tools that they have when at the office. By working remotely, we are able to maintain security and keep assets contained within our secure network. Artists have access to their files via high-speed file servers and with no need to do time consuming file transfers.

Alkemy X uses Shotgun as usual to manage our shows and workflow but are leaning on it heavier now as a first line review tool before heading to high resolution reviews through HP RGS. Our traditional dailies have been replaced by rolling spot checks in Shotgun followed by more exhaustive reviews of full resolution media.

We use Google Meet for meetings, screen sharing, video chat, and telephone calls. We use Slack extensively on non-networked computers for team communication, keeping everyone connected and up to date, and to quickly get assistance with any technical problems. All regular company meetings, and Friday night happy hours are done with Google Meet.

Main Image: Bilali Mack WFH.


VFX supervisor Bilali Mack comes to Alkemy X from MPC, where he supervised and executed VFX for brands including Adidas, Google and BMW. Erin Nash joined the team from FuseFX was head of 2D/VFX supervisor, leveraging his experience across television, film and commercial work.

Arch platform launches for cloud-based visual effects

Arch Platform Technologies, a provider of cloud-based infrastructure for content creation, has made its secure, scalable, cloud-based visual effects platform available commercially. The Arch platform is designed for movie studios, productions and VFX companies and enables them to leverage a VFX infrastructure in the cloud from anywhere in the world.

An earlier iteration of the Arch platform was only available to those companies who were already working with Hollywood-based Vitality VFX, where the technology was created by Guy Botham. Now, Arch is making its next-generation version of its “rent vs. own” cloud-based VFX platform commercially available broadly to movie studios, productions and VFX companies. This version was well along in its development when COVID-19 arrived, making it a very timely offering.

By moving VFX to the cloud, the platform lets VFX teams scale up and down quickly from anywhere and build and manage capacity with cloud-based workstations, renderfarms, storage and workflow management – all in a secure environment.

“We engineered a robust Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which now enables a group of VFX artists to collaborate on the same infrastructure as if they were using an on-premises system,” says Botham. “Networked workstations can be added in minutes nearly anywhere in the world, including at an artist’s home, to create a small to large VFX studio environment running all the industry-standard software and plugins.”

Recently, Solstice Studios, a Hollywood distribution and production studio, used the Arch platform for the VFX work on the studio’s upcoming first movie, Unhinged. The platform has also been used by VFX companies Track VFX and FatBelly VFX and is now commercially available to the industry.

Quantum F1000

Posting John Krasinski’s Some Good News

By Randi Altman

Need an escape from a world filled with coronavirus and murder hornets? You should try John Krasinski’s weekly YouTube show, Some Good News. It focuses on the good things that are happening during the COVID-19 crisis, giving people a reason to smile with things such as a virtual prom, Krasinski’s chat with astronauts on the ISS and bringing the original Broadway cast of Hamilton together for a Zoom singalong.

L-R: Remy, Olivier, Josh and Lila Senior

Josh Senior, owner of Leroi and Senior Post in Dumbo, New York, is providing editing and post to SGN. His involvement began when he got a call from a mutual friend of Krasinski’s, asking if he could help put something together. They sent him clips via Dropbox, and a workflow was born.

While the show is shot at Krasinski’s house in New York at different times during the week, Senior’s Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are spent editing and posting SGN.

In addition to his post duties, Senior is an EP on the show, along with his producing partner Evan Wolf Buxbaum at their production company, Leroi. The two work in concert with Allyson Seeger and Alexa Ginsburg, who executive produced for Krasinski’s company, Sunday Night Productions. Production meetings are held on Tuesday, and then shooting begins. After footage is captured, it’s still shared via Dropbox or good old iMessage.

Let’s find out more…

What does John use for the shoot?
John films on two iPhones. A good portion of the show is screen-recorded on Zoom, and then there’s the found footage user-generated content component.

What’s your process once you get the footage? And, I’m assuming, it’s probably a little challenging getting footage from different kinds of cameras?
Yes. In the alternate reality where there’s no coronavirus, we run a pretty big post house in Dumbo, Brooklyn. And none of the tools of the trade that we have there are really at play here, outside of our server, which exists as the ever-present backend for all of our remote work.

