Quarantine Chronicles: How A Boutique Studio Owner Nimbly Converted His Crew To Work-From-Home
With the coronavirus rattling the animation world, we are launching a new series of articles, each of which will look at the crisis from the standpoint of an individual in the industry. Our first interviewee is Bruno Blain, founder and CEO of Rigbox, a 3d rigging studio based in Montreal, Canada. The company’s portfolio includes rigs for the upcoming feature Fireheart, the 4d theme park film Attention Menhir! for Parc Astérix, commercials for IGA grocery stores (pictured at top), and an undisclosed project for Ubisoft.
Rigbox is a boutique operation: it consists of four employees and a few consulting collaborators. Its size was the first factor that helped it transition to remote work — as Blain says, “we just had to make sure the VPN connection was robust enough.”
The second factor was preparation. Blain launched Rigbox with the intention of letting his colleagues work remotely from time to time. By chance, they started testing their remote work procedure a few weeks before the coronavirus hit Canada. As a result, “VPN ports were already configured for each user within our team, and we were set on the streaming software (HP RGS) we wanted to use.”
The third factor was the relative freedom afforded by the studio’s clients. “Our current contracts are bound by non-disclosure agreements,” notes Blain, “but not by on-site security restrictions, so we did not have to ask permission to make the move.” While some big studios in the city — like Ubisoft — transitioned to remote work very quickly, “others working for Hollywood studios remained open until the last minute, when [a shutdown] was no more suggested by our government but obligated.”
The province of Quebec, in which Montreal is situated, was around one week ahead of the rest of the country in its implementation of containment policies. On Friday, March 13, the province’s premier ordered the imminent shutdown of educational and day-care institutions. On the same day, Blain sent his colleagues home “for the next few weeks.” By Monday, they were set up remotely with no issues apart from a few initial connection problems.
Things may now be running relatively smoothly, but the virus has dented Rigbox’s workload in the longer term. Blain says that some contracts have been put on hold or delayed. “I anticipate a slowdown for the upcoming weeks/months,” he concludes. “We will take advantage of this quieter period to improve our pipeline and rigging tools, and further develop our marketing strategies and brand. I am confident that in two months the worst will be behind us.”
If you are a worker in the animation industry and would like to share a story about how coronavirus has affected your life or career, please contact alex(at)cartoonbrew(dot)com for consideration.