For many of us around the country, 2020 was a troubled year. However, for Abbott Animation, we were lucky enough to be able to take last year by the horns, grow and learn from it. We have continued to grow as a company, adding three additional animators in 2020 – Peter Althoff , Elizabeth Wilson, and Jeffry Quiambao. All are incredibly talented and motivated animators and have helped push us to new heights.
Overall, Abbott Animation has had a very positive year as a business. We won multiple awards for our animation work, including a silver Telly and Top 50 ADDY award for our recreation of the Husky incident. We have made deliberate inroads into the medical illustration and animation market, highlighting the training and experience of our medical illustrator, Sarah Hegmann. We produced almost an hour and a half of animated content this year, which is about half an hour more than 2019. And we have continued to develop our long-lasting relationships with our clients throughout the year.
Our team has navigated through this… interesting year with a large amount of success, which we largely attributed to our ability to creatively find solutions and work together as a unified team. As the world changes around us, our foremost concerns are twofold – safety and customer service. While we have taken steps to be able to operate safely from our office once again, we successfully produced multiple animations remotely for a significant chunk of time.
In early April Abbott Animation made the choice to shut down the office and have our staff primarily work from home. Like many other businesses we had some concerns prior to the decision, in our case revolving primarily around a potential loss of productivity due to the nature of our work. As a production company we tend to deal with extremely large files, complex project directories, short deadlines, and require heavy amounts of computing power to complete our projects. Translating that environment to remote work was a challenge that we had to address. Luckily, even before the pandemic struck, we saw value in being able to work remotely.
As an example, oftentimes it can be convenient for artists to log into the remote server from home to keep an eye on our renderfarm (a cluster of powerful computers performing rendering tasks). If we have a critical render job going over the weekend, an artist can check in and view the rendered images and check for potential errors, without having to physically be in the office. To that end we had been preparing much of the necessary infrastructure for about six months prior to everything spiraling. That included upgrading our internet speeds, improving our VPN (Virtual Private Network) setup, and switching to Active Directory and Group Policies for administering the machines on the network. Those preparations turned out to be much more necessary than we could have realized.
We have found that as technology changes and our capabilities grow, so does the complexity and average file size per project. To give you an idea of our internal structure, we recently upgraded to a 120 Terabyte RAID main central server. An additional 100+ Terabyte RAID pool serves as a versioned backup for the main server. Our normal setup uses 10 Gigabit lines to connect each workstation to our server system locally within the office. All that to say, transitioning our office to work-from-home certainly put a bit of a strain on our server connection. However, other than the occasional hiccup in service we were able to transition fairly seamlessly to collaborating at a distance rather than in one big open office.
We opted to use Discord as our distance communication tool of choice. While Discord supports video connections, we opted to simply use its voice chat and text chat features. We set up a few voice channels to allow for a “Main Office” voice chat, as well as a couple of individual “Meeting Rooms” for project specific discussions. Additionally, a Discord server can house many unique “text” channels, which made project organization and asset sharing much more streamlined. Instead of asking someone to come over and take a look at something on our computer screen in the office, we could share it on Discord. Being able to quickly add video clips, images, chats about projects, and even some expressive GIFs and emojis made for an intuitive and lively remote experience.
Abbott Animation combined all available expertise and resources to quickly pivot and meet all of our deadlines. With this year under our belts, we know that we are even better prepared to tackle what is thrown at us, be it production challenges or worldly ones. We are here for our clients, no matter if we serve you from a single office, or from our homes spread out across Tucson. We will always strive to maintain our commitment to quality work that can fit any budget. Even in extreme and unusual circumstances you can count on us to imagine, create, and deliver.