Computer Graphics World

Edition 1 2021

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4 cgw j a n • f e b • m a r c h 2 0 2 1 V I E W P O I N T hether we like it or not, the world as we know it has changed – and our way of work- ing has changed with it. Yet as all clouds have a silver lining, those who have been able to adapt have found comfort in a greater degree of flexibility and autonomy over their working hours and conditions. This begs the question: How much has COVID-19 shied things further along the trajec- tory towards decentralized labor, igniting a dormant appetite for remote work that was fully realized when this became the "new normal?" Would this eventual shi have happened regardless, as both creatives and companies come around to the advantag- es of remote working, in their own time? At this point, it's important to note that decentralized labor isn't just remote work. It's a com- plete rearrangement of resource, infrastructure, and technologies away from one specific location or "hub" – and 2020 saw most businesses rapidly switch to this setup out of necessity. As realization dawns that working life post-COVID may not look the same as before – whereby improving remote working technology and capa- bilities fuel a more scattered, decentralized approach to labor – it's worth exploring the advantages, challenges, and opportunities that this presents to a workforce in flux. FORCES FOR CHANGE At the risk of sounding like a broken record, recovery from COVID is undoubtedly driving the trend of decentralized labor at the present time. But it was certainly an upward trend that existed before, fueled by many non-pandemic related forces. Tax credits and incentives, for instance, created competitive hubs that chased these credit programs before they expired. This culminated in nomadic, tribe-esque workforces that ultimately le artists feeling unsettled about where they'd be located even a year down the line. As a result, many opted to stop chasing tax breaks by either going freelance, setting up their own studio, or working for a previous company with a more permanent, convenient address. Central "hubs," which nonethe- less moved at will, no longer flew for those who wanted a better work/life balance. Advances in technology also played their part. Traditionally, the only way you could get a group of people working togeth- er on one project was through very expensive technology and infrastructure – storage racks, server racks, and so on – and you'd need to have enough scale to make this pay for itself, lest you go under from the capital investment you'd need in order to make it all worthwhile. Nowadays, that's less true. Advances in cloud technology, GPU capabilities, and so on keep workforces connected and costs down, even when not all under one roof. With new technologies come new ways of working and, crucially, new types of work. The astronomical rise in episodic streamed content means that vendors and artists are no longer working on three-year projects to the same extent. Instead, TV shows and series, wherein each episode is oen completed in a matter of months, have created a new model of working. Smaller groups of people can use more readily-accessible technology to work together over the course of a much shorter time span, without the need for a giant corporation to aggregate the cost of capital. This shi comes off the back of a wider reaction to the reality of labor becoming more decen- tralized. It's certainly been a long time coming: With so much work involved in any one production, this necessarily needs to be spread out. It's becoming less and less likely that an individual vendor can take on the sheer amount of shots needed to get a production to the quality ex- pected by audiences today, and what we're seeing in recent tech and infrastructure trends is the industry responding in kind. REAPING REWARDS While there are undoubtedly challenges to this way of work- ing – namely, how do you keep a commanding control over things like security, cost, accountability, predictability, and so on during production? – the benefits are immediately tangible. Most notably, decentralized labor provides more opportuni- ties for individual artists. A wider global reach has the advantage of encouraging studios to ex- plore areas or regions that may have been previously unchart- ed territory, but nonetheless hosts unexpected, very strong talent. India is a great example. Formerly an outsourcing hub, it has benefited from having a more sophisticated remote pro- duction infrastructure in place, resulting in local studios taking on work that is closer to the creative decision-making. What's more, having people create and build on their home turf not only makes a career in visual effects more accessible for them, but it's also cheaper for the studio involved, and stands as a much better distri- bution of resources. In addition, globalization of re- sources and capabilities means we're going to get smarter about finding new ways of delivering these in the hands of distributed groups of people. Besides the potential for new technologies that this holds, a major benefit is SHAPING THE WORKFORCE OF THE FUTURE BY MATHIEU MAZEROLLE W

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