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.
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.

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.


3 Cheers for Shotgun's 3 New Pipeline Award Winners

Yesterday evening, we announced the winners of our 4th Annual Pipeline Awards, recognizing outstanding achievement in pipeline tool development.


In keeping with Shotgun's MO, our winners blew us away with their innovation in overcoming the challenges faced by VFX and animation studios, upping the efficiency in scaling to meet the demands of those large-scale projects, and finally, their generosity in making their tools open source and available to a wider community. We're totally proud of you all!

So without further ado - this year’s winners are:

DreamWorks Animation for the DWATV Credits Tool


DreamWorks originally designed this tool to streamline credits by tracking and spell checking the names and titles of thousands of people working across DreamWorks Animation. This eventually grew to also track approvals and revision history. The DWATV Credits Tool now connects to Shotgun and is one of the studio’s most widely-used tools, as it bridges communication across the studio.


Chris Bennett, lead animation pipeline TD-Television from DreamWorks Animation accepted this year's Shotgun Pipeline Award for their DWATV Credits Tool.

High-five to the team at DreamWorks Animation!

Visual Concepts for the NBA 2K17 Facial Animation Pipeline
Time is precious, and the team at Visual Concepts found a way to save a whole lot of it by automating previously manual tasks including tracking video, solving data, converting data to the proper format for the game, generating review material, and notifying supervisors for review and approval. With that long list of automated tasks, we're wishing we had a pipeline to do our housework!


The new automated pipeline handles thousands of tasks each day, saving time for artists and allowing them to complete the vast majority of facial animation in-house. This ultimately gives them greater control over the final product.

Here's a quick rundown



Congrats to the team at Visual Concepts on saving the day (probably several!)

Psyop for Cryptomatte
VFX studio Psyop took home the final Shotgun Pipeline Award for Cryptomatte, which automatically creates ID mattes using information already available at render time including names, object namespaces, and material names. It also supports motion blur, transparency, and depth of field. Recently Psyop’s “Cryptomatte Committee” expanded the tool to the wider community by making an open standard Cryptomatte integrated with Nuke, and AIShaders for Arnold.


Andy Jones, head of VFX, and Jonah Friedman, software engineer, from Psyop accepted the Shotgun Pipeline Award for Cryptomatte.


Mad props to the team at Psyop!


Congrats again to all our winners!

Shotgun 7.3 is here!
Shotgun 7.3 is out! This update is all about performance, making it easier than ever for admins to run and manage Shotgun efficiently.

Smart Data Retention
Smart data retention improves site performance by automatically archiving older data in permanent storage. Current productions are managed more efficiently by keeping a smaller amount of data available for instant access, allowing your site to run smoother. A site admin will always be able to access data history as needed.

Keeping Up With The Latest Technology
How are we improving performance? We're continually investing in the latest technology with constant improvements to advance security and performance "under the hood". Shotgun is now completely containerized inside of Docker containers, enabling our team to make changes and updates to Shotgun's back-end very rapidly.

Improved Action Menu Items
By popular demand, we're introducing improved Action Menu Items (AMIs). AMIs now have the ability to open a light box on top of the page currently being viewed, instead of opening in a new tab.


Site Restart
Site admins now have the flexibility to restart their own sites after making changes to the schema: permanently delete entity or multi-entity fields, restart your site, and reuse field names.


Remember - your feedback continues to help shape Shotgun! Got questions about this release? Reach out to us at support@shotgunsoftware.com.

You can get more info on this update by checking out the Release Notes.

New to Shotgun? Give it a try! Sign up for a free 30-day trial at www.shotgunsoftware.com/signup


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Shotgun Sneak Peek at SIGGRAPH 2017












We're bringing you the opportunity to help shape what's next for Shotgun at SIGGRAPH! We will be holding one hour sessions throughout the day, every day during the show where we'll give you a taster of what's "in the labs" and explain our approach to solving five common challenges we know many of you face:

1. How can you get business insights from your production data?
2. Can Shotgun be even more valuable for artists and supervisors?
3. Can we make Shotgun easier to learn?
4. What is critical for the next generation of RV?
5. How can Shotgun help you scale using the cloud?

