12field Animation is an established, multi-award-winning studio, specialising in combining traditional skills with the newest technology to create high-quality long-form 2D character animation. Amongst many other projects, 12field works across the award-winning series Little J & Big Cuz, for NITV and the ABC, produced by Ned Lander Media, and The Strange Chores for the ABC, co-produced by Media World Pictures and Ludo Studio. Early last year, as 12field embarked upon further series work, COVID-19 hit and the studio’s needs changed overnight. An immediate transition to offsite was required with flexible solutions to run different pipelines and software across the two shows. Remote file sharing, communication tools and the technical capacity to manage two large data flows required reliable and future-proof solutions. 12field needed to establish their remote capability and expand their animation software portfolio and for that, they turned to Digistor and Toon Boom Harmony.

12field Animation needed to establish its remote capability and expanded its animation software portfolio turning to Digistor and Toon Boom Harmony to deliver their projects.

Studio Manager at 12field Animation, Kelly Lynagh, explained, “12field’s a studio that’s very familiar with the Flash-Animate pipeline for production. At the time we were talking about making Season One of The Strange Chores we felt it was a good opportunity to break away from our known pipeline and explore some new software that would give us more features. This included features that would allow us to tap into our background of traditional animation and achieve visuals that have an older feeling aesthetic. Our characters look like they’ve been drawn with pencils and our animators often draw into their shots yet have a lot of control of the rigs, and our backgrounds are rich in detail and lighting. We also knew Strange Chores needed more options in the VFX department and we clearly saw that Toon Boom Harmony ticked all the boxes for us to switch over for this production. It was a steep learning curve and we were keen, moving into the second season, to have robust support which became even more crucial when we all went remote. After discussions with Digistor we felt they were the ones to help us navigate that.”

12field needed advice on hardware that could better handle the system requirements of Harmony for the show’s second season and manage the rest of the software that they use on a regular basis and so evolved the solution discussion and design with Digistor.

Lynagh continued, “It was about designing a system that protects our files with both security and retention, plus a transition from an onsite studio to essentially running a remote studio when COVID arrived. It was a huge leap out of our comfort zone. We’re obviously not alone in suddenly needing all our artists to have the capacity to work from home but having professional direction from Digistor on how to do that was invaluable.”

In the animation field artists usually are experts at their chosen piece of software, yet the hardware requirements and how those systems work can still be a mystery.

Lynagh added, “Having support from Digistor meant we could have a discussion about what we knew we needed from our software and the resources we have available to make it with a partner who can inform us on the best equipment to run it and how to structure it so it works efficiently.”

To run their latest productions of both Little J & Big Cuz (Season Three) and The Strange Chores (Season Two) concurrently, 12field needed a cut across to a bigger and faster server, so they went with a SuperMicro Server. 

Lynagh explained, “We also worked with Digistor on designing a new backup system with Veamm. COVID also meant we had to up our game on the remote front so, again, with assistance from Digistor we now run a VPN via a new Fortigate appliance. We’re also on a Customer Assurance Plan with Digistor to ensure we have access to technical help whenever we need it. As a result, the new solution Digistor supplied us with pretty much completely runs our new pipeline for all our current projects.”

12field’s typical workflow involves a lot of artistic prep work, then distributing that work remotely for their artists to work on locally before they return it to the studio so it can be edited and mastered for broadcast.

Lynagh added, “The most important component is making sure all our artists have access to the source materials they need at any time and that the work they create and provide comes back uncorrupted within a reasonable time frame. Technical problems can quickly mean we’re behind on production, so stability is vitally important to ensure everything’s moving forward as smoothly as possible. Also having good archival and backup processes in place is a big sigh of relief knowing our source material is protected and insured. To that end, we found Digistor to be very well versed in the media and arts industry’s workflows, which is a huge advantage when the need to upgrade is necessary, as well as being able to maintain good systems. You know you’re getting advice from a company that understands what you do, as Digistor does.”

All-in-all a complex requirement was not only met but solved with a comprehensive, reliable and efficient solution as Kelly Lynagh concluded, “Knowing that 12field is fully set up to run our productions remotely is a big plus for us. The ongoing advice Digistor provides will ensure we’re always employing great work practices that are bespoke for us and what we do.”