Visual collaboration workflow: how RealtimeBoard emptied Bigman’s email inbox

visual collaboration solution

Every day a huge number of teams try various tricks to improve their productivity and reduce the volume of email correspondence they receive because email exchange is generally slow and difficult to manage and isn’t optimised for visual collaboration workflow. Instead of searching for email hacks, the team at Bigman decided to look for a solution that could solve all their issues in a more natural way — and they stumbled upon RealtimeBoard.

We asked Tom Painter, Director of Bigman animation company, to share his experience in managing a completely new visual collaboration workflow and how he implemented the change from using email to using an online whiteboard within his team.

“The strength of online whiteboarding is it’s manageability and transparency: team members have access to the board where all aspects of the project are safely stored — no additional emails are needed.”


Bigman is an animation studio based in Brighton, on the south coast of England near to London. They strive to give all their clients bespoke content that is carefully crafted to best represent their brand values. The team provides a wide range of creative work for a variety of industries including medical videos, animation for financial clients, Company mascots for insurance brands, explainer videos for non-profit organisations, etc.

Tom Painter About the Team

Tom Painter

Our core team is based around some very experienced full-time generalists who can turn their hand to any job. Depending on the project we often make our team stronger with a number of contracted specialists.

For example, if we’re working on a well-known bunny for a battery company we’ll need to work with a ‘groom artist’ to add all the millions of pink hairs. Similarly, if we’re doing a drinks commercial we’ll need a ‘fluid dynamics TD’ who can create the most realistic 3D animated liquids.


Bigman’s visual collaboration workflow

The project always starts with a strong script/brief. We ask questions until we’re ready to draw out a storyboard in RealtimeBoard. Then our creative director and producer liaise with the client working on many revisions until everyone is happy.

Once the storyboard is approved, we create a separate team board in RealtimeBoard where everyone adds their work each day. We encourage every team member to make suggestions wherever they like on the boards and to debate the pros and cons of each approach.

The creative director has the final say over any artistic issues. The producer makes sure that the project runs on time, on budget and deals with any client feedback. The technical director supervises the work from a technical perspective.

“Each creative project takes no less than two boards for visual collaboration workflow: one board is for communication with the client, another board is for team communications.”

Visual collaboration is everything for our team. Although lots of individual deep-focus time is needed, our team checks in on the board on a regular basis to see how their individual work fits into the overall project.

The strength of this system is that each team member has access to all aspects of the project if they are relevant or if they are interested, but if they want to focus, they only have to check their part of the board.

The best visual collaboration solution

Before RealtimeBoard, we were using a frustrating mixture of screen grabs, Adobe Photoshop and Dropbox with endless emails attachments and downloads.

Normally we revise the project several times, so while the majority of information was stored in the emails, it’s was pretty hard to find some old files in a thread containing hundreds of emails. Also having emails and chats as the primary communication channels meant that we had to explain in words all the creative stuff that could be sketched as an image in seconds. Communication channels were not transparent, and project managers spent lots of time focused on managing collaboration between team members.

When one of our team got stuck trying to get different client contacts to give consolidated creative feedback on literally hundreds of reference images, we realised that there just had to be a better way than email.

Fortunately, after googling for ‘digital whiteboard’, RealtimeBoard was discovered! It’s really all about the creative collaboration, having the tools to mark up a high volume of files and images, being able to consolidate a large number of stakeholders and team members across multiple locations and time zones. There is nothing on the market that even comes close.

Visual collaboration workflow at Bigman

Bigman team usually discusses a project, using Comment tool (marked yellow).

Bigman’s online whiteboarding experience

It’s extremely easy to get onboard with RealtimeBoard. Once you get used to the navigation, everything becomes quite intuitive.

Probably the hardest thing was customizing collaboration rules for our team. We needed to adapt RealtimeBoard to an animation studio workflow — we needed to set certain areas aside for each team member and their daily deliverables.

To solve this issue, we developed corporate guidelines for visual collaboration workflow in RealtimeBoard. The guidelines are located in our internal system and are accessible to all employees. They contain required settings, useful features to practice and general rules to follow on the board.

Also, we have formatted our boards with sections for each department at each stage of the process and ordered them by importance. Each section is marked with an icon of the responsible person, who should update and keep the area clean. We use colour classification to indicate whether the area should not be deleted (yellow square shape) or should be chronologically updated (gray square shape).

These actions allowed us to integrate smoothly, not only a new tool but a new mindset and turn the way of collaboration into visual collaboration workflow. The pace of our work is massively accelerated now; our inboxes are much less bloated, and our team can get all the information they need without any bottlenecks.

Visual collaboration solution

Discussing an image took 5 minutes before and 5 seconds in RealtimeBoard now

The combination of the Сomment tool and @mentions is pretty special.

You can click on an image, leave feedback, and be sure the relevant team member knows about it in 5 seconds. 5 seconds in RealtimeBoard is a huge contrast to the 5 minutes it took in the previous workflow to get the same result, which would involve downloading an image from email, loading it in Photoshop, annotating it with text, saving it, re-uploading to email, then forwarding it to anyone else who needed to know about it and keeping the client in the loop too.

visual collaboration solution

Nowadays RealtimeBoard is our routine tool that makes every day a joy. Seeing what the team has been doing is always a buzz, and the bigger project is, the more excitement I feel. Being able to speed and scale during complex collaboration projects is just mind-blowing.

Results achieved

With RealtimeBoard, we’ve really taken things to the next level in visual collaboration workflow making it possible to work with different sites across the world. Personally, I do not need to manage communication channels, so I spend much more time being creative and thinking about the more complex problems that we face.

Typical short deadlines are quite influential in our industry, but time savings have been massive, so it has even helped to increase the quality of our work.

Seeing such positive results, I’m absolutely sure that creative collaboration should not happen over email, but in RealtimeBoard.

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