Dealing with COVID-19 as a creative studio

Monday April 13th, 2020

 

In March 2020 we were finishing up multiple projects that were a week away from showtime. And then suddenly everything got cancelled. This is how Mr.Beam is dealing with unforeseen circumstances in business due to the Corona pandemic.

Our official 10th year as Mr.Beam studio had a promising outlook: We invested in a brand new location for our studio, a new warehouse for our hardware and welcomed even more amazing international talents into our family. We were taking on cool projects and looking forward to celebrating our first decade as a successful creative business together. Although we knew 2020 was going to be slightly more challenging than usual, we have never expected a change of plans on this scale.

Mr.Beam headquarters located at Ravenoord, Utrecht

Usual workflow

Mr.Beam is a multidisciplinary team of professionals, all sharing their passion for projection mapping, animation, interactive design, motion design and technical innovation. Although our headquarters are located in Utrecht, the Netherlands, most of our projects travel around the world, allowing us to work in diverse locations and meet lots of professionals within various fields of the industry.

 

 

Running a dynamic creative studio asks for good communication and close collaboration. ‘We always start and end our day with a high five. I guess it’s kind of a team spirit thing.’  Daily meetings are an important part of our workflow, making sure everyone is up to date and on the same page within the process. One of our favorite parts of the process is an inspirational brainstorming session. Here everyone will sit together, usually with some drawing paper, pencils, iPad’s and Lego on the table to play with. It’s important to start the process with a highly creative moment.

Aside from serious business, our team is very close and lunch is one of those moments during the day that we take time to listen to everyone’s crazy stories and talk about the latest movies, TV-shows and games. (Which is always a very opinionated subject and a challenge to avoid any spoilers) 

 

 

Impact on the creative industry

The impact of the corona pandemic on the creative industry is huge. First signs of the impact came when our VR components delivery got delayed. And then delayed some more. And some more, until we received an email from the manufacturer telling us that the factory was closed due to COVID-19. Still we tried to remain calm and continue working on the upcoming projects.

But on March 12th things changed. We were in the middle of a meeting with one of our freelancers, when a special announcement from the Dutch prime minister went live on the news.  

 

 

 

“All events with over 100 people are cancelled until the end of March.” Later on this became until the 1st of June. Clients started calling us with bad news and our team members got more and more anxious about using public transportation to get to the studio. Two of our colleagues who were abroad, were seriously affected by the situation. One was a month into a half-year sabbatical, traveling through Asia, before being forced to return while her house was subleased, and the other colleague is still stuck in the Caribbean due to lockdown measures. Those are things no one could predict, and have a huge effect on the daily business. How do you deal with such big and sudden changes ?

Photo of the Jeroen Bosch projection mapping show by Mr.Beam studio in Den Bosch.

 

“We’re kind of experienced when it comes to dealing with setbacks, having started our business right in the middle of an international financial crisis back in 2009. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances take the word ‘crazy’ to a whole new level though, like for instance with our project ‘Bosch by Night’, a 500th memorial event about the life and oeuvre of the Dutch painter Jeroen Bosch. We were working on the project for over 6 months, when just a few days before the international press was about to see our work for the very first time, all of a sudden the building we were supposed to project on partially collapsed due to poor renovation. Right in front of us. 

We were challenged to find solutions and adjust the work within an unreasonable amount of time. Still somehow we managed to do it and presented our projection mapping show in front of thousands of people, just two weeks later. It’s times like these when we look at the studio and feel the proudest.”

 

Adjusting our workflow

Dealing with event cancellations, travel restrictions, self-quarantining and social distancing asks for a creative and innovative approach. Although the usual workflow and production process might have changed, we took this time to re-invent our methods in order to benefit from this situation. As soon as we realized what the extent of the situation was, we acted quickly.

Keeping everyone safe was by all means our main priority, so we decided to take precautions, making sure every team member would have their work station installed at home. We used our brand new production van to deliver computers, office desks and -chairs to everyone’s homes.

 

 

 

Over the years we have collaborated with people in different time zones. So we already had some workflows that were shaped to collaborate remotely. We’ve expanded our Cloud storage and made new production pipelines. Diverse Google features allowed us to take our usual workflow to 100% online communication and connectivity.

Since we all work with big files, everyone works on their own computer with files stored in a Dropbox folder. We use our G Suite environment as a central point and keep our planning visual for each other using Google Calendar. In order to track each other’s progress, we use a collective to-do list created in Google Sheets, with breakdowns per individual project. Presentations are made in Google Slides and scripts are written in Google Docs. 

 

 

We still start and end every day together, yet now in Google Hangout, where we have collective reviews and updates like before and where we still discuss our favorite TV-shows and games with occasional beers on Friday.

We are (content) creators with an innovative mindset, so that’s what we are investing in to make us grow despite difficult times. Hopefully our story can inspire you and your team to stay connected from a distance and trust your creativity to overcome this time together.