WTH does a HEAD OF CG do?
This week, we’re getting to know Atomic Fiction’s Laurent Taillefer. He gives us a glimpse of what his role as Head of CG for Atomic Fiction’s Montreal office entails.

So what exactly is it that you do?
I oversee the 3D supervisors (i.e. CG supervisors, department supervisors) and advise them on strategic, technical, and creative decisions. I also manage the studio-wide decisions as far as software infrastructure and pipeline goes, in conjunction with our Head of Development.

What does a day in your life look like?
I share my days between show supervision (I stay attached to at least one show in production as CG supervisor, to stay in touch with the team's reality), studio-wide planning, software evaluation, tool design, and a bit of development.

Shotgun is the centerpiece of our pipeline. Every single version of each asset is registered in Shotgun, as well as every reference, tool, macro, etc. We rely very heavily on it, not only to exchange published data from one department to another, but also to drive environment variables, software versions, tools and templates.

Our review system - based on RV and Screening Room - is fully connected to the database, and allows us to navigate very efficiently through notes, dependencies, edits and cuts. Staff management is also run through the Crew Planning app, so the human aspect of running the studio is also connected to Shotgun.

Shotgun has drastically changed in my daily routine in so many aspects! On a personal note, I'd say the Web UI review app improvements have been a real game changer. Passing notes, comments and directions is now instantaneous, consistent from one user to another, and fluid. We even use it for internal communication, beyond comments.

Crew Planning is also changing the way we deal with assignments, making it shareable and visual, bringing the ownership to the department supervisors.

How do you explain your job to someone who’s totally out of the loop with the film and VFX industry?
In a nutshell, I am responsible for making sure all the 3D content is delivered on time and with the proper quality. This involves areas as diverse as cameras, models, textures, lighting, animation, and special effects.

All these fields require a large variety of software, some of them very specialized - to run simulations, for instance - which all need to communicate with one another. My primary mission is to make sure this communication is efficient, and that the artists using them don’t have to worry about technical constraints, and can express their creativity as freely as possible.

Another aspect of my job is to make sure the very large volumes of data each one of these departments produces are tracked and handled from one area to the other seamlessly.

Finally, I need to make sure communication between the members of the teams is fluid.

What’s the most fun aspect of your job?
I get to interact with a great diversity of artists throughout many different departments.

And the most challenging aspect?
I get to interact with a great diversity of artists throughout many different departments!

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Check out how Shotgun can impact your daily routine - start your free trial now!

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Shotgun Quick Tips: Setting your Home Page
In this Shotgun Quick Tip, we show you how to set your desired home page on Shotgun.



New to Shotgun? 
Start your free trial now

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Meet the Shotgun Team: Warren Trezevant

We chatted with Warren Trezevant, Shotgun Product Manager and Pixar alumnus, who is currently helping improve the artist’s experience in Shotgun.

How did you come to join the Shotgun team? 
I officially joined the Shotgun team in February 2017. Prior to Autodesk, I was a character animator at Pixar Animation Studios for 17 years. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on many of the feature films and shorts, but I was also involved in fun, unique projects like creating the stroboscopic Toy Story Zoetrope, animating an animatronic life-size WALL-e using Pixar’s animation system, as well as being part of the team that built Pixar's next-gen proprietary animation system, Presto. 

The experience of working with animators, designers and developers to improve animation production tools was thrilling and I wanted to continue this work and was fortunate enough to find an opening with the Maya team at Autodesk. I joined Autodesk in November 2012 and was the Project Manager for Maya's animation & rigging tools until coming over to the Shotgun team in February 2017

My production background has helped me tremendously, not only because it helps me better understand our customer’s viewpoint, needs and struggles, but having exposure to a world-class proprietary animation system offers a unique insight into how a studio develops tools. Additionally, my role on the Maya team meant I was talking to customers at large studios all the way down to a couple of folks in a garage. From folks in the high-end FX industry, to animated features and TV shows, as well as AAA games to indie games.