The assets are pulled down from wherever they originate. The masters are then housed behind an encrypted firewall, like we do for all of our TV shows at the post house. Our online editor is the gatekeeper. All the editors, assistant editors, producers, animators, sound folks — they all get a mirrored drive that they download, locally, and we all get to work.

Do you have a style guide?
We have a bible, which is a living document that we’ve made week over week. It has music cues, editing style, technique, structure, recurring themes, a living archive of all the notes that we’ve received and how we’ve addressed them. Also, any style that’s specific to segments, post processing, any phasing or audio adjustments that we make all live within a document, that we give to whoever we onboard to the show.

Evan Wolf Buxbaum

Our post producers made this really elegant workflow that’s a combination of Vimeo and Slack where we post project files and review links and share notes. There’s nothing formal about this show, and that’s really cool. I mean, at the same time, as we’re doing this, we’re rapidly finishing and delivering the second season of Ramy on Hulu. It comes out on May 29.

I bet that workflow is a bit different than SGN’s.
It’s like bouncing between two poles. That show has a hierarchy, it’s formalized, there’s a production company, there’s a network, there’s a lot of infrastructure. This show is created in a group text with a bunch of friends.

What are you using to edit and color Some Good News?
We edit in Adobe Premiere, and that helps mitigate some of the challenges of the mixed media that comes in. We typically color inside of Adobe, and we use Pro Tools for our sound mix. We online and deliver out of Resolve, which is pretty much how we work on most of our things. Some of our shows edit in Avid Media Composer, but on our own productions we almost always post in Premiere — so when we can control the full pipeline, we tend to prefer Adobe software.

Are review and approvals with John and the producers done through iMessage in Dropbox too?
Yes, and we post links on Vimeo. Thankfully we actually produce Some Good News as well as post it, so that intersection is really fluid. With Ramy it’s a bit more formalized. We do notes together and, usually internally, we get a cut that we like. Then it goes to John, and he gives us his thoughts and we retool the edit; it’s like a rapid prototyping rather than a gated milestone. There are no network cuts or anything like that.

Joanna Naugle

For me, what’s super-interesting is that everyone’s ideas are merited and validated. I feel like there’s nothing that you shouldn’t say because this show has no agenda outside of making people happy, and everybody’s uniquely qualified to speak to that. With other projects, there are people who have an experience advantage, a technical advantage or some established thought leadership. Everybody knows what makes people happy. So you can make the show, I can make the show, my mom can make the show, and because of that, everything’s almost implicitly right or wrong.

Let’s talk about specific episodes, like the ones featuring the prom and Hamilton? What were some of the challenges of working with all of that footage. Maybe start with Hamilton?
That one was a really fun puzzle. My partner at Senior Post, Joanna Naugle, edited that. She drew on a lot of her experience editing music videos, performance content, comedy specials, multicam live tapings. It was a lot like a multicam live pre-taped event being put together.

We all love Hamilton, so that helps. This was a combination of performers pre-taping the entire song and a live performance. The editing technique really dissolves into the background, but it’s clear that there’s an abundance of skill that’s been brought to that. For me, that piece is a great showcase of the aesthetic of the show, which is that it should feel homemade and lo-fi, but there’s this undercurrent of a feat to the way that it’s put together.

Getting all of those people into the Zoom, getting everyone to sound right, having the ability to emphasize or de-emphasize different faces. To restructure the grid of the Zoom, if we needed to, to make sure that there’s more than one screen worth of people there and to make sure that everybody was visible and audible. It took a few days, but the whole show is made from Thursday to Sunday, so that’s a limiting factor, and it’s also this great challenge. It’s like a 48-hour film festival at a really high level.

What about the prom episode?
The prom episode was fantastic. We made the music performances the day before and preloaded them into the live player so that we could cut to them during the prom. Then we got to watch the prom. To be able to participate as an audience member in the content that you’re still creating is such a unique feeling and experience. The only agenda is happiness, and people need a prom, so there’s a service aspect of it, which feels really good.

John Krasinski setting up his shot.

