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.
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.
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 Our traditional dailies have been replaced by rolling spot checks in Shotgun followed by more exhaustive reviews of full-resolution media.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.
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.
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.