In the last few months we’ve gone from discussing how best to cope with a remote working environment, to exploring the potential to make this temporary situation more permanent. These same discussions are being had across multiple industries, but it’s an especially interesting conversation within the VFX industry where, until recently, remote work was considered to be almost impossible.
Factors that previously prevented remote working
For post-production houses, there were a number of factors that seemed to prohibit remote working:
- Large, high-tech workstations and expensive – not the kind of thing you typically send home with someone. (Until now!)
- Low latency an absolute necessity when connecting to the servers responsible for processing and rendering
- Security concerns
- Proximity to clients
- The ability to easily facilitate synchronous reviews
But each of these issues can be overcome with the right tech solution, and the tech is ready.
Why VFX should keep working from home
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Less than 6 months down the line, the industry has been forced to find solutions to these problems. And now we’re in a position to state that post-production workflows can be accomplished from home – and, pandemic notwithstanding, there are several reasons why this might be a more desirable option than returning to the office.
1. A happier workforce
People don’t typically squeeze themselves onto a packed tube train for the fun of it. The daily commute can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. Taking those extra hours in the day to actually sit down and eat a proper breakfast, go for a run, or spend some time with the kids before they go to bed is a huge benefit to people’s wellbeing, while the cost savings quickly add up. And for some people, working in their own space where there is less chance of being interrupted or distracted by co-workers also contributes to greater productivity and improved morale.
2. A better recruitment prospect
Flexibility is a huge draw for prospective employees. Remote working not only gives people greater flexibility over how they spend their time – e.g. not playing sardines on the London underground – but also where. No longer do you have to sell a kidney to live and work in the city. Remote working enables you to live the good life in the Welsh countryside, if you choose, and still do the job you love.
60% of people want to continue working from home more often than they did before the lockdown
From an employer’s perspective, this significantly enlarges the talent pool when hiring new staff. Previously, location was an inhibitor to people achieving their potential. Now we know it doesn’t have to be.
3. Reduced operating costs
The majority of UK VFX companies are located in London – mostly in Soho, where monthly office rent starts at around £60 per square foot (if you’re lucky). Running costs for these offices are high – and during lockdown they were mostly sitting empty, gathering dust, while post-production work continued from desks, picnic tables and ironing boards in spare rooms/corners across the country.
Having proved itself to be viable, remote working suggests you could drastically reduce and even eliminate these office costs. When all that is left in the office is the IT infrastructure, why not move that out to a data centre where it will be better supported, with appropriate power and cooling, as well as high-speed, low-latency connectivity? Imagine the cost benefits of minimising office space, or getting rid of it altogether. How would you invest that money in your business?
4. The technology is ready
There may have been a sense early on in lockdown that you were building the plane as you were flying it. New technologies and new workflows had to be implemented at short notice under stressful conditions. But having made it work for the last few months, it’s now evident that the technology is ready for remote working.
Remote desktop tools such as Teradici, together with video review and collaboration software, as well as numerous cloud-based applications have allowed work to continue through this crisis. In terms of activities that rely on software, it’s reasonable to expect that efficiency will only increase as we all become more accustomed to the ‘new normal’.
What technology do you need?
Hardware is a slightly different story. It’s all possible – so long as you have the right setup. When it comes to VFX there are two main points of concern: capacity and connectivity. Both may need upgrading to ensure the long-term success of remote working, since the load on your IT system will be different in current circumstances than it would have been pre-lockdown. For example, remote working backup protocols may be eating into your storage space, or having all workers accessing the server remotely at the same time may be creating connectivity issues.
Something to consider: Who is maintaining your IT infrastructure if no one is in the office?
If a server needs turning on and off again, will you have to wait for someone to get into the office to do it?
Moving your IT infrastructure to a colocation data centre ensures you:
- Always have sufficient (and cost-effective) power and cooling for your servers, even if you add capacity.
- Always have optimum connectivity – and can easily upgrade if needed.
- Always have people available to carry out remote hands services
It’s an always on, always reliable, always resilient solution.
Turning your creative vision to a remote work future
VFX artists are known for their ability to visualise the impossible. 2020 has forced post-production houses to unleash that creative vision on their own working environment, creating solutions to what was once considered an impossible problem. In doing so, they have opened up a wealth of cost-saving and business development opportunities that will ultimately prove too valuable to ignore. Remote working is here to stay.
If you’re considering putting a long-term work from home strategy in place check out our complete guide to colocation to see how a data centre could help you. And if you're a VFX house who's using remote working for the first time, get some advice from our experts, who will be able to provide insight into the best tech solutions specific to your situation.