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When working from home is much more than emailing

BBC Technology 25 Jun 2020 11:08
By Nell Mackenzie Business reporter
Ere Santos is a movie animatorImage copyright Ere Santos

Ere Santos remembers that he once had to animate a fight between his character, the sidekick, and the hero of the film.

The sidekick lands on the hero's head, and the scene cuts. Luckily, the hero's animator sat next to Mr Santos.

Much like their creations, the two colleagues went to battle on how the interaction should work.

Instead of drawing, these feature film animators create computer simulations based on physics.

Mr Santos likens it to making a puppet that the computer will bring to life.

Trouble ensues if the build is even fractionally inaccurate, because the puppets will slice through their world like a ghost, rather than a real being.

"You can have a hand going through a table, or through another hand if they are clapping," says Mr Santos.

Eventually, he and his neighbour ironed out their characters' skirmish.

Huge data files were shared between them, three to four times a day, but being able to look over his colleague's shoulder and to check his computer screen was indispensable.

The cartoon has been divided by scene rather than character and distributed to the 100 or so illustrators working together on the feature film animated by Jellyfish Pictures.

Mr Santos jokes: "I hope so. I mean, anytime you have characters not touching each other in animation is great. Characters interacting with each other - yeah. It's just a world of like, 'Oh no.'"

Image copyright Sony Pictures Animation

"It's an interesting challenge that nobody's ever had to make a movie outside of the office. So it's really cool and exciting, but also terrifying because you don't want to mess up," says Mr Santos.

The technology has been around for almost 10 years.

And within cloud computing a micro-industry, known as enterprise infrastructure, has bloomed.

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Sometimes this is through software that signs a user into their work network.

These boxes can also prioritise wi-fi speed when parents are on work calls and kids are playing on their games console, or streaming movies.

A recent research note from Goldman Sachs estimates this industry, which is now worth just under a billion dollars (£790m), could reach a value of $9bn (£7.1bn) in the next five years.

Image copyright Ere Santos

As if he was in the office, the file network of Jellyfish Pictures opens up and he can begin animating, immediately.

These files are ultimately stored on Microsoft Azure, a cloud storage provider, and backed up at a physical data centre in Hayes.

The software Mr Santos works with does not actually send him all of the pixels in the picture that he sees on his computer screen.

This allows several people to work in each scene simultaneously, upload and refresh it while they animate. Each pixel is compressed and encrypted, to keep the movie secret and safe while the animators create their work.

Vancouver-based Ziad Lammam, says his company Teradici, like other cloud software providers, has seen a boom in business since the beginning of the lockdown.

Mr Lammam says it's been a "journey" to see some movie studio executives use cloud computing and trust that it would work.

But experts argue that on-site IT is even more vulnerable than data managed in the cloud.

"A lot of people have said, 'Wow, yeah, you really saved my bacon,'" he says.

"It really pushed everyone to kind of jump into that swimming pool, use a technology and decide that this is not only something we can do during a pandemic, but this is something we can do longer term."

Aruba, which has been around in various iterations since 2008, is now a wi-fi enabled box that plugs into a router and opens up the office network.

Because of its high encryption levels, Mr Ni says it's a favourite of financial and insurance firms.

Overnight Meraki set up remote connections for 1,000 call centre representatives, with all of the apps they needed alongside the security credentials the bank required.

As for Jellyfish animator Ere Santos, he also loves his cloud set-up, especially now that he can work from his newly purchased standing desk at home.

Keeping his work on the cloud makes Mr Santos more comfortable that, if his computer crashes, his work will not be lost.

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Mr SantosEre SantosMr LammamJellyfish PicturesDreamWorks