Any challenges?
It’s hard to put things together that are flat, and I think one of the challenges that we found at the onset was that we weren’t getting multiple takes of anything, so we weren’t getting a lot of angles to play with. Things are coming in pretty baked from a production standpoint, so we’ve had to find unique and novel ways to be nonlinear when we want to emphasize and de-emphasize certain things. We want to present things in an expositional way, which is not that common. I couldn’t even tell you another thing that we’ve worked on that didn’t have any subjectivity to it.

Let’s talk sound. Is he just picking up audio from the iPhones or is he wearing a mic?
Nope. No, mic. Audio from the iPhones that we just run through a few filters on Pro Tools. Nobody mics themselves. We do spend a lot of time balancing out the sound, but there’s not a lot of effect work.

Other than SGN and Ramy, what are some other shows you guys have worked on?
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch, 2 Dope Queens, Random Acts of Flyness, Julio Torres: My Favorite Shapes by Julio Torres and others.

Anything that I haven’t asked that you think is important?
It’s really important for me to acknowledge that this is something that is enabling a New York-based production company and post house to work fully remotely. In doing this week over week, we’re really honing what we think are tangible practices that we can then turn around and evangelize out to the people that we want to work with in the future.

I don’t know when we’re going to get back to the post house, so being able to work on a show like this is providing this wonderful learning opportunity for my whole team to figure out what we can modulate from our workflow in the office to be a viable partner from home.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 


Chimney Group: Adapting workflows in a time of crisis

By Dana Bonomo

In early March, Chimney delivered a piece for TED, created to honor women on International Women’s Day featuring Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. This was in the early days of coronavirus taking hold in the United States. We had little comprehension at that point of the true extent to which we would be impacted as a country and as an industry. As the situation grew and awareness around the severity of the COVID-19 health crisis sunk in, we started to realize that it would be animated projects like this one that we would come to rely upon.

TED & Ultimate Software: International Women’s Day

This film showcases the use of other creative solutions when live-action projects can’t be shot. But the real function of work like this is that, on an emotional level, it feels good to make something with a socially actionable message.

In just the last few weeks, platforms have been saturated with COVID-19-related content: salutes to healthcare workers, PSAs from federal, state and local authorities and brands sharing messages of unity. Finding opportunities that can include some form of social purpose help provide hope to our communities while also raising the spirits of those creating it. We are currently in production on two of these projects and they help us feel like we’re contributing in some small way with the resources we have.

As a global company, Chimney is always highlighting our worldwide service capabilities, with 12 offices on four continents, and our abilities to work together. We’ve routinely used portals such as Zoho and Slack in the past, yet now I’m enjoying the shift in how we’re communicating with each other in a more connected and familiar way. Just a short time ago we might have used a typical workflow, and today we’re sharing and exchanging ideas and information at an exponential rate.

As a whole, we prefer to video chat, have more follow-ups and create more opportunities to work on internal company goals in addition to just project pipelines and calendars. There’s efficiency in brainstorming and solving creative challenges in real time, either as a virtual brainstorm or idea exchange in PM software and project communication channels. So at the end of a meeting, internal review or present, current project kick off, we have action items in place and ready to facilitate on a global scale.

Our company’s headquarters is in Stockholm, Sweden. You may have heard that Sweden’s health officials have taken a different approach to handling COVID-19 than most countries, and it is resulting in less drastic social distancing and isolation measures while still being quite mindful of safety. Small shoots are still possible with crews of 10 or less — so we can shoot in Sweden with a fully protected crew, executing safe and sanitary protocols —and we can livestream to clients worldwide from set.

This is Chimney editor Sam O’Hare’s work-from-home setup.

Our CEO North America Marcelo Gandola is encouraging us individually to schedule personal development time, whether it’s for health and wellness, master classes on subjects that interest us, certifications for our field of expertise, or purely creative and expressive outlets. Since many of us used our commute time for that before the pandemic, we can still use that time for emotional recharging in different ways. By setting aside time for this, we regain some control of our situation. It lifts our morale and it can be very self-affirming, personally and professionally.

