Business In Arch Viz

By Jeff Mottle

Business in Arch Viz. Vol. 16 - Managing Offices & Remote Teams

Welcome to the 16th installment of our new RebusFarm Business in Arch Viz series.  We will be featuring two articles every month. Each new article will discuss the business side of working in and running businesses in the visualization industry.  We will feature articles from some of the top studios in the world and have in-depth answers to questions that every studio and artist in the industry should know.  

The goal of this series is to provide a long-term resource for not only new artists and business owners entering the industry, but also long-time industry veterans.  The topics will range from contracts and IT infrastructure to hiring and business strategy.

Studios participating in this series include: 2G Studio, ArX Solutions, Beauty and the Bit, Cityscape, DBOX, Designstor, Digit Group, Inc., Factory Fifteen, Kilograph, Luxigon, MIR, Neoscape, Public Square, Steelblue, The Neighbourhood, Transparent House, Urbansimulations and many more. Collectively these companies generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue, and have decades of experience running some of the most successful businesses in the industry.

We hope you enjoy the series!

We would like to also like to sincerely thank RebusFarm for supporting this series. Through their support they are helping better our industry and contribute significantly to future generations of visualization businesses in our field. If you are looking for one of the best rendering farm companies in the world, we highly recommend checking them out here

Image Courtesy: Neoscape

Do you have remote teams that work with your studio?

Arx Solutions:  No. We don't outsource in ArX Solutions. We did it some time ago, but now we don't. Sometimes it might help but it will increase the level of complexity. Sometimes it’s not worth it. We do have three production offices though.

Beauty and the Bit: Nope. We had bad experiences with that and we decided to stop it. Everything that B&TB does is cooked in our kitchen.

Kilograph: Yes we have established a dedicated Kilograph team in Spain and we have also worked with others during overflow periods.

MIR: Our focus has always been on building a workplace where artists can develop their craft as well as themselves.  With that in mind it doesn't make sense to outsource our work.

Neoscape: Yes - we currently have studios in Boston, NYC and San Francisco plus a team in Colombia and the Ukraine plus some remote employees in the US.

Public Square: We like to have artists come into the office, but for heavy modeling jobs we’ll outsource. Sometimes sending something overseas can work really nicely to supplement our artists time and keep the project going for 24 hours a day. We can send something to be modeled overnight so our artists can come into work on lighting and texturing etc.

Steelblue: Remote individuals make up a small percentage.

Urban Simulations: No, I have but not today, we trust our internal team.

Image Courtesy: Kilograph

What sort of work do you often have your remote teams doing?

Arx Solutions:  We try not to move projects from one office to another.

Kilograph: Still rendering and animation work.

MIR: In some, very rare occasions, we hire outside 3d modellers to help us detail streetscape and surrounding scenery.

Neoscape: Some of the remote teams focus on 3D modeling and others are more full-service.  WIth respect to remote employees, they are typically part of a team within one of the studios - just working from home.

Public Square: Mostly modeling. We like to keep lighting and texturing in house. I think this is the part that really distinguishes good artists from great.

Steelblue: Programming, Rotoscope, Modeling.

Urban Simulations: Just modeling

How do you manage your remote teams to ensure the greatest productivity? What have you learned over time that has helped you to become most efficient with your remote team?

Arx Solutions: Organization. You can't have several offices if there isn't a big organization and standardization in place.

Kilograph: Our team in Spain is run by an extremely experienced artist who is talking with our team throughout the day (until early afternoon at least) every day.  We also have visits in our office 1-2 times per year to ensure consistency in workflows.

Neoscape: The remote teams attend all production meetings and use all the normal tools for staying in touch and keeping us apprised of their progress - email, video conferencing, chat etc.  Plus we typically have face-to face meetings with them on regular intervals.  I’ve learned that certain employees - not all, are well suited for working remotely and that some functions are easier to use in this fashion than others.

Public Square: As mentioned above if we are using overseas artists we can have them model something overnight so we can continue working the next day.

When did you decide to open a second office? What triggered the decision and how hard was that process vs starting up your primary office.

Arx Solutions: Business opportunity. It was always a business opportunity.

Kilograph: A very talented group of artists we were not able to bring to the US for visa reasons. We have also been very interested in entering the European market for some time. This allows us the flexibility.

Neoscape: We opened the NYC studio in 2006 as about 50% of our work was coming from the NYC area.  It was difficult even though the two offices are fairly close.  Having a New Yorker, Ryan Cohen, who had been trained in our Boston studio really helped that happen.  He still runs that office.  We learned a lot the hard way and are hoping those experiences make it a little more seamless at our newest location, SF which we just launched at the beginning of May.  The SF office will help us serve our west coast clients and gain access to a deep talent pool.

Steelblue: A few years after the company was established. Location was an important factor for efficiently with a client and having an office in close proximity made sense, and the decision was easy.

Urban Simulations: We find out that sometimes clients need to trust us in a close way, Madrid was the first office, Sao Paulo, Doha and lately Hong Kong

Image Courtesy: ArX Solutions

What is required to successfully run multiple offices?

Arx Solutions: Coordination, standardization and methodology. We currently have 17 different nationalities in ArX Solutions, so some simple things must be set up. For example, the main language for naming files. Can you imagine trying to understand a file that someone created layers in arabic?
Running different offices will have a structural loss of efficiency due to communication. It is not the same to provide feedback to someone who is in front of you than eight thousand kilometers and six time zones. This lack of structural inefficiency should be balanced with something else. If you can find the balance, It’s not worth the level of complexity.

Kilograph: Trust, someone who is experienced and trustworthy on the other side of the world.  Having a longer prior engagement is essential to knowing if it will be a good fit.

Neoscape: It takes a strong leader in each office with strong communication skills and persistence.  I also think that each office needs a champion of sorts - or perhaps a small team focused on making it successful.

Steelblue: The right team. People you can trust and that can manage themselves and the day to day.

Urban Simulations: Addressing tasks, keeping production in just one office instead of repeating teams in different locations.

How do you know when to close an office or relocate an office to a new location? What business strategies go into making those decisions?

Arx Solutions: We’ve never closed an office, we’ve always expanded.

Neoscape: A lot of it is gut-feel combined with performance metrics.  Regarding relocating an office - that is typically based on prevailing rents, a need for more or upgraded space or maybe moving based on where your employees are coming from.

Urban Simulations: It’s a straight relationship between when clients trust you so much and they do not visit your office at all, that you can come back to HQ and develop your work from there.

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We are the same way with as Public Square when it comes to remote workers. We rather have everything done under one roof except if there is a large project and workload is swamped, having our remote workers helps a ton!

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Business in Arch Viz. Vol. 16 - Managing Offices & Remote Teams

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About the author

Jeff Mottle

Founder at CGarchitect

placeCalgary, CA