What have you worked on in Shotgun up to date?
So far, I feel my main contribution has been to help communicate the viewpoint and workflows of our customers to the toolmakers at Shotgun. Visiting and talking with our customers has helped me identify the commonalities amongst the workflows and helps me see how we can offer something that improves everyone’s production life.

I’m currently working on a presentation of Shotgun designed for artists, which gives them a view on all the data relevant to them but presents it in a way that is visually meaningful.

One of the things we see everyone benefit from across the industry is standardization. Any time artists, projects and studios can agree to a standard, they become more effective and efficient and are able to spend more time on being creative and unique. I think Shotgun does a lot to help bring all these best practices together and one of the things I’m excited about focusing on is figuring out how artists can easily and quickly share the media they’re creating with others. Telling stories is a team sport and the more we can collaborate and share our work, the better it is for everyone.

What’s your favorite Shotgun feature?
As an artist, I love it when I get to use the annotation tools to express my ideas visually to other artists.

There are so many ways I’ve seen people bend Shotgun to their will, I’m just impressed at everything people do to make the experience as good as possible for all the artists in production.

We’ve heard that your love for animation extends to your free time. Care to share?
In my spare time, I assist in creating large-scale interactive art for Burning Man. This includes offering my animation skills on massive stroboscopic zoetropes like Charon and and Eternal Return by Peter Hudson, as well as designing the motion for R_Evolution, a 40’ sculpture of a standing woman breathing, by Marco Cochrane. I’m also one of the core members of the Sonic Runway, a 1000’ light-art installation that converts live music into light patterns that shoot down a corridor of arches at the speed of sound.

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WTH does a VFX PRODUCER do?
Dale Taylor, VFX producer at Atomic Fiction, gives us the inside scoop on being - well - a VFX producer! 

Give us the rundown on what it is you do at Atomic Fiction.
Atomic Fiction creates visual effects for movies and television. I'm in charge of ensuring that the project(s) that I am supervising gets completed on time and on budget. My ultimate goal is to make sure that the client stays happy so that they come back to AF for their next project.  

I am the main communicator with client production, and need to keep them aware if any requests come in that are out of the original scope awarded, so that I can then provide them with a bid for what the additional work would cost. 

I am also responsible for putting together a job plan which entails crewing artists onto the show based on bid days per task required to complete the work. The amount of crew required is dependent on the show schedule. The job plan is an ongoing/ever changing process throughout the show, due to client changes or studio needs changing. With that comes the responsibility to help come up with solutions when problems arise on the show.

What does your day-to-day look like?
My day-to-day fluctuates as projects are ever-changing, and new challenges come up on a daily basis thrown at us from our clients. Generally though, there is a time for dailies which is when we get into the screening room and review takes that artists submit, and provide them feedback.  Depending on the stage of the show, we tend to deliver takes to client by end of day on a daily basis. Every day, I also focus on helping to put out the latest fires, respond to client requests, and modify schedule/crewing based on artist progress.

How does Shotgun help you day-to-day?
The most important tool that I use in Shotgun on a daily basis is CPA (Crew Planning App). This allows me to see which AF artists have availability, and then crew them to my show. If a certain discipline doesn’t have anyone available during the timeframe that I need them, I am able to create a TBD position. This tool is essential to me as it feeds directly to my EFC (Estimated Final Cost) document which lets me know how I am tracking financially and it also notifies the department managers on which TBD artists need to be hired. Since the show is always changing, or other shows have deadlines that may require borrowing some time from my crew, I am always updating CPA.

What's the most challenging aspect of your job?
Dealing with changes to scope/schedule from clients.  Not only is there a financial impact that needs to be figured out, but there is also impact to schedule/crewing that takes time to figure out, and many times there isn’t much time for this process especially toward the end of a delivery schedule.

And the most fun?
When a client responds well to our work during the show, and especially when a client at the end of the show thanks us for a job well done. 

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Meet the Shotgun Team: Guillaume Brossard

Guillaume Brossard, Principal Developer / Scrum Master / Product Owner and overall busy guy gives us a look at what his day-to-day is like on the Shotgun team.

How long have you been with the Shotgun team?
I joined Shotgun right after their acquisition by Autodesk. I previously worked on an Asset Content Management project at Autodesk in Montreal that had a lot of similarities to Shotgun.

