Get to Know... FATface
We recently had the opportunity to speak with VFX Supervisor Alan Lam and Pipeline TD Daniel Wong of FATFace, a boutique VFX and animation studio based in Hong Kong. FATface works on both film and commercial projects and has earned a strong reputation in Hong Kong's competitive marketplace. We spoke to Alan and Daniel about how FATface is expanding and tackling larger more complex projects, and how leveraging Shotgun has helped support production in their studio.

Tell us about FATFace.
FATface is a VFX studio in Hong Kong. Over the past 10 years, we have created visual effects and animation content for TV commercials and film projects. Currently, we all work out of one studio in Hong Kong, but have plans to expand to multiple locations in the future. That’s why we started to use Shotgun this year to develop a proper pipeline. In the meantime, the whole team of more than 40 producers, supervisors, artists and coordinators are all using Shotgun.



Why has FATFace been so successful?
We are still trying our best to improve. It is very crucial that most of our colleagues are very self-motivated. They are willing to learn, willing to adapt to new systems and new working procedures. This allows us to evolve our workflow at a fast pace. Though they feel the slight pressure of imposed changes, most of them realize the benefits given to them, and are open to them.

What led you to visual effects?
Daniel : I enjoy playing video games. After getting a degree in multimedia, I worked at an animation company. I started my career as a lighting TD.

Alan: I was a programmer before. However, I got bored. I do enjoy watching movies. After I noticed that I could use my skills to have more fun in the VFX industry, I jumped in it immediately. After a dozen of years working as a CG artist, I still really enjoy it. Imagination truly has no boundaries and continues to inspire me as I work on future projects.

What's a day in the life of Alan like?
My day starts at 7:30am when my 2-year-old daughter (Hayley) gets up. I usually am woken up by sweet little noises coming from the nursery. I walk into her room and she’s always super happy first thing in the morning, which is totally adorable! I stay with her around an hour to play and read story books. I am out of my home by 9:30. 10:30 is coffee time, a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee is certainly the best way to start my work. At 11am I usually attend a few dailies screenings of the current projects. I then share my comments with the project leaders. Around 2pm I enjoy my lunch with other colleagues. It is good to take a proper break, you will accomplish more in the long run. However, with a full stomach, I may feel sleepy after lunch. After lunch I'll spend a couple of hours to study the progress of each project and scribble down ideas to share with each department.

Due to the nature of the VFX industry, there's never really a fixed off-work time. On a good day it's a 8:30pm. Today, I am lucky.

Alan, what are the three most important things in your office?
To me, the three most important things in our office are the culture of knowledge sharing and accumulation, the responsible artists (everyone takes their tasks seriously, seniors take care to mentor junior staff), and the trust in our senior management and their commitment to invest patiently in our R and D efforts.

When you aren’t working, what’s the ideal way to spend a day in Hong Kong?
Watch movies and enjoy delicious food (you'll never be bored).

What inspires you?
Daniel : Users and supporters in internet forums inspire me the most. Everyone shares their experience and knowledge, and brainstorms ideas, which evolves into a lot of fabulous stuff. Colleagues from different backgrounds also have given me plenty of good suggestions.

Alan : What inspires me is simply when the ‘impossible becomes possible’. We are using technology to create visual art. During a tough project, we may think we have already hit our limitation. However, I believe there is always a way to hit our target. We only need to tackle a problem and never give up, no matter how challenging it is.

How did you first hear about Shotgun?
We initially built our own internal pipeline system. Due to the rapid growth of the team, we were looking into existing solutions to expand our pipeline. After exploring other solutions and collecting suggestions from our colleagues, we think Shotgun fit our needs.

Can you describe a recent project where using Shotgun was essential?
Alan : We just finished a complex project, "VIRTUS" in a limited time frame. Shotgun helped us to organize a large amount of assets and data which passed through the whole production team. With Shotgun in place, we can focus more on doing the art.

Daniel :The value of Shotgun is increasingly significant for projects that involve more than 10 artists. For example, we had two sequences to produce for a TV commercial, 90% of the elements were CG, and more than 15 artists contributed to asset and shot creation. With Shotgun, most of the information can be queried by everyone, which saved lots of resources on data lineup between departments, and avoided so much unnecessary bounce back due to communication errors.

