BES Animation Producer and Company Director Judy Whittle shares her top tips to help business leaders set up their team to successfully work remotely.

Like many businesses globally, Melbourne-based BES Animation has had to adapt quickly to continue production of its 2D animated original series including Kitty is Not a Cat season 3 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In addition to taking on their first ever virtual attachment, supported through Film Victoria’s Industry Skills program, BES has set up new systems and processes to ensure their team of 40 staff could carry on with creating its award-winning content from home.

We spoke to Producer and Company Director Judy Whittle who shared her top tips for business leaders to set up their team to successfully work remotely or as she modestly puts it, “how we have done our best to approach the situation”.

1. Set your team up for success
We’ve set up a system where our team are able to access their office computers from home via TeamViewer and maintain studio functionality including access to the server and library – to be the same as if they were in the studio. We have ensured that everyone has the right equipment, such as tablet and webcam, as well as ergonomic furniture and understand that basics such as internet speed and connections vary for each person and can present real issues. These challenges need to be taken into account and resolved, where possible. Likewise, we are embracing flexibility for staff who need to care for kids or who may be looking after others or are finding the pressure of working in a share house or apartment challenging.

2. Communication and connection are everything
Keep the weekly scheduled meetings going via Zoom or similar – in fact, do more meetings than you would in the office. Communication and connection are everything, both on the work front and for morale and general wellbeing. Encourage everyone to participate to whatever level they feel comfortable. A simple check in as to how someone is getting on is a good thing under the current circumstances, and all the more so when shared with the group. Meetings can be fun, social and, most importantly, reassuring as we all realise how connected we are and how vital communicating as a team is.

3. Troubleshoot IT problems quickly
We have found that IT issues can lower morale and make work frustrating. In animation, file sizes can be large and uploads/downloads can be an issue when moving the work around the team virtually. If tech issues are clogging the pipeline and can't be fixed, we download the work to a drive and adjust the workflow to accommodate.

4. Maintain clear lines of communication
Communication within production teams and information flow from team leaders to crew can be maintained efficiently using tools such as Slack. These programs are easy to use and enable all members of production to share work and information and ask questions or conduct smaller meetings that would normally occur in the studio by literally walking over to someone’s desk. Multiple conversations can be taking place at any given time which team members can either opt in or out of … like what would happen in a shared work space. 

5. Use the right online tool for your purpose
Many aspects of animation occur via the use of online tools and it has long been the norm to work between multiple locations and often countries. There has always been an element of face-to-face in the mix too. With the current situation this has had to change, but it is still possible using the same programs we’ve always worked with however when an extra degree of accuracy is required – such as final picture and audio – these tools cannot be expected to deliver. This is where we’ve starting using Hightail and Dropbox. By sending larger files via these platforms, team members can view/sign off/give notes on material that is still presented in a high end format. Then, using Zoom or Skype, the work can be shared and discussed and locked with post production companies with the knowledge that all involved have had the opportunity to work with the full resolution file in the lead up to final lock. 

6. Celebrate what you create
We make sure that we encourage everyone to share the final product with the entire team to remind everyone of what it is they are making. Rather than distributing this to the team to watch at their leisure, we do it as a group via Zoom, for that shared experience and degree of normality, as this is something we would regularly do in the studio. 

Read more about Film Victoria and BES Animation’s first ever virtual animation attachment.

Applications are now open for our Professional Attachments and Key Talent Placements registers and close 11pm Monday 4 May 2020. Apply today.