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Most of our daily routine is carried out using what we call a ‘virtual office’, based around various internet technologies that enable us to be located in any part of the world that has a phone line. Live interaction between team members is still simple, while advanced research and detailed work can be shared and examined by transferring files around the network.
The result is all the functionality of an ordinary office, without needing to be tied to a single location. As a result, malone can be based at the other end of the country to the rest of the team, yet still have as much interaction as if he were sitting at the next desk. Pens may have been replaced with keyboards and noticeboards swapped for forum postings, but the essential concepts remain the same.
New day everyday
Working in a small company brings its own challenges and rewards, most notably the feeling of each staff member being absolutely crucial to the work at hand. It also requires extensive multi-tasking from all concerned, with job titles often being little more than a formality. We all perform several duties and often overlap and help out in different areas as required, which keeps the workflow fast and easy despite having a tiny team and massive projects.
It also means that we’re always doing something different and interesting, which is vital to avoid any kind of fatigue. Cooperation and communication is the key, enabling us to work on applications that would normally require a huge production team.
Those long hours
Some of the more active FXhomers among you may have noticed a tendency for the core crew to be online at all kinds of unsociable hours, especially as product releases approach. Schwar can often be found still coding away in the dead of night, just as America is waking up. To cope with this kind of workload we tend to work flexible hours rather than to a regimented office schedule.
This leads to an inevitable blending of life and work, of course, so motivation is vital to avoid experiencing the crazies – and that’s where you guys all come in. When the work is hard and the schedules are tight, it’s always the community that gives us that extra bit of energy to write the next line of code, or another chapter in the manual.
The FXhome.com community wasn’t something we had fully anticipated when setting up the company five years ago, but it’s grown into by far the most rewarding aspect of our work.
The community has also provided us with our dedicated team of beta testers, who rose from the rank and file to become the best program-breakers in the business. Setting up their own (slightly smaller and less posh) desks in the virtual office, the beta team get hands-on with the applications months before they are put on general release. It is their responsibility to take our work and destroy it.
One of our most prolific beta testers is resident Aussie FXhomer, the unstoppable Hendo. Like some kind of beta testing version of the Terminator, he absolutely will not stop until every bug is found. We were introduced to Hendo many moons ago when he tracked down a particularly meddlesome problem with the first preview of EffectsLab. “After that schwar asked me if I wanted to join the beta team,” he recalls, “thankfully there wasn't any ritualistic initiation or hazing on joining up.”
Beta testing is a very specific art, requiring a precise mind that can repeat and subtly alter test conditions to pinpoint troublesome areas. “I think it helps to have patience, be methodical and pay attention to detail," says Hendo. "A good tester will provide clear instructions and any relevant information so that the developers can reproduce the issue themselves. It’s quite frustrating for a developer to read a bug report that is unclear and doesn't show how to replicate the issue.”
Of course, Hendo is just one of our beta team. All the testers do fantastic work, and deserve a roll call. Please give the following FXhomers a round of applause, as they are the ones that ensure polished and stable applications:
Arktic, Axeman, er-no, Hendo, Hybrid-Halo, Nagual, Sollthar and xcession
“A testing team requires a good mix,” explains Hendo, “so while some of us come at it from a software angle, others utilise their expertise in visual effects and filmmaking to test the programs in a more practical fashion.”
Although the beta testers may have been the primary contributing factor to schwar’s increasing hair loss, they’re a vital part of the development process. They cast new light on our work and reveal potential for improvement that we may otherwise miss.
Working at FXhome isn’t all about endless toil and struggle, though. It also opens up the world, providing opportunities to get to know filmmakers and work with people from all over the world. Whether it be fascinating discussions in the live webchat, playing online games with the regulars or meeting up for social events or film projects, FXhome always brings something interesting.
We’re hoping that there will be more opportunities in the future for FXhomers and the FXhome team to meet and collaborate, as with the recent Nightcast shoot and xcession’s music gig. Given the big developments coming to FXhome.com there will certainly be lots to talk about!
To get the community spirit flowing in time for Christmas, we’ll soon be announcing an exciting competition that will get everyone's creative cogs whirring. Keep your eyes pinned to FXhome.com for all the latest news!
HOT NEWS : Chromanator Update 1.0.9
Chromanator has been updated with a new timestamp as 1.0.8 expired yesterday. Sorry for any problems this may have caused - we seemed to have the wrong expiry date our end.