My background is in graphic application and games development. I started at Autodesk through an acquisition too. I was then working for an AI Middleware company named Grip, where I was developing Artificial Intelligence middleware for crowd simulation and character behavior.

So what have you brought to Shotgun so far?
My team and I completely renewed all the servers in the Shotgun infrastructure, rebuilding the deployment code and making the solution more resilient and secure in the process.

As a product owner, I plan future initiatives for my team and review initiatives in progress to make sure they meet our requirements.


As a scrum master, I manage the Core Product backlog and track progress.


As a developer, I contribute to the development of different features and to the execution of recurring operation tasks.



Outside of work, I dedicate most of my time to my two daughters and their activities. In my free time, I enjoy jogging, golfing and playing tennis.


What's something you wish people knew they could do in Shotgun?
We recently released media storage and cloud transcoding in different regions to allow for better performance when outside of the US. Clients can now choose to store their media in Oregon, Ireland or Tokyo. This can be changed by a Shotgun administrator in the site preferences.

What's your favorite Shotgun feature?
Transcoding! Shotgun transcoding is very flexible and allows for a very quick time to transcode time. Our transcoding service auto-scales with demand, allowing media to start transcoding as soon as an upload is complete.

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WE WON AN ENGINEERING EMMY!

On October 25, 2017, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will be honoring Shotgun Software creators Don Parker, Isaac Reuben and Matt Daw with Emmy statuettes at the Engineering Emmy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California.

We’re proud that Shotgun has helped creative teams around the world collaborate on hundreds of episodes of top television shows, including Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Americans, Quantico, Ballers, Scandal, Outlander, Black Mirror, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cosmos, Legion, Fear the Walking Dead, The Flash, Hawaii 5-0 and many others.

Image courtesy of Pixomondo

Pixomondo is one of several VFX companies with a Shotgun-based pipeline working on Game of Thrones. “We don't have the time to make any mistakes. We have multiple tasks and artists working in parallel, so we need to be effective, avoid lag and not let things fall through the cracks. Worldwide, we all have Shotgun, and we work with the same pipeline. We share any and all assets without any problems,” said Sabrina Gerhardt, COO and executive producer at Pixomondo.

“We started building Shotgun with the dream of helping worldwide teams collaborate closely to put their best work on screen," said Don Parker, co-founder of Shotgun and VP of production platform, Autodesk. "It’s been an exciting ride that’s lasted more than a decade, and we are deeply honored to be recognized by the Television Academy."

A big thank you to you, the community, for helping make Shotgun what it is today!

WTH does a PIPELINE TECHNICAL ASSISTANT do?
We caught up with Janice Collier, Pipeline Technical Assistant at Mammal Studios in Los Angeles, to uncover what on earth does a PIPELINE TECHNICAL ASSISTANT do?

So what exactly does being a Pipeline Technical Assistant entail? 
My job is to provide tools and information to keep other people working on their tasks, and not on the various setups and frameworks required to do their own jobs. If you're a Nuke artist spending more time on administrative tasks and shot setup than you are on compositing, that's a concern for me. If you're a supervisor and something is between you and getting your reviews done, that's a concern for me. Anything I do-- code, configurations, support, documentation, research, and reference-- is intended to reduce friction between other members of the facility and their actual work.

Any TD is a technical force multiplier; your code and your vision allow a tiny facility to seem like a much larger studio.


How do you explain what you do for a living to someone who's not at all familiar with your industry?
One of my relatives neither watches movies nor owns a computer, so I tell them that I use my computer to make sure everything my company does ends up going back to our clients in a way that can go in actual movies without too much fuss.

This vastly understates the amount of fuss in some cases, and occasionally overstates the amount of computer, but we get by.

What does your day-to-day look like?
In a facility with a flat organizational structure-- we have six owners, six core staff, and anywhere from four to 10 freelancers during any given project-- you end up doing a lot of different day-to-day tasks. Since I execute on requests from my supervisors, I spend time in Shotgun tickets eliciting specifications and discussing routes to solutions.

