Collaboration Without Borders: The Making of 10 Great CG Characters

By: Ozgur Aydogdu

The pace of technology is so dizzying that the usual way of doing business is challenged by new and fascinating approaches everyday. The impact is even more visible in the animation & VFX industry which is heavily dependent on these developments.

Today, I am very excited to see that the borders and boundaries are being eliminated which lets artists from all around the world create together. In this respect, Artella offers a great platform for artists to increase collaboration for creating animated films, video games and virtual reality content. I am so glad to have the opportunity to share my personal remote experience working from Turkey to create a series of characters for Animation Mentor in an early version of what has now become, Artella.

As a rigger working in Istanbul, Turkey; I had mainly taken part in projects where the whole process is done within the same studio. I had also taken part in some freelance projects, but even for them, I was the only remote one while the rest of the team would still be in the same place. So, the Tribes would be the first project for me where the whole team would be in different physical locations and time zones. That’s why, at the beginning of the project, I was a little concerned about how the project could be handled without having problems.

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At this point, I would like to start mentioning the workflow and the ‘24 hour effects cycle’ approach used in Scorsese’s movie Hugo which fascinated me when I first read about it. Having teams with different areas of expertise globally located (including East/West US, China, Europe, London and Canada), the studio took great advantage of difference in time zones to have sequence of shots completed in shorter periods. The idea was that, a shot in their New York office would be sent to the next production sequence at the end of the day, going westwards around the globe, first to LA, then to China, Europe, London and Canada respectively by which it could be ready for people in NY to work over again before the lunch time on the following day. This is a great example of an efficiency that could be possible through taking advantage of time difference and expertise across the world. Besides, it enabled the movie to be completed over a much shorter time vs the traditional approach with great quality.

I find the idea and approach in our Tribes project very similar to the above mentioned Hugo case. I was the Rigger located in Istanbul-Turkey, the animator was in New York and project director in California. As the shared pipeline was located in the cloud, we were mainly working in different time zones where our daily timeline could be depicted as below in simple terms.

(3 pm @ CA) The animator sends test animation and poses to the project director for review (6am @ NY) 

(7pm @ CA) project director reviews the file and sends revisions to Ozgur just before leaving the office (5am @ Istanbul) 

(11pm @ CA) Ozgur starts working on the revisions (9am @ Istanbul)

(7am @ CA) Ozgur finishes revisions and checks in the updated file in the pipeline (5pm @ Istanbul) 

(10am @ CA) project director gets the updated file next morning when he comes to the office (8pm @ Istanbul)

Using this workflow, we got the most out of 24 hours in a day without anyone sacrificing their work/life balance, and finishing the work much faster than we would if we were in the same time zone. Besides the time efficiency, it also enabled to form the desired team from different parts of the world without being have to be in the same place. By this way, I could have the chance to work together with people whom I might never have a chance to be in the same team otherwise. So, for me one of the most rewarding parts of this project was collaborating with some amazing artists in the industry.

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Despite all the fun, collaboration and potential efficiency it offers, these kind of projects also need to be very well organized and followed up not to have any discrepancy due to being in different locations. In this respect, the project director really did a great job, organizing everything so well that things could perform smoothly and everybody could stay on the same page. For this, he organized video conferences when needed, regular mails were exchanged, the notes from mails and meetings were listed in the common platform. By this way, that everybody could stay up-to-date and to-do’s could be easily followed up. Besides, access to common folders were granted to each member of the team, where latest works could be quickly updated and both the prior and latest versions of either the design, model, rig or the test animation could be accessed any time for reference or follow-up.

In this respect, Artella offers even more organized platform to manage these kind of projects that has evolved from what we used on Tribes. It therefore came no surprise to me that Artella was designed by the creators of Animation Mentor, whose main purpose is provide all students globally with the access to the most qualified rigs, mentors and resources regardless of their physical location.

Having rigged 10 characters for Animation Mentor’s Tribes project and being part of such an amazing team, last but not the least I can say is that it was super fun, yet challenging project and improved my skills along the way. It really equipped me with the exposure and experience to make my dream come true and now I’m working at Blue Sky Studios thanks to being part of such an international project.

Finally, I’m so excited that the borders and boundaries are diminishing. It’s great that artists from all around the world can create together and collaborate, without having to move to another country or even leave their houses. I’m looking forward to seeing the first animated feature that will be produced with this approach. I don’t think it’s just a dream through a platform such as Artella, it will be a reality very soon.

her and collaborate, without having to move to another country or even leave their houses. I’m looking forward to seeing the first animated feature that will be produced with this approach. I don’t think it’s just a dream through a platform such as Artella, it will be a reality very soon.

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