While most everyone has remote work capabilities these days, there’s a level of creative energy in the air, driven by the need to employ different tactics — either by working with what you have (optimizing existing creative assets, produced content, captured content from the confines of home) or replacing what was intended to be live-action with some form of animation or graphics. For example, Chimney’s Creative Asset Optimization has been around for some time now. Using Edisen, our customization platform, we can scale brands’ creative content on any platform, in any market at any time, without spending more. From title changes to language versioning and adding incremental design elements, clients get bigger volumes of content with high-quality creative for all channels and platforms. So a campaign that might have had a more limited shelf life on one platform can now stretch to an umbrella campaign with a variety of applications depending on its distribution.

Dana Bonomo

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s exciting to see how brands and makers are creatively solving current challenges. Our visual effects team recently worked on a campaign (sorry we can’t name this yet) that took existing archival footage and — with the help of VFX — generated content that resonated with audiences today. We’re also helping clients figure out remote content capture solutions in lieu of their live events getting canceled.

I was recently on a Zoom call with students at my alma mater, SUNY Oneonta, in conversation with songwriter and producer John Mayer. He said he really feels for students and younger people during this time, because there’s no point of reference for them to approach this situation. The way the younger generation is adapting — reacting by living so fully despite so many limitations — they are the ones building that point of reference for the future. I think that holds true for all generations… there will always be something to be learned. We don’t fully know what the extent of our learning will be, but we’re working creatively to make the most of it.

Main Image: Editor Zach Moore’s cat is helping him edit


Dana Bonomo is managing director at Chimney Group in NYC.


Frame.io offers beta version of Transfer, updates app to v3.6

Frame.io has launched Frame.io v3.6 along with a beta version of a new application called Frame.io Transfer. Frame.io v3.6’s new features are designed for the evolving needs remote workflows, with a particular focus on speed and security. The expanded toolset addresses the need for fast project downloads with the Frame.io Transfer app, boosts security with features like Watermark ID for enterprise accounts and improves collaboration with new features like iOS Offline Mode and Folder Sharing.

Frame.io Transfer works on both Mac and Windows OS. Transfer lets users download large files and sophisticated folder structures — even entire projects — with one click. It supports EDL and XML formats so users can identify specific files, accelerating the process of relinking to original camera files for final conforms, color grading or sharing assets for VFX. Transfer allows users to monitor active downloads and to drag and drop to reprioritize their order. Finally, Transfer facilitates fast and secure downloads, regardless of unstable internet connections; if there’s a disruption mid-download, Transfer pauses and automatically resumes once reconnected.

“Transfer was originally slated for release later this year, but as a response to the profound shift in the way we’re working and the tools our customers need immediately, we’re releasing it in beta today,” says Emery Wells, cofounder/CEO of Frame.io. (Check out our video interview with him below.)

For secure sharing, enterprise users can now secure Presentation and Review links using login-only access, which means that only specified recipients can view Share Links. Recipients will see a list of everything that’s been shared with them in Frame.io’s new Inbox, which offers a clean and focused view.

Frame.io v3.6 also has Watermark ID, which gives customers the ultimate layer of visible security. When any viewer presses “Play,” Frame.io completes a realtime, on-demand transcode of the video with that viewer’s personal identifying information burned into every frame. A two-hour video starts playing back in less than two seconds.

Offline Mode

Users can now add folders to Review Links, allowing them to easily organize and share assets across teams or projects. Any changes made to folders after they are shared are dynamically updated in the Review Link. This is especially useful for teams that produce episodic content or programming that relies on a library of media. Frame.io also made it faster, easier and more intuitive to organize assets with an improved “Move-to” and “Copy-to” flow.

With this update, Frame.io users will now be able to see all the Presentations they’ve shared and access their settings from one organized list. The display shows folder sizes so users can see at a glance which are the heaviest projects, making it easier to optimize projects and storage.

Frame.io v3.6 consolidates notifications made on the same video within short periods of time, grouping them together into one notification. Users can filter by read or unread, see comment previews and scrub asset thumbnails to easily spot what needs to be reviewed or addressed.

Offline Mode for Frame.io’s iOS apps allows users work from anywhere. They can tap a file to make it available offline, then review and leave comments. As soon as the app comes back online, comments are automatically synced to the project.


How VFX house Phosphene has been working remotely

By Randi Altman

In our ongoing coverage of how studios are working remotely, we reached out to New York City-based visual effects house Phosphene. Founded in 2010 by Vivian Connolly and John Bair, Phosphene specializes in photorealistic VFX for film and television, and is particularly known for their detailed CG environments and set extensions.