I manage our Nuke repository, so I'm often evaluating new gizmos or polling artists for desired features. Artists come to me for software support with Nuke and Shotgun. Data operations and I collaborate on plate ingestion and project configuration. If there's a concern that requires vendor support from Shotgun, the Foundry, or Thinkbox, I'm collecting and collating user experiences into a reproducible support case and submitting it to the right people.

(Don't ask my officemates how often I descend on a room full of artists announcing "OKAY, POLL: who's seen this happen in their comp?! Did you figure out why? Are you able to fix it?" They're used to me, I promise.)

There's occasional render watching, and writing render management plugins for our Deadline farm. Honestly, I believe everyone should render watch now and then just to get a feel for what's going on across the facility regardless of their role. It gives you an idea of where the challenge points for artists are and where the software or the technical approach may not be adequately serving your needs.

Since our data ops and pipeline people sit in the same offices with artists, we also help out with shot reference ("do you need a video of a rocket? WE HAVE THOSE") and "is my track wobbling?/ how does this look?" informal critique.

As I said previously, Mammal is a fairly uniquely-structured company in day-to-day practice-- artists get a lot of individual time with our VFX and CG supervisors, and technical staff get a lot of time working alongside artists, which is uncommon at a lot of facilities. Situations where I'm suddenly digging up research papers on Cherenkov radiation to get the colors right, or our data manager is teaching the artists how to accurately fire a simulated main turret on a Sherman tank, aren't unusual.

(The tank incident happened during David Ayer's FURY; the brilliant blue nuclear-inspired fire is coming soon to a streaming service near you.)

How does Shotgun come into play in your day-to-day?
When I arrived at Mammal almost four years ago, we'd begun basic Shotgun Pipeline Toolkit integration, but hadn't really gotten into the possibilities for plate ingestion, artist-side DCC configuration, and deliverables management.

These days, we can configure a Shotgun project and ingest plates for artist work on a same-day turnaround basis if required. Artists can start working and know that their Shotgun-specified settings inside Nuke are correct for the show, they can source appropriate color pipeline gizmos, and they don't have to worry about anything besides the compositing itself.

Supervisors can review shots as they're published and then push playlists of completed work through our deliverables pipeline to create any form of deliverable required, with accurate slate and burn-in data. Data ops receives the delivery information inside Shotgun and we're out to the client. Our toolset provides all the glue between those pieces of the pipeline, and it's engineered around Shotgun and the Shotgun playlist in particular.

I'd stress, too, that you don't need to be a high-end Python programmer or CS major to do all this. I joke that, as a self-taught coder with a degree in film studies, I solve all my problems with critical essays and strong language, but Shotgun's codebase is pretty accessible.

The public availability of Toolkit source in Shotgun's GitHub repositories has helped me develop as a programmer and exposed me to concepts I might have missed learning on my own. It also makes it easier to help support engineers pinpoint potential issues if I'm submitting a ticket, because I can point right at the actual production code and say "Here. This is where my problem lies, let's see what we can fix together."

I'm told Mammal is one of the more tightly-integrated Shotgun facilities out there. I have no real way of measuring that myself, but if so, other folks in small houses can take heart that you can do this too with minimal alteration to stock Shotgun depending on your client requirements. I realize that bigger facilities' Shotgun demo reels can be very intimidating-- standalone tools! spiffy GUI work! sweeping schema rewrites!-- but you can certainly focus on a few small areas and build a set of pipeline integrations around those needs.

What would you say is the most fun aspect of your job?
I get to spend a lot of time collaborating with the other technical staff members-- our CG supe/ systems engineer, Jason Wardle; our data manager, Chad Collier; and one of our core compositing staffers, Erik Toth. Jason, Chad, and I work together on meeting infrastructure needs, and Erik and I spend time reviewing each other's code and creating new Nuke tooling. Erik has a solid all-around knowledge of areas I don't necessarily have, and I have a reasonable set of troubleshooting and debugging instincts, so we play off one another's strengths.

A big part of my job is designing frameworks to move data in and out of the building according to client specs, so I spend a lot of time evaluating Chad's workflow and tweaking tools to meet operational needs.