What content creation tools do you use in-house?
Maya, Houdini, Arnold, DDO, Nuke, Mari, Zbrush

What tools do you use in-house?
Most of our in-house tools are scripts for data managing, such as renaming, file importing / exporting.

Do you develop proprietary tools, if so which one are you most proud of?
My colleagues always give me challenging tasks. I have developed a script for exporting/importing/attaching shaders, simple but critical for our post-production pipeline.

How much effort do you focus on building out the pipeline?
I contributed to our pipeline for about a year. I spend half of my office hours working on pipeline, and many more hours of leisure time reading related pipeline articles in magazines and forums.

Why is it important to pay such close attention to your pipeline?
Daniel : The pipeline is our everyday working environment. High performance of our pipeline system makes everyone work more efficiently. It helps ensure that a group of artists are progressing in the same direction. It minimizes human error and avoids communication mistakes. A solid pipeline helps us focus on “improving” instead of on “fixing”.

Alan : In order to keep growing to challenge some larger scale and higher quality projects, a good pipeline will give us the power to maximize our efficiency and accumulate the required knowledge to face bigger projects.

What are your favorite features of Shotgun and what do you primarily use it for?
Alan : Shotgun gives me a bridge to communicate with producers and artists. Shotgun shows the progress of projects clearly and centralizes all of the updates. I can review and leave comments and feedback, and make sure that it’s being communicated directly to the artists. It makes my day easier.

Daniel : My favorite features of Shotgun are the publishing and loading module of the pipeline toolkit. It is highly configurable, and adaptable to many common CG applications. Artists can load and share their work with a few clicks. Moreover, each publish can be revised on the Shotgun website, marked with a thumbnail and descriptions. Information can be tracked easily.


How do you do to stay connected to the artist community?
Daniel : Keep surfing in forums, give comments sometimes, meet other artists on social platforms.

Alan : Sharing is the best way to learn. Forum and internal sharing sessions.



What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?
It is relatively hard to run a studio in Hong Kong. As everything is fast, you seldom have time to research and develop technology. Most of the studios here stay small in size, and can barely maintain the production standard. Luckily and hopefully, we're one of a few exceptions.

What is your favorite thing about working in Hong Kong?

Daniel : People here work at a fast pace. You'll be trained incredibly fast, too.

Alan : Hong Kong has lots of delicious food. You should come and join me to taste it all.

Shotgun Helps The Third Floor Manage Global Visualization Pipeline
The Third Floor, Inc. is a visualization studio that has been using Shotgun across virtual camera, previs and postvis pipelines. The company has facilities in Los Angeles, Montreal and London – plus production teams on location around the world –who contribute to major motion pictures, television shows, commercials, theme park rides, and games. The Third Floor worked on four of last year’s eight highest grossing films, including X-Men: Days of Future Past for which the company won a VES Award. Upcoming credits include Insurgent and Game of Thrones Season 5.

“We regularly use Shotgun to track asset builds and shots during previs, and throughout production and postvis,” explained The Third Floor production manager Charlotte Nelson. “We often start on projects in the early conceptual stage when there is not yet a tracking system in place for visual effects. So working from the project’s script, we build a shot list from the ground up in Shotgun. It’s very helpful to get a lay of the land and streamlines the way we distribute work among our previs artists.”


Previs is produced at The Third Floor’s offices and in the field as the teams collaborate alongside productions. In the postvis phase, artists from several locations may be working with previs assets as well as plates. “Shotgun is key because it’s one central location that lets us see up-to-date information on every shot and every asset,” Nelson continued. “Artists, supervisors, coordinators and project managers rely on Shotgun, using it in different ways to meet their needs – artists can update shot status and then supervisors can review. It’s great to have the simplicity of a central hub – it’s even helpful if you need to track down shots years down the line.”

On some projects, The Third Floor is using a virtual camera system that allows sequences to be blocked out while viewing previs within a video tap of the live scene. “Our virtual camera workflow captures a lot of information very quickly, and Shotgun lets us efficiently sort and track each shot so that we can transition into editing more rapidly,” said Nelson. “The sooner we can complete the previs, the sooner the director, DP and VFX supervisor can finalize what they need to move into production.”