This four-time Emmy-nominated (Mildred Pierce and Boardwalk Empire Season 3, Season 5, Escape at Dannemora) studio’s more recent work includes The Plot Against America, The Hunters, A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood and Motherless Brooklyn.

The Plot Against America

Like many others, Phosphene tasked with developing secure remote workflows, so we reached out to director of IT Jimmy Marrero and head of operations and strategy Beck Dunn to find out more.

How is Phosphene weathering this storm? Do you have most of your folks working remotely?
Beck Dunn: We were fortunate to be able to switch to remote work very quickly and are extremely grateful for our team who had been preparing for this major change. We are grateful we are in a position to support staff and productions who are able to continue working remotely.

Can you talk about what it took to get artists setup from their homes and walk us through that workflow?
Jimmy Marrero: Luckily, we’ve had experience with using PCOIP technology in the past and were in a good place to transition smoothly to remote work. We had a good number of workstations already set up with PCOIP remote workstation cards. We also leveraged AWS to create cloud workstations that are connected to our office via a VPC (virtual private cloud). This gives us the capability to securely increase our capacity for work way beyond any physical hardware limitations.

What tools are you using to make sure these folks stay connected?
Marrero: We all communicate with each other via chat using an open-source tool called Rocket.Chat. Producers connect via BlueJeans video conference.

For anyone setting up a remote pipeline, I would also recommend taking advantage of cloud-based software like Slack for communication, Trello for organization, and AnyDesk to allow IT to help troubleshoot any issues that might occur during the setup process.

What about security and working remotely?
Marrero: Security was the driving force for us to investigate the advantages of PCOIP technology. Having remote workstation cards installed at the office allows us to stream encrypted screen information directly to the artists monitors and eliminates the need for any data to be hosted outside of Phosphene’s internal network.

Using PCOIP combined with only being able to access our network via VPN with two-factor authentication, we were able to address many security concerns from our clients, which was a key factor in our being able to work remotely.

PCOIP technology also allows us to easily use all the tools on our internal network, with no change in set up, or compromise to security. Once logged in, artists are able to access Nuke, Hiero, 3dsMax, Houdini and Deadline as though they are in the office.

What types of work are you guys doing at the moment?
Dunn: We can’t talk about any of our current work, but one project we recently finished is HBO’s The Plot Against America, created by Ed Burns and David Simon. The show is based on Philip Roth’s 2004 novel depicting the lives of US citizens in an alternate history where Franklin D.Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to Charles Lindbergh.

Phosphene worked with show-side VFX supervisor Jim Rider on a wide range of visual effects for the show, including creating period-accurate aerial views of 1940’s Manhattan, exteriors of Newark Airport and a British Navy base, and extensive crowd duplication shots inside Madison Square Garden. In total, Phosphene delivered 274 shots for the limited series.

The Plot Against America

Any tips for those companies who are just starting to get set up remotely or even those who are currently working remotely?
Marrero: Be nice to your IT department. (Smiles) Working remotely has many moving parts that need to all work perfectly for things to go smoothly. Expect delays in the beginning as all the kinks are worked out.

What has helped staffers get settled into working from home?
Dunn: I’ll let them speak for themselves.

VFX producer Matthew Griffin: I found it really helpful to set up a dedicated mini-office rather than just working on a laptop from the couch. When I sit down at my workspace, I feel like I am still “going into” the office. Holding team meetings via video chat and maintaining rituals like having my morning coffee at the same time also helps me to stay in a familiar rhythm. We also have a dog, so walking him at the end of the day makes the workday feel complete. I close the laptop, walk the dog, and once I’m home, it’s like my commute is over and it’s time to relax.

VFX producer Steven Weigle: Producers are used to working remotely for short stints, so this hasn’t been an entirely foreign experience. I did recently add a KVM switch to my home setup, to use my full-sized keyboard, mouse and monitor to control my work laptop but be able to switch back to my personal machine with the click of a button. It’s a small, basic upgrade but it helps me maximize my desk space while still separating my “work brain” from my “home brain.”


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years. 