There are no teammates like my teammates. I'd say that even if I wasn't married to the data manager. (The plate ingestion pipeline's initial prototype was as much marriage counseling as it was engineering-- "Chad, what exactly are you doing? ...oh, honey, *no.* Let me write a script for that.")

What is the most challenging part of your job? 
Every project is a new project. While we have the basics required to get a show going very quickly, every client spec poses a new set of challenges from the initial plate ingest to the final set of deliverables. For every show that delivers a hard drive full of carefully-conformed plates and corresponding count sheets, there's going to be another one that hands over raw camera exports and a couple of EDLs.

It doesn't matter how the project arrives at my desk, it needs to leave my desk in a way that artists can immediately engage. Those sorts of novel situations require research on what's already possibly out there for us to adapt to our own needs, and what needs to be built to spec in-house. The resulting solutions have to be deployed quickly and the people who will use them need to be trained accordingly.

At the end of the day, you will do all that and you will make mistakes, recover from them, document new procedures and discoveries, and then the next project will overturn some area of your prior understanding and hopefully advance the overall pipeline. That's the challenge.

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Meet the Shotgun Team: Ziah Fogel

We spoke to Ziah Fogel, a product manager working on some of the reporting functionality in the Shotgun web app, particularly features used by production management.

How did you come to join the Shotgun team?
I joined Shotgun in February 2017, so I’m still pretty new to the team! I have a long history of working in animation and visual effects, working as a technical director and supervisor at places like Pixar, Double Negative, and Framestore. I decided to move towards product management several years back and have worked on various products in the tech and startup space on my way to coming back to media software.

How has your experience in the animation and VFX industry helped you in your day-to-day working on the Shotgun team?
Having an understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced in producing creative content has really given me insights into customer pain-points. I think having worked outside of the animation/VFX industry for a while has also brought me a lot of insights into best-practices for software development, an agile methodologies mindset, and the knowledge to really create killer products aimed at my kindred sisters and brothers creating media content.

What does a day in your life look like at Shotgun?
For me, a typical day is spent gathering feedback from our clients, thinking about the best solutions to the biggest pain points people have around their reporting needs, and a lot of communications with other product managers, designers, and engineers. I have a giant to-do list and am constantly trying to prioritize both my time and the features we want to work on. I also have loads of meetings, but I try to mix that up with some heads’ down time writing specs, doing research, crunching numbers, or testing features in our dev builds.

I’m currently working on some new features that will allow users to visualize their production data and analyze it to make better choices.

What are some creative ways Shotgun is being used?
I’ve heard of tons of interesting (non-standard) uses of Shotgun - and some incredibly complex work-flows for things even outside of the typical media production.

What is something that you wish people knew they could do in Shotgun?
Lots of people aren’t aware there’s already some ability to have a graphical visualization of your data in Shotgun, by creating custom canvas pages and adding graph widgets into those pages. We’re hoping to make that much easier and give lots more functionality in this area soon!

What is your favorite Shotgun feature?
I think the most powerful feature of Shotgun isn’t really a feature at all, but more of a mind-set - Shotgun is so customizable and extendable that the sky really is the limit to what you can do with it.

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MEET SHOTGUN 7.4

Here at Shotgun, we're forever on a mission to make your experience easier, faster, and more secure. With Shotgun 7.4, we're bringing you performance and security updates, as well as features requested by you, the community!


BIG DATA MODE

 

Ready for an even faster Shotgun experience?


With an ever-growing demand for increasingly complex and VFX-heavy shots, some of you are managing thousands of shots, tens of thousands of assets, and hundreds of thousands of tasks and versions on really big projects. Record counts are calculated and shown at the bottom of pages in Shotgun by default, which - while useful - can impact page loading times for very large data sets. Improve page load times by up to 10 times with the new Big Data Mode option, which allows site admins to turn off page and record counts for large data sets.