As The Third Floor continues to pave the way for previs for Hollywood’s major tentpoles, having the flexibility and functionality of a system like Shotgun among its suite of tools helps ensure that the company can remain ahead of the game.

Shotgun Brings VFX Artists Together for Open-Movie Project “Galactic Battles”
For visual effects artists in Vancouver, pros of all backgrounds and experience levels flock to the VanCG Meetup group for fostering a unified and supportive community. The non-profit organization, led by founder Nick Romick, offers popular monthly educational events, networking, and community-driven collaborative projects to let artists experiment with new techniques and tools outside the office. One such collaborative project currently in progress is “Galactic Battles,” a sci-fi short film featuring both live action and CG that pits the ships from beloved sci-fi franchises against each other in an all-out battle royale.


One of the main challenges for Romick on “Galactic Battles” was establishing an efficient pipeline for artists coming from all different studios, and working on this project primarily from home. Romick ultimately chose Shotgun for all production management and review on the project, allowing him to significantly consolidate the existing infrastructure and give artists the flexibility of a web-based tool.

“Shotgun was the perfect choice for our pipeline because it is the industry standard – no matter how the pipelines are structured at the various VFX facilities here in Vancouver, everyone is familiar with Shotgun,” explained Romick, who works by day as an artist at Method Studios’ Vancouver facility. “Plus with the range of experience levels in the VanCG Meetup group, Shotgun made it easy for seasoned artists to join the project, and the exposure to such a widely-used tool is beneficial for junior artists or students working as they build their résumés.”

Since implementing Shotgun, productivity and clarity on shot status on “Galactic Battles” quickly increased. “With no central network, we were keeping track of shots and assets through a combination of Google Docs and the VanCG Meetup forum,” said Romick. “Shotgun is unparalleled for task management – having one central database and being able to see updates in real time has made everything so much smoother. Shotgun will give us a huge advantage as the project moves forward, and will hopefully entice even more artists to join the fun.”

Romick plans to have a final cut of “Galactic Battles” on YouTube later this year.
The New Annotation Text Tool: From Hackathon to Release
This past December the Shotgun crew participated in our yearly Hackathon. There were lots of great ideas - which you can check out here - but we liked one so much, we decided to carry it across the finish line and release it to all of you out there.

So, here's a little story about how Xin's annotation text tool Hackathon project made it to your Shotgun site as told by our newest Shotgunner - Ken Larue.

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All of Shotgun, plus RV, now for $30

We’re on a mission here to provide world-class pipeline tools to everyone on any production team, anywhere in the world. With that in mind I’m happy to share two great announcements.

RV will be included in Shotgun

Because a really effective review workflow is critical to getting in more iterations, we’re going to provide the RV native image and movie player to all clients this April as part of the Shotgun subscription. (We’ll release a new version of RV that works with Shotgun out of the box.) We decided not to ask studios to pay more for essential review tools that you need to be successful. In fact, that leads to our second announcement.

Shotgun is now $30

We’ve decided to adjust our pricing to make sure every studio can provide our tools to everyone on their teams. For $30/user/month, you now get all of Shotgun – production tracking, asset management, and review tools, and our “Awesome” support package. In April RV will be included. Shotgun with our “Super Awesome” support package is now $50, and in April will include RV + RVSDI for screening rooms.


As I mentioned when we brought RV into the Shotgun family just last month, while we are bringing RV native tools into Shotgun in an attempt to blow your minds, you don’t have to use Shotgun to get RV. We’ll continue to develop RV as a standalone tool with all the power and flexibility you’ve grown to love.


As always, we are dedicated to delivering the tools you deserve in production at the right price. We appreciate the close collaboration and support of the Shotgun and RV communities and look forward to working with you all this year.

Cheers,
Don and the Shotgunners

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Shotgun Provides Plug-and-Play Production Tracking and Review for Indie Stop Motion Short “Mermaids on Mars”
Athena Studios is an Emeryville, Calif-based full service production and animation studio. The studio has been creating films, video and multimedia projects for over 20 years, and is currently producing a stop-motion short called Mermaids on Mars. The short is based on a book by Nancy Guettier, directed by Jon V. Peters and features the work of artists whose credits include stop motion films Coraline, James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

Mermaids on Mars is a 20-minute film, comprised of 300 shots, many with complex compositing demands on a small team of visual effects artist with a post schedule of just over three months. Vince De Quattro is the project’s digital post-production supervisor, “When I came onto this project I set up a Google spreadsheet to manage production assets, but once we got to the review stage, it was nearly impossible to track all of the moving parts on this show and stay on top of the latest iteration of a take. Shotgun came to the rescue, and straight out of the box helped me, the artists, our director and compositors get on the same page.”

