UBC Studios is ready to welcome you back

By Chantal Moore and Mark Montgomery

This month marks the start of our #readyforcampusreturn series, which sheds light on the incredible IT teams who are working behind the scenes to support UBC's transition back to campus. Thank you to our amazing staff, who are adapting to meet the needs of a blended working and learning environment and who proved themselves invaluable during the pandemic.

This series will profile five teams: UBC Studios, Network & Infrastructure, Desktop Services, Front-line Staff, and the Emerging Media Labs team.

Part one of our series is a Q&A with UBC Studios Executive Producer/Manager Saeed Dyanatkar, Producer Christopher Spencer, and Operations & Infrastructure Specialist Andrew Wang. The team had to adapt rapidly to support the evolving needs of the campus community during the pandemic. Here they reflect on their remarkable agility over the past year and share their plans looking forward.

Q&A with UBC Studios

Virtual graduation 2020 being held and filmed live at UBC Studios

Hello, and welcome to our #ReadyforcampusReturn series. Thank you for participating in this interview. We’ll get into some of the questions now.

Saeed: No problem, we are used to being on the other side of the camera though.

I'll bet. Ok, first question. How has UBC Studios adapted their award-winning production process to match evolving client needs?

Andrew: We had to adapt by getting involved in live production and pivoting online for several of our university-wide events, such as virtual graduation. We had to adapt our smaller departmental events as well. We maintained DIY studios – we had faculty coming in every day throughout the pandemic, but on an as-needed basis following safety protocols.

Saeed: We have always been focused on client needs. We meet clients where they are. One example is our 3D Educational Resources project. In response to moving courses online, UBC Studios assisted academic collaborators in creating 3D teaching resources. We plan to continue to support instructors who wish to use virtual resources. It's about responding to the needs of university community and filling a gap that existed even before the pandemic. There was also an increased demand for animation, so we had to hire two new animators. Now we are shifting back to more in-person on location production, as we get closer to the fall. Another thing some may not know is that when the campus was deserted, UBC Studios took advantage of the opportunity to 3D scan as many spaces on campus as we could. There were no people on site so it was easy. We did a huge amount of work in this space during the pandemic and are hoping these scans will be used after the pandemic as well.

What are you most looking forward to this fall?

Saeed: Human interaction. We miss people, especially students. When I worked on campus during the pandemic, it was sad to see the campus so empty. When there are no students, there is no university.

Christopher: As much as campus gears back to in-person operations, our team has continued to support faculty for course content, various departments for fall recruitment campaigns, key communications messages for the UBC President’s Office, Vice-President, Students, as well as some of the virtual events like the upcoming homecoming and the pep rally – we’ve been an integral part of that student transition as well.

Andrew: We are starting to fully re-open up our DIY studios to faculty, students, and staff with safety measures in place such as masks.

“Reimagining and delivering events in the virtual space has been no small feat, and we are grateful to UBC Studios for their collaboration, skill, creativity and expertise in working alongside us to plan and host these events.”
–Liz King, Director, UBC Ceremonies and Events

What is one lesson you learned over the past year and a half?

Christopher: One important lesson our team has learned is the importance of both agility and communication. Understanding that provincial health orders can and will change. You can always go in with a plan, but learning that you may need to adapt – and also take into perspective the needs of your clients. How do you plan a production three months in advance knowing that the state of things could change at any time? So definitely learning the importance of agility in production, but also the importance of how to communicate clearly and concisely with all stakeholders so that everyone is aware of the implication of changes and possible outcomes. I don't know if there was ever a good answer.

That’s lovely. I really like how you explained that. There’s no wrong answer. That need for agility is something we can all learn from.

Andrew: For me, the most important thing is to be flexible and adaptable. It’s about learning on the fly and persevering through that and putting out content that you know supports both the university and also is something that we can all be proud of.

Saeed: I can add one more point. One thing that we experienced is that no matter how much you plan for something, anything can change. The system you thought was so sturdy could be very fragile. This goes beyond our unit and the university.

Well, that is the end of our interview. Thank you so much for our time together. We won’t ask you to produce this for us.