Balancing the needs of hybrid production workflows

For much of the past 12 years, we’ve called Ambassadors a ‘house of craft’ with artists from all expertise coming together to create under one roof. Whether it was in Amsterdam, New York, or together on-set, we’ve always thrived off the energy of working side-by-side.

So when COVID-19 caused the world to go into lockdown last March, we, like many others, were wondering how socially-distanced creative production was going to work.

A lot of industries don’t need much more than a home computer and a decent internet connection, but commercial creativity requires chemistry and collaboration to come up with great ideas – followed by huge amounts of data to bring them to life. But we shouldn’t have been worried. After all, producers solve problems for a living.

It's all in the tools

When restrictions meant live shoots weren’t possible, creative post-production techniques gave new life to existing content, and animation continued to create the impossible. After the initial scramble to set up remote working, our team of IT wizards have helped refine remote workflows. Teradici has created a seamless remote working experience for the artists (even down to the pen pressure on a Wacom). Communication has also been enhanced with Shotgun and Cube for remote review sessions.

Creating efficiencies in the production pipeline is something we’ve always been passionate about too, and it’s been nearly ten years since Ambassadors Lab developed its own cloud-based production platform Cube. With Cube, both ourselves and our clients can digitally manage assets, share work for online annotation and feedback, and deliver final files for publishing on various channels.

While it’s not as much fun as sitting in the same room, many of us in the industry are learning remote post-production can certainly be more structured.

The (digital) suite life

However, one of the biggest challenges has been digitally recreating the buzzing post-production suite experience. Our grade, edit and VFX suites were where you could often find a group of clients, collaborators and Ambassadors artists bouncing ideas around to create beautiful shots.

But when that’s not been possible, we’re working hard to offer our clients bespoke solutions to virtually recreate the in-suite creative process.

Grading has become more remotely accessible to remain collaborative with clients who can't physically join. Streambox – an industry standard remote streaming box with high colour fidelity – has made for a smooth reliable workflow. With this, we can stream either directly to another Streambox location or through the cloud to people's tablets, laptops or phones. Then, everyone can be kept well-involved in the discussion through Streambox, over Zoom, or even in Whatsapp if that’s the preference.

While it’s not as much fun as sitting in the same room, many of us in the industry are learning remote post-production can certainly be more structured and efficient. While a physical session could see people in and out of the room, a digital session is much more streamlined. By working on remote workflows for grading, edit and online now, we’re better set up for remote production in future - no matter where our clients are in the world.

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A flexible, community-driven approach

I can’t wait to see people running around on all our floors again. It’s just more fun. We put our people and our desire to make great work above all else, and I think having a shared space creates an atmosphere where everyone feels great, bonded, and connected. As we start coming back together in 2021, we’re even more inspired to renovate (or move) to create a studio space for this new way of flexible working. A place that’s not divided by department or somewhere you have to be every day, but a hub where people can thrive, connect, and have some social time. That’s Ambassadors, still a studio where everyone knows each other and works together as one.

After all, even an extrovert like myself can see the benefit of remote working. The flexibility and balance it offers to people, and the way independent focus time can spark concentration, efficiency, and creativity. So, we’re committed to making space for both ways of working. To stay dynamic and continue to adapt, so we’re ready for another 12 years of creating beautiful images. If it’s something our industry has learned, that if you can change the seasons in one shot or tilt a whole city on its side, then you can figure out new ways of collaborating, creating, and crafting too.