Mermaids on Mars is the story of a young boy named Julian who is magically transported to Mars where he tries to stop an evil martian from destroying the last of the planet’s mermaids. The entire story is being told piece by piece in painfully meticulous, hand-crafted, stop motion animation shot on Athena’s soundstage. From end-to-end, the short film is being shot, produced and finished on-site at Athena Studios and the Shotgun production management and review platform is being used for all post management and shot review.

“Shotgun helps the team do detailed reviews of several iterations of each shot and helps me retain complete control over the eleventh hour artistic process,” continued De Quattro. “Instead of relying on an editor, I can craft a playlist in Shotgun myself, and have anyone on the team access it from a cell phone or iPad remotely or on set—I can work at 2AM and anyone can get updates at anytime since everything’s online.”


Twenty minutes of film with an average of five comp iterations per shot, equates to approximately 300,000 frames processed to final, and with a small team under tight festival deadlines, Athena didn’t have the schedule or resources to develop a custom production tracking solution. “With Shotgun it was plug-and-play from the get go. Mermaids on Mars is a very small budget production and Shotgun is so inexpensive that even if you have a small show, you can benefit from the production management, review and tracking tools in Shotgun.”

In addition to producing Mermaids on Mars, Athena Studios regularly provides studio services, and provides animation, production and post for commercial clients. Athena also produces executive training videos for sister company Athena Online, and is implementing Shotgun to track that pipeline as well, from production through to transcoding and sound. For more information about Athena Studios, visit http://www.athenastudios.com and for more information about the film, visit https://www.facebook.com/mermaidsonmarsthefilm.
Good Luck Academy Award Nominees
Good luck and congratulations to all of our Academy Award nominated clients!

Shotgun is excited to support so many amazing studios that worked on films that have been nominated for Academy Awards this year. We're honored that you use our software and we will continue to build tools to help you bring the world inspiring work.

We wish you and all nominees luck at the awards this year!

GDC 2015


Shotgun will be heading to GDC this year!

We're really excited to show you what we've been working on and look forward to hearing what you think.  If you'd like to schedule a demo during the show, please email us at gdc@shotgunsoftware.com to set it up.

See you in San Francisco!

Cheers,
The Shotgun Crew

TWEAK IS JOINING SHOTGUN!
I'm excited to announce that our friends at Tweak, makers of the mighty RV player, will be joining our Shotgun team here at Autodesk! (Autodesk has acquired Tweak’s team and technology.) Effective this week, our combined teams will work side by side to build artists and supervisors the review collaboration tools they need to do their best work in a rapidly changing industry.

If you don’t know Tweak (what?!), they developed the RV image and sequence viewer relied on everyday by tens of thousands of artists, production teams, and studios worldwide. If you make a living creating images, you need an awesome tool to review them; knowing playback speed is great, color is spot on, and even things like stereo and high frame rates will just work. That’s RV.  And like us, the Tweak team comes out of production, works closely with clients to build new tools, and is obsessed with providing amazing client support.

We’ve worked closely with them for years, integrating our tools, sharing booth space at Siggraph, traveling on road shows, and even throwing some great parties (white Russians anyone?!). Inevitably during most our events, we’d start brainstorming on how we could join forces to build products for our customers as a single, unified team. Autodesk has now given us the opportunity to bring all of our tech, teams, and experience together.

This deal was designed with our customers in mind. Let’s address some obvious questions:

What is happening to the Tweak team?
The whole Tweak team is joining the Autodesk Shotgun team, working as a unit under Jim, Seth, and Alan’s leadership and in close partnership with me and the rest of the Shotgun team.

Will RV stay on the market?
Yes. We plan to continue to develop, support and sell RV, and keep it open to integration by other companies.