Working From Home: VFX house The Molecule

By Randi Altman

With the COVID-19 crisis affecting all aspects of our industry, we’ve been talking to companies that have set up remote workflows to meet their clients’ needs. One of those studios is The Molecule, which is based in New York and has a location in LA as well. The Molecule has focused on creating visual effects for episodics and films since its inception in 2005.

Blaine Cone 

The Molecule artists are currently working on series such as Dickinson and Little Voice (AppleTV+), Billions (Showtime), Genius: Aretha (NatGeo), Schooled and For Life (ABC) and The Stranger (Quibi). And on the feature side, there is Stillwater (Focus Features) and Bliss (Amazon). Other notable projects include The Plot Against America (HBO), Fosse/Verdon (FX) and The Sinner (USA).

In order to keep these high-profile projects flowing, head of production Blaine Cone and IT manager Kevin Hopper worked together to create the studio’s work-from-home setup.

Let’s find out more…

In the weeks leading up to the shutdown, what were you doing to prepare?
Blaine Cone: We had already been investigating and testing various remote workflows in an attempt to find a secure solution we could extend to artists who weren’t readily available to join us in house. Once we realized this would be a necessity for everyone in the company, we accelerated our plans. In the weeks before the lockdown, we had increasingly larger groups of artists work from home to gradually stress-test the system.

How difficult was it to get that set up?
Cone: We were fortunate to have a head start on our remote secure platform. Because we decided to tie into AWS, as well as into our own servers and farm (custom software running on a custom-built hypervisor server on Dell machines), it took a little while, but once we saw the need to fast-track it we were able to refine our solution pretty quickly. We’re still optimizing and improving behind the scenes, but the artists have been able to work uninterrupted since the beginning.

Kevin Hopper

What was your process in choosing the right tools to make this work?
Kevin Hopper: We have been dedicated to nailing down TPN-compliant remote work practices for the better part of a year now. We knew that there was a larger market of artists available for us to tap into if we could get a remote work solution configured properly from a security standpoint. We looked through a few companies offering full remote working suites via Teradici PCOIP setups and ultimately decided to configure our own images and administer them to our users ourselves. This route gives us the most flexibility and allows us to accurately and effectively mirror our required security standards.

Did employees bring home their workstations/monitors? How is that working?
Cone: In the majority of cases, employees are using their home workstations and monitors to tap into their dedicated AWS instance. In fact, the home setup could be relatively modest because they were tapping into a very strong machine on the cloud. In a few cases, we sent home 4K monitors with individuals so they could better look at their work..

Can you describe your set up and what tools you are using?
Cone: We are using Teradici to give artists access to dedicated, powerful and secure AWS machines to work off of files on our server. This is set up for Nuke, Maya, Houdini, Mocha, Syntheyes, Krita, Resolve, Mari and Substance Painter. We spin up the AWS instances in the morning and then down again after the workday is over. It allows us to scale as necessary, and it limits the amount of technical troubleshooting and support we might have to do otherwise. We have our own internal workflow tools built into the workflow just as we did when artists were at our office. It’s been relatively seamless.

Fosse/Verdon

How are you dealing with the issues of security while artists are working remotely?
Cone: Teradici gives us the security we need to ensure that the data exists only on our servers. It limits the artists from web traffic as well.

How is this allowing you to continue creating visual effects for shows?
Cone: It’s really not dissimilar to how we normally work. The most challenging change has been the lack of in-person interaction. Shotgun, which we use to manage our shots, still serves as our creative hub, but Slack has become an even more integral aspect of our communication workflow as we’ve gone remote. We’ve also set up regular team calls, video chats and more to make up for the lack of interpersonal interaction inherent in a remote scenario.

Can you talk about review and approval on shots?
Cone: Our supervisors are all set up with Teradici to review shots securely. They also have 4K monitors. In some cases, artists are doing Region of Interest to review their work. We’ve continued our regular methods of delivery to our clients so that they can review and approve as necessary.

How many artists do you have working remotely right now?
Cone: Between supervisors, producers, artists and support staff in NY and LA, we have about 50 remote users working on a daily basis. Our Zoom chats are a lot of fun. In a strange way, this has brought us all closer together than ever before.


Randi Altman is the founder and editor-in-chief of postPerspective. She has been covering production and post production for more than 20 years.