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Mind Your Business: It's a Small World

In this month's column, Mark Simon revels in the technology that makes possible working from home with creative types from across the globe.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In animation, it's more valuable than that, especially in pre-production.

We live in a fractured world where artists now work long distance... very long distance. You can be anywhere in the world and work on almost any project.

Last year, Sony produced Open Season 2 from Los Angeles using an animation studio in Texas while the director, Matthew O'Callaghan (Curious George), stayed in Los Angeles. Many TV series are developed in the U.S. and the production happens overseas.

Mark Simon on Skype video conference.

I remember when I was at Nickelodeon in the early '90s, we had T1 lines running between the different studios around the country. Nick was spending about $10,000 per month for those video and information feeds. Plus, the equipment costs thousands and thousands of dollars. They were fast, efficient, effective... and really expensive.

Today, technology is making this easier and cheaper for anyone to use.

I am directing an animated pilot called Enchanted Thyme, based on a children's book. The creator, Ariane Smith, is in New York, I am in Orlando and the production studio is Tiger Bells in New Delhi, India. We send stills and video files to one another almost instantly using basic e-mail and YouSendIt.com (which is much faster and easier than ftp). We have realtime video development meetings and conversations using Skype.

Our cost? Skype video conferencing is free. Email is free. YouSendIt, which can send files as big at 2GB over the web, has a free version and versions for $10 and $30 per month. My webcam costs $35.

Enchanted Thyme background by Tiger Bells Animation. © 2009, Enchanted Thyme Ent. LLC.

It's amazing how far we've come.

This access to instant imagery sent around the world makes working with overseas companies so much easier. It also helps eliminate most of the language problems when working with companies in other countries.

Last night I had a video meeting with the owner of Tiger Bells, Vivek Kalyan. We were discussing the character and set designs for our pilot. Rather than just sending drawings back and forth and hoping our notes would be understood, we sketched back and forth, showing each other our ideas in realtime on the video connection, as if we were sitting across the table from one another.

When I need to show him an acting note, I no longer have to try and describe it or shoot a video, capture it, compress it and send it out. Vivek can see me live. We can easily capture that video feed for sharing the notes with his team. I love technology, especially when it's free.

When Vivek had files or online references for me, he quickly linked it in Skype and I saw it live while talking with him. We were not relying on basic e-mails and cryptic notes to understand each other. We were talking. You remember talking? It's an amazing thing. We understood each other quickly and easily.

Writing out every note takes time and can still be misunderstood. We now have cheap tools to allow us to work with people around the world as easily as if they were in the room with us. Plus, I have the benefit of working all day in my underwear.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. He owns Animatics & Storyboards, Inc, A&S Animation, Inc and is co-founder of SellYourTvConceptNow.com, the ultimate resource for TV show creators. He is offering AWN readers a FREE MONTH of his TV Pitch Tips Audio Postcards. Go to TvPitchTips.com and register for your weekly audio postcards of insider Hollywood pitch tips, tricks and secrets.

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