The Remote Artist Collaboration project was an effort to enable Disney Animation Studios artists to collaborate with off-site animation talent. Efforts to do so at the time relied heavily on outdated fax and phone to collaborate on creative artifacts. Design goals for this project included a low-cost, minimal setup, plug-and-play system which would be effective in creating a collaborative environment.
The explorative research for this project included interviews and contextual inquiry with a test audience of artists. Our team conducted interviews with artists in a variety of roles within DAS, as well as technical support analysts who work with those artists. We conducted observations with artists collaborating in-process throughout the process.
Our team also sat in on a number of “Animation Dailies” where directors would review the bi-daily work of an animator. This provided a means for understanding how downward-collaboration was conducted from director-to-artist, a common form of collaboration with remotely-located groups.
Design for this began with sketching of possible design concepts. We began with solutions for both the digital review room and individual artist feedback. We later learned that there was a greater need for the individual artist system, and so we went ahead with that for a prototype design. Design iterations for the individual artist feedback system continued for a week, working with the technology management and systems department to find a remote screen prototype that would fit our purposes.
We began prototype development in a partnership with the technology management department. Using Cintiq’s and the Teradici remote desktop system, we created a dual-use interface for artists.
To simulate the communication method, we used two macbooks with iChat. Artists would communicate physically and verbally to one another by looking up from their canvas and talking or gesturing.
We tested this device first with two animation interns, and then with two pen-and-paper animators within Disney Animation. They said they liked the simplicity and communicative abilities of the prototype, as well as the speed of feedback. There were a few technical limitations, but they noted this was more than acceptable given the collaborative powers. Future prototypes aimed at eliminating these technical quirks.