When
Tuesday, August 1 - Thursday, August 3 (during show hours)

Where
Atrium 3 Meeting Room
JW Marriott Los Angeles LA LIVE
900 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot now!

REGISTER NOW

We look forward to seeing you there!
-The Shotgunners


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Get to know... Mighty Coconut
Founded in 2014 as a creative shop specializing in animation, Austin-based Mighty Coconut has grown into a full-fledged media company that produces original content as well as visual effects, motion graphics and VR content for clients across the film, television and games industries. We sat down with the studio’s talented crew, co-founder and director Lucas Martell, executive producer Tim Cunningham, head of original content Carrye Glazar and producer Christina Martell, to learn more what makes the unique studio tick.



Why did you start Mighty Coconut? 

Lucas: Before we were Mighty Coconut, I created the animated short film “The Oceanmaker” that won a bunch of awards on the festival circuit. Following the film’s success, I founded Mighty Coconut in March 2014 with partner Tad Catalano to keep the team who worked on that project together. I knew I was privileged to work with such a talented and creative group of individuals who collaborated so well with each other. Since then, we’ve grown into a full-service creative shop that specializes in original and branded content. Our bread and butter is animation, but we’ve expanded to also offer our clients quality visual effects and beyond.

"We needed a strong infrastructure to keep our team organized and to ensure that production ran on track and within budget."

What brought you into the Shotgun community?
Tim: The project that brought our studio to Shotgun was the all-CG animated series “Kings of Atlantis,” coproduced with Omnia Media for YouTube Red. Based on the Minecraft-inspired YouTube channel “TheAtlanticCraft,” the original adventure series is an epic extravaganza for kids ages six through 12. During its nine-month production, we created 13 11-minute episodes, totaling over two hours of animated content. Overall, we had 150 character assets, 30 environments, over 400 props, and 2,306 shots. We needed a strong infrastructure to keep our team organized and to ensure that production ran on track and within budget.

Rather than hire a software team and build a pipeline from the ground up, we opted to go with Shotgun because of its project management capabilities and robust Pipeline Toolkit – for the most part, we had a pipeline right out of the box, which was appealing since we had to scale up so quickly.



How many people in your studio are using Shotgun? Are they based in multiple locations?
Tim: We’re about 20 folks at the moment, but we’re built in such a way that we can scale our team up or down based on the workload of our productions. When we started using Shotgun this year, we had a team of around 60 artists. For “Kings of Atlantis”, the majority of our artists worked in-house; however, we had a small team of about ten artists working remotely. There’s a really strong pool of talent in Austin, so we don't have to go far to build a solid team.

"Being able to streamline the review process and have everything in a centralized location is of huge value."

What would you say are your favorite features in Shotgun?
Tim: The Pipeline Toolkit is one of our favorite features that benefits the team the most, as well as the review tools, like playlist sharing, client sharing (with unlimited clients) and annotated notes. Particularly early on, when we were working on “Kings of Atlantis,” we were able to collaborate with our co-producer Omnia through Shotgun’s review tools. Being able to streamline the review process and have everything in a centralized location is of huge value.



Lucas: Another bonus is Shotgun’s open API, which enables us to build tools that automate a lot of repetitive tasks for artists. One of the first tools we built when we were integrating Shotgun was a Maya playblast tool for animators. They’d hit a button and the new version of whatever they were working on would automatically play in Shotgun and be sent to the right people. The ability to quickly build tools like that was a huge deciding factor.

The artists would probably say the loader is one of their favorite features, which enables them to quickly see their tasks and the latest versions without needing to go through a dozen folders.

Which aspects of the Pipeline Toolkit are most valuable to your workflow?
Lucas: When we were working on “Kings of Atlantis,” one of the biggest benefits was the integration with Maya and NUKE – the two programs where most of the show was done. Being able to give an artist a task and have them open it directly from the Shotgun loader without needing to worry about asset naming, publishing, version control (and so on) was a huge benefit that both saved our team time and streamlined the workflow. It provided a working environment that made the whole team follow the same protocol without having to think twice about it.



