I worked for years in an essentially “rigging” department. With the demands of production, workflows grew stale and productivity gradually slowed. Even worse, we had some teams developing workflows that differed from others. This meant that there was always a question as to how things were going to get done when a new production spooled up. Unfortunately, any time we wished to improve, production reared its head and squashed that desire due to lack of time and different priorities. After all, we weren’t a software company. We were a production company.
Finally, things got so bad that a pitch was put together to dedicate a handful of individuals to improving workflows and supporting them. Examples of the initial work this team would do was also laid out. The studio green-lit the plan (mostly due to the proposed ROI of the endeavor) and the team got to work (I was on it). Production teams were then able to lean on this Tech team to help meet new production requirements while the Tech team also worked on new toolsets and workflows, pulling the best ideas from any existing procedures. Artists interested in joining were even able to roll into this team as productions ebbed and flowed which provided fantastic technical experience.
It took a couple years, but ultimately the numbers came in. I’m no longer at that studio and therefore can’t get them, but I distinctly remember our Manager stating that required production time requirements had been severely slashed and that the studio was sitting up and taking notice and looking at other departments for the same treatment. It was a win all around. Did the studio need to pony up a budget to support this Tech team? Yes. Luckily, the cost of production seemed to justify it because to my knowledge that team is still there and chugging away. Artists were now able to focus on the art rather than stumbling through process or re-learning when they rolled onto a new project. The same tools were being used from production to production, data was standardized, conventions were established, training could be prepared, etc.
Now, more than likely the team will need to be a bit bigger starting out, but over time the needs calm down. How long that is is of course up to the scenario at any studio. I wholeheartedly advise every studio to have a setup like this in some fashion. TD’s and TechArtists can make production artists’ lives so much easier as well as allow them to make changes far quicker than they would without that infrastructure and support.
TLDR: A TechArt team is a good idea and with the right people the ROI will speak for itself.