Collaboration as a 3ds Max Professional

There are a few essential factors when collaborating with a team as a 3ds Max professional you are responsible for personally. First, no matter how quickly your team is moving, strive to keep your scenes and files organized. A proper hierarchy is essential when passing files around. The hierarchy you build is generally the first line of defense; subsequent software development to substance and game engines rely on it, and not doing it is just lazy. There is not a case where this is not important. Second, check your files before sending or uploading them. A simple FBX Viewer review can expose simple problems. If your team is working in software like Unreal or Unity, drop your files in and be sure they operate and look as intended. Check your file after you upload it to ensure it’s the files you intended to share. Sharing the wrong file is just embarrassing, but not fixing it halts the production pipeline.

As a team, you have many responsibilities as well. One often involves leading or participating in check-ins, sometimes called “dallies” or “stand-ups.”  Depending on the complexity of a project, these can consist of meeting anywhere from a few days a week to every day. While generally short, often limited to a few minutes per person, these allow teams to build rapport, note their ideas or areas blocked, and gain inspiration while providing valuable information to each other to move forward with their work. So let’s talk about some essential components for success when collaborating this way.

1. Don’t wander into details

There are a few essential components for these check-ins. First, people’s time is valuable, and people’s knowledge is extensive. Taking over a stand-up to demonstrate to everyone your unique knowledge of light baking procedures and render settings is disrespectful toward everyone’s time. It’s understood that you can complete the job you were hired for or have the nack to figure out how without a lot of complexity. Take the opportunity of these meetings to explore and contribute ideas while offering yourself to solve noted problems after, but don’t worry about whether or not someone finds your skill valuable. You are already at the table, which means they do!

2. Don’t get bogged down on problems

Time is a premium, and everyone faces task-specific problems. Daily check-ins aren’t meant to solve problems. If someone is blocked, can’t proceed, or has difficulty addressing a challenge, then assign the appropriate people to assist them afterward and move on. If a challenge needs addressing sooner, offer a sidebar afterward with those more directly involved. That allows things to move forward while respecting everyone’s time.  

3. Don’t meet more than necessary

Some projects don’t require meeting every day of the week. In 3D, and creative industries, management/collaboration software like Jira allows users to input notes, carry conversations, and communicate effectively. In many cases, an email noting progress or simply texting each other is sufficient.

4. Show and tell

Stand-ups are an excellent opportunity to give your team a few minutes to share work. That can be a great tool for inspiration, driving each member to be excited to share a few minutes of their hard work, mention something cool they discovered, or share ideas for improvement. However, the key to this is that a team must drop egos entirely and be open to criticism, sharing content, passing workaround, and more. As the leader of these meetings, you must help people feel safe to share even bad work and ensure they are secure in their ability to improve. Recognize that some of the most incredible work can come less from skill and more from people who are excited to be a part of a project. While skill is a factor, even the most skilled won’t produce good work if they aren’t excited to be a part of it.

5. Cut off tangents

Time, once again, is an essential factor for everyone involved. Individuals breaking out into tangents monopolizing that time is not constructive. Cut them off and stick to the main point: progress (show and tell), what they are working on the next day, and what is blocking them.

6. Follow through

Last, follow through when presenting and offering ideas for improvement or solutions to problems. When offering ideas for others, be respectful and think about whether or not there is time and their ability to follow through.

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