MARCH 19, 2020

How Your Production Team Can Successfully Transition to a Remote Work Environment

Almost overnight, the global coronavirus outbreak has upended the media and entertainment industry. With public health now an urgent priority, media companies have to shift their workflows to remote working models or just suspend their operations altogether while they try to figure out next steps. This is an unprecedented challenge—there’s no getting around it. But with a little legwork, production teams can successfully transition their workflows to a remote work environment. Here’s how.

How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has Upended Production Workflows

The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profoundly disruptive impact on production workflows. State and local governments, citing public health concerns, have in many cases told businesses that their employees must work from home effective immediately. As a result, media companies have to pivot to a remote work setup on the spot in order to keep everyone in the team safe, all while their content creation teams up and running.

Some productions have been put on pause while the studios adapt to this new reality—Netflix, Apple TV+, and Marvel Studios are among the production companies who’ve already made announcements to that effect. Smaller shops have also had to temporarily close their studios and facilities as well. Production pros are trying to figure out how to access the media stored in on-prem storage systems, how to remotely share and review content, how to communicate and collaborate, and so on. News teams have to navigate all of these challenges while also getting time-sensitive and, in some cases, life-saving information to the public.

It’s a heavy lift, to be sure. But if your production shop finds itself in this difficult position, there are some steps you can take to ease the transition.

1. Set Up Remote Access for Your Team

Short term needs will, of course, take priority for the time being. As you transition to remote workflows, you may not maintain 100% capacity, but you should be able to get 50-70% of your productivity back within a few days to a week. First, you have to figure out how you’re going to access your content without a lot of technical hurdles. A simple solution like remote desktop access can allow you to access computers in your facility from remote locations. Although there are some limitations to this approach, for many roles and tasks it is adequate. With remote access, you can edit content almost as effectively as if you were still back in your edit suite.

2. Make Sure You Have Enough Bandwidth

At this point, you’re also going to want to confirm that you have sufficient bandwidth in place for remote workers, to enable remote access. Some companies are making Wi-Fi service available for free in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, so that may be one option worth exploring for tasks that require lower bandwidth.

3. Confirm That You Have the Proper Software Licenses

Although you might assume that the software licenses you already have automatically let you use the software remotely, that’s not always the case. Some software companies require you to have special licenses for remote access, so don’t forget to confirm that you have the right licenses in place. 

4. Consider How Your Team Will Collaborate

After you have remote access set up, you’ll want to consider how you collaborate as a team when everyone’s working remotely. How can editors and assistants share content with each other and with producers and other stakeholders, for example? When team members can no longer provide feedback in person, it’s not as easy to have that seamless collaboration that you’re used to. To overcome this obstacle, you might want to set up a chat session so your team members can still collaborate from their new locations.

5. Anticipate and Address Remote Workflow Challenges

Even with these building blocks in place, your team is still going to run into some challenges. If someone hits play on a timeline and a producer wants to know whether the audio is in sync with the video, for example, it’s going to be a bit trickier to confirm that everything’s lined up perfectly. For this reason, some production teams find it helpful to virtualize their entire production environment so they can work more efficiently from any location.

Although it sounds like a major undertaking, virtualization doesn’t necessarily require a major overhaul of your equipment. You can often reconfigure your existing software and hardware to enable remote workflows, helping your team get back on the job in a relatively short amount of time.

Some production teams use hybrid workflows, streaming content to a laptop in a remote location instead of going to the facility where the media is physically located. Depending on your needs, one of the above options—simple remote desktop access, virtualization, or hybrid workflows—may be the best choice for getting back up and running.

Down the Line, Production Workflows Will Become More Resilient

In the long run, of course, production companies will need to create a business continuity plan that helps them make this transition much more quickly the next time a crisis arises, whether that’s a localized event like an earthquake or a global pandemic like the one we’re experiencing now. The cloud offers intriguing possibilities for riding out just those sorts of scenarios—and with the current crisis illustrating its utility, production companies that have been hesitant to embrace the cloud are considering it with fresh eyes.

For the time being, the tips we’ve shared above should help your team get back up and running. The next step: protecting your business against further disruption.

  • Rose de Fremery

    Rose is a freelance writer specializing in B2B technology, living at the intersection of digital culture and creativity.

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