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Autonomous Animator: Your Handy Work-from-Home Survival Guide

Learn from Homer Simpson, who mastered the art of being productive at home years before the pandemic. (The Simpsons / 20th Television)
Learn from Homer Simpson, who mastered the art of being productive at home years before the pandemic. (The Simpsons / 20th Television)

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Autonomous Animator: Your Handy Work-from-Home Survival Guide

There are more and more people working part time or permanently from home every day. For many, returning full time to the office may never happen again so it’s time to get settled into your home office for the long haul. Here are some tips, tricks, and necessities that every work-from-home animator may need:

Extra mouse and keyboard. Always keep an extra mouse and keyboard handy. If you’ve ever had a mouse or keyboard break on you in the middle of a major project, the level of panic and feeling of utter helplessness that you experienced has probably never been matched before or since.

Long-Use Rated Office Chair. Not only do you need to find a chair that is comfortable for your height, but it needs to be a “Long Use” or “Extended Use” rated chair to help avoid achy necks, backs and arms after pulling long shifts.

Diffused Keylight. The main source of light in your studio should not be searing down on you and your desk, but rather a softer, diffused light that is bright enough to keep everything legible yet soft enough to be pleasant and free from glare.

Good Speakers with Subwoofer. Animators are often required to produce and deliver a final product, which means working with sound. It’s a must to have a good quality sound system to adequately proof and experience the audio tracks.

Nice Set of Headphones. The only way to truly hear all the subtleties of a soundtrack is with a nice set of headphones.

Energy Drink. Green tea, coffee or Minotaur, you may need to have your preferred liquid boost available for those long days and nights.

Art Desk. If you’re stuck and can’t seem to get unstuck, try getting away from the computer and sitting down at an actual art desk to draw, sketch, doodle and write ideas out by hand.

Whiteboard. Keeping important notes, ideas and plans highly visible and easily editable is key for any independent animator. Invest in a large white board and nevermore lose notes scrawled on Post-it pads. Take several clear photos of the board each time before erasing.

Wall Calendar. Being constantly aware of the current day, what’s planned in the upcoming week and future key milestone dates is essential. Buy a wall calendar and hang it right in front of you for easy reference.

Email/Digital Office Calendar. In addition to a wall calendar, utilizing a digital equivalent is a must. Having your email or scheduling software of choice filled with reminders is an excellent way to keep you on track and on top of multiple projects and tasks.

Create The Flow. Always operate in a systemized fashion with consistent naming conventions and identical project folder layouts so everything can be managed, tracked and archived easily. Every scrap of work you produce should be filed appropriately and effortless to locate. Make extensive use of shortcuts so production can flow smoothly and as uninhibited as possible. Populate your entire desktop with links to your most recent project, most used software, folders and files and promise to never navigate the long way again except to set up a shortcut link.

Back Up Your Work. Whether you have automatic backups performed or not, it’s more than worth the time and money to buy external hard drives to perform manual backups every month. For extra safety, try redundancy: back up all of your files on one external hard drive and make a second backup on another external hard drive. This way, if one of them happens to fail, you have a backup to your backup.

Take A Breather. While working from home for extended periods of time, it’s easy to become sedentary. Be sure to stand up, stretch, walk briskly, do some jumping jacks or a quick exercise of your choice for one or two minutes while keeping your mind completely off work. Set a reminder on your digital calendar to do this several times a day.

Take Lunch Seriously. Force yourself to take an hour lunch every day where you get away from your desk and preferably out of your house. This way you can spend some much needed time away from your home office and return refreshed, refocused and ready to conquer the rest of the day.

Martin Grebing is the president of Funnybone Animation Studios. He can be reached via funnyboneanimation.com.

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