What content creation tools do you use in house?
Lucas: Maya, NUKE, Houdini and Photoshop; we use a little bit of After Effects; we use Premiere to edit; and we use Redshift and V-Ray for rendering. Maya really is the backbone.

We develop some proprietary tools as well. For “Kings of Atlantis,” we built a tool for Premiere that would automatically update our edit based on the newest version of animation available. For the most part, we focus on building custom tools that integrate into Shotgun.

"Without a strong pipeline, you can muddle through a small project, but if you’re working on anything of scale and not paying attention to your pipeline, you will fail."

Why is it important to pay attention to your pipeline?
Tim: It’s vital we pay attention to our pipeline because of the organization it provides. When you have more than a handful of people working on a project and accessing the same assets, it’s critical. Without a strong pipeline, you can muddle through a small project, but if you’re working on anything of scale and not paying attention to your pipeline, you will fail.

Lucas: It also lays out a standard way of doing things and allows for large-scale collaboration. Instead of telling artists what to do, how to correctly name files, how to put files in the right places, how to notify the team when tasks are done, and so forth, the entire process is automated. It’s a lot easier to get things done when artists can simply update the status of their tasks.



What is your favorite thing about being in Austin?
Tim: There’s really good BBQ, tacos… the food is great!

Carrye: We’re based in Austin, because everyone on our team has deep Texas ties. A lot of us have worked in other places, but we’re all from here, and this is home. There’s a creative atmosphere and culture here, the cost of living is reasonable and it’s a good place to raise a family.

Christina: There’s also a huge pool of talent here. Austin’s been a major tech and game hub for many years, and professionals in those industries have similar skillsets for working in animation and visual effects. The city also has a very rich film scene, amazing artists and musicians. Everyone here wants to work and stay in the creative media hub of Austin.

Carrye: For “Kings of Atlantis,” we had 30-40 speaking roles and we were able to cast them all here. Not only were we able to keep the production local, but it also helped us stay within budget.



What led you to visual effects?

Lucas: I’ve worked in visual effects and animation for about 15 years now, but I got my start as a writer and director. When I graduated from school, I moved to Austin in 2003 and started working at a post company. I knew I wanted to do animation, so I created a short film called “Pigeon Impossible” (which is currently being developed into a feature at Fox and Blue Sky). Over time, I grew in the field, and then three years ago I started Mighty Coconut with my founding partner Tad Catalano. Within the first couple of months we added Director and EP Tim Cunningham; he’d been at Rhythm & Hues for seven years, working on large projects, and we quickly realized that we needed someone with his level of expertise to continue expanding the studio and work on larger scale projects like “Kings of Atlantis.”

What’s next for you?
Carrye: We’ve got lots of irons in the fire and are working on several things internally. Right now we’re in the middle of creating visual effects for a science fiction comedy produced by Rooster Teeth and YouTube Red, called “Lazer Team 2.” We’ve also got a couple of commercials in the pipeline, as well as long form projects to announce by the end of summer. We’ve also got several development projects on deck like an animated TV series with actress/producer Octavia Spencer, a feature version of THE OCEANMAKER, and a VR video game to be released later in 2017.

For more information on Mighty Coconut, visit: http://www.mightycoconut.com/


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Introducing Shotgun 7.2!

At Shotgun, we’re committed to making media collaboration easier, faster, and more secure for studios of all sizes. Today, we’re excited to announce new features that do just that. From truly out-of-the-box integrations that accelerate artist workflows to RV updates that make reviewing media from the cloud simple and seamless, our latest updates are all about making Shotgun more accessible and intuitive for everyone at the studio.

What’s New?  
We’ve packed a lot into this update. Here’s a quick overview of what’s new:

Plug-and-play integrations make it easier to connect the creative tools you use every day with Shotgun. These integrations first auto-discover Maya, Nuke, Photoshop, Houdini, and 3ds Max, and then embed the Shotgun Panel, loader, and publisher directly within them without requiring any manual configuration.