MULTIREGION CLOUD TRANSCODING WITH AUTO-SCALING
Earlier this year, we unveiled multi-region hosting, which gives you the option of storing your media closer to home - whether that's in Europe, Asia or North America - for a faster experience. Release 7.4 improves that performance even more, with our cloud transcoding services in all 3 locations now able to scale with demand. When a large amount of media is uploaded to Shotgun at once, the service auto-scales to meet demand, significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to transcode.

SINGLE SIGN-ON


One sign-on to rule them all!

In keeping with our vow to make Shotgun more secure, single sign-on brings everyone at the studio the convenience of only having to remember one set of credentials. IT departments can centralize access to Shotgun and oversee all permissions so that it's easy to grant, limit, and revoke user access as needed.

Since the introduction of single sign-on in release 7.2, we've continued to improve and build new functionality into Shotgun making it even easier for admins to manage site access. Shotgun 7.4 includes expanded support for single sign-on across Toolkit and Shotgun Desktop, the ability for admins to choose between logging in with their Shotgun or single sign-on credentials, and the flexibility to link an existing user account to a single sign-on account without having to manually rename it.

Need to merge multiple accounts? No problem - Shotgun support can now do that for you. This is especially useful if you have worked under two accounts (For example, john_td and john_artist) and want to combine your work history under a single account.

PER-PROJECT TASK TEMPLATES
You asked for it, and you got it. We know that many of our clients work on a variety of projects, from animated features to games cinematics, to VFX for episodic TV. We also know that creating task templates for each of these can make organization a teensy bit challenging!

A new per-project task template option gives admins the ability to specify which templates are visible for each project, which will cut the clutter and make it simpler for users to select the right template to use.

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Meet the Shotgun Team: Rob Blau

We chatted with Rob Blau, product manager for Shotgun desktop integrations and pipeline products, and recently an upcoming tool for artists and supervisors.

When and how did you come to join the Shotgun team?

I joined Shotgun in 2012. I was working at Laika, the stop-motion animation studio. Laika had been using Shotgun for years - the studio was one of Shotgun’s early adopters - and I had been working closely with the Shotgun team even then. At Laika, I was the lead for the studio’s pipeline development and had been collaborating closely with the Shotgun team while they were initially pulling together Toolkit.  When Toolkit was being rebooted, Don Parker, co-founder of Shotgun and VP, production platform at Autodesk, wanted to staff up the pipeline effort so he gave me a call asking if I was interested in joining.  I decided to go for it and the rest has been history!

Has your background helped your day-to-day working on Shotgun?

Before Laika I worked at Dreamworks as a supervisor on the global pipeline there - so I’ve been working on pipeline problems for a long time now.  All those years are certainly relevant to all the things we’re trying to do at Shotgun.


What have you worked on at Shotgun so far and what are you working on now?

I’ve been a developer, lead, and product manager on Toolkit.  Over the years, I’ve helped that offering evolve into a set of tools that makes some of the efficiencies that bigger studios get with automation and pipelines available to smaller studios without the technical support staff of the bigger guys.

I’m currently working on the designs for an artist and supervisor-focused tool to give those groups a much better experience within Shotgun.

Can you share a personal Shotgun tip or trick?

I’ve had a lot of Shotgun hacks through the years. One of my favorites is setting up a mail handler so that you can reply to Shotgun Notes directly from the emails that Shotgun sends out. I’ve got a repo that a few studios have picked up over the years.

What is your favorite Shotgun feature?

Overall, I love its configurability. The fact that you can make Shotgun work for almost any workflow in a studio once you understand it is a huge deal.

One nice and simple way of using Shotgun that I like is how Shotgun is used to help manage the queue of work for a couple of the fabrication departments at Laika. There is a lot of demand for access to tools like the laser cutter, so there is a Shotgun page to manage the requests from the various departments to have things cut. Everybody can see their place in line and the folks running the laser cutter have a clear place to go to get the files they need and to let the requestors know when the work has been done.  It's a simple setup, but has worked wonders to keep things organized.

What's something you wish people knew they could do in Shotgun?

Shotgun is amazing in how configurable it is and how deeply you can integrate it with your studio. I think a lot of people would love using the Shotgun Panel that we have for apps like Maya and Nuke.  Bringing Shotgun into your content creation tool can be a really powerful thing.


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