A new Publisher enables easy tracking of files in Shotgun and can either run in content creation tools supported by Shotgun, or as a standalone application – giving you the flexibility to publish files from any of the creative tools your artists use.

Single sign-on, now available for all Shotgun sites with “Super Awesome” support, centralizes authentication, making it easy for your IT department to grant, limit, and revoke access and permissions. Plus, everyone at the studio now has the convenience of only having to remember one set of credentials.


Web streaming in RV makes it possible to review work from Shotgun on the web without having to worry about whether or not the high-res media is available locally. Shotgun now recognizes when media isn’t available and seamlessly pulls it into RV from Shotgun on the web.

SDI functionality, previously only included with “Super Awesome” support, is now available to all Shotgun clients. RV supports output through SDI hardware from AJA and Blackmagic, enabling you to connect RV to digital cinema projectors, broadcast monitors, and other SDI- or HDMI-based viewing devices for high quality dailies and media review.

Improved markdown support makes it easier to compose notes and tickets with simple in-line editing options like italic or bold text styling, as well as advanced elements like image embedding, lists, tables, and checkboxes.

For more information on these updates, check out the Release Notes. You can also read more on getting started with plug-and-play integrations as well as setting up single sign-on on our support site.

New to Shotgun? There’s never been a better time to try it! You can sign up for a free 30-day trial right now at www.shotgunsoftware.com/signup


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You Asked, We Listened. Introducing a New Way to Manage Tags
We know that when it comes to a full-blown production - whether feature film, episodic TV or games - there’s a lot to keep track of. As productions progress, the number of assets, shots, and versions can become insurmountable, making it sometimes difficult to find the exact thing you’re looking for in a pinch. Our answer to that was Tags, which can be attached to anything you’re tracking in Shotgun so it’s easy and fast to find them later on. 

Since adding Tags, many of you asked for greater flexibility when it comes to correcting misspelled Tags and removing unused ones. We heard you loud and clear, and are excited to introduce a new Tag management page!

This page allows you to:
- Browse all existing Tags
- Edit Tag names
- Delete old Tags

Learn more about the new Tag management page here.

We’re always looking for feedback on what you’d like to see us add to Shotgun next. Got a good suggestion for something you’d like to see in Shotgun? Share it with us on our support site.

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Call for Entries: 4th Annual Pipeline Awards

We're excited to announce that we're bringing back the Pipeline Awards for the fourth year in a row! The Pipeline Awards are our way of shining a light on the heroes far behind the screen that make laborious processes better and faster at studios of all sizes, regardless of whether they use Shotgun or not.

Nominate cools tools & pipeline heroes
Know about tools, integration projects, or people we should consider for a Pipeline Award? Let us know! You can nominate yourself, someone in your studio, or any tool you've come across that impressed you. Email your nomination to pipelineawards@shotgunsoftware.com by June 19. Just send us a note with the following information:
    1) Indicate whether you're nominating a tool or person
    2) Include a brief description of the tool or write-up of what the person has done that demonstrates their Pipeline Hero-ness
      What we're looking for
      Pipeline Shotty Awards recognize excellence in pipeline tool development, integration, engineering and usage (whether or not it involves Shotgun). Maybe you have a simple, sophisticated tool that takes menial tasks off of artists' plates, or a tool developed to facilitate VR, track the ROI of your projects, streamline review, or just a cool hack!

      Pipeline Hero Awards recognize individuals who regularly share best practices on the dev list or forums, contribute to the wider community by speaking at tradeshows or publishing articles on the subject, or have developed tools that have been widely adopted by the industry.

      Check out the 2016 Pipeline Award Recipients

      2016 Pipeline Award winners Allan Johns (left) and Janice Collier (right)


      We'll present the Awards at SIGGRAPH again this year (details to come) and announce them right here on the blog.

      Looking forward to your submissions!


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