Will I still get the same (legendary) support from Tweak?
If you have an existing Tweak support contract, your terms won’t change with this acquisition and you will continue to be serviced by the Tweak team as part of Autodesk. Their support team and tools will stay in place, and they’ll continue to operate and communicate with all of their customers as part of Autodesk. Over time, we’ll back them up with our “street team” to make sure you can come to the same great team about any issue and we’ll have you covered.

Will you combine Shotgun and RV?
We’re certainly going to do all we can to make using all our software great with no set-up time. We’re brainstorming through this now and will report back.

Is there a catch?
Nope. This is all good news.

Read more detail and an FAQ, and you can always contact us directly any time.
I can’t tell you how excited we all are to be under one (virtual) roof, with direct access to all of the technology we’ve developed collectively and more resources to go faster for our clients. This is our idea of a dream team, and we expect great things to come out of it. Hold us to that.

Cheers,
Don and the Shotgunners (now with Tweak!)
2014 Hackathon
Behold the annual Shotgun Crew Hackathon! The Hackathon lasts 3 days. Day 1 and 2 are for building. Day 3 is for pitching back to the company.

This year we did a “Shark-Tank” themed Hackathon, where Shotgunners pitched their projects and ideas to a panel of judges before we all casted our votes for the Best User Facing idea, Best Internal idea, and Wackiest idea.

Be sure to check out who won at the end of the post!

Here's what we built:

Project: Fields with Benefits 
Ben W, Ben H, and Colin


This team took a stab at creating a new field type called, “Calculated”, which allows users to write simple math, logic, and string formulas that compute values between fields on a single entity. There are still a lot of performance and UX considerations to make before we’d release this, but this Hackathon project served as a killer proof of concept.


Project: Record "Audio notes" over images and playback in Shotgun (IOS and Web)
Hugo, Karine, Sylvain, MC, Alex


Review Audio Notes (™) allows you to record, attach and playback voice comments when reviewing Media in Shotgun. Review Audio Notes works both on the web review app as well as the IOS review app, allowing you to annotate Media with the power of your voice. See this project in action thanks to MC’s outstanding acting skills here!

Project: Shotgun Project Book 
Jack


The Book takes a Shotgun Project and turns it into an eBook. The book is jam-packed full of stuff like notes made on the project, some statistics, as well as highlighting the most prominent images from the project's shots and sequences. It even shows the evolution of the more complex shots, and ends with a "movie barcode" made up of all the versions in the project in the order they were created.




Project: Shotgun Archaeology 
Brandon


Brandon’s wife is an archaeologist, and he’s always wondered if Shotgun could be used to track all the work, and finds, from an archaeological dig. Using data from http://opencontext.org/ he mocked up the Areas, Trenches, Loci, and Artifacts catalogued from the Kenan Tepe site in Turkey. While not revolutionary with the data tracking, Brandon’s wife noted that Shotgun’s ability to assign and track work as it related to the site and artifacts would go a long way towards keeping everything better organized on a dig.




Project: Video Chat within Shotgun via Google Hangouts
Eric, François, Luc



This group created a way for users to launch Google Hangout collaborative review sessions from within Shotgun by clicking on newly inserted camera buttons throughout the site. Clicking the button launches a separate Google Hangout window for each user with an embedded view of Screening Room. Users can share webcams while they review shots together via the Google Hangout and can zoom, pan, resize their players as they’d like.


Project: Text Tool and Annotations in Context 
Xin


Xin's Text Tool and Annotations in Context project is an attempt at letting users view annotations in context of their media. For creating text annotations, a new text tool was added to write directly on the media. For viewing annotations, a feature was added to open annotations directly on the media while it’s playing. We liked this one so much that we'll be rolling it out to all Shotgun subscribers in a future patch!



Project: SGUIKit: Desktop style HTML/CSS Layout Engine for the web 
Owen


Owen looked at improving our ability to manage our expanding code base by building a desktop-style app UI layout engine to help with refactoring HTML, Javascript and CSS. As a proof of concept he rebuilt the new Tracking Settings UI using a basic implementation of the layout engine.

Project: RunDeck 
David, Patrick Hubert


This team’s project was to install a RUNDECK server to facilitate all our operations on the production servers. This will help the street team to do some operations themselves to provide quicker response time to customers.



Project: Changing Hubot's litter box 
Philip

Philip spent time updating and upgrading our chatroom Hu Bot who helps us with everything from making it rain corgis to handling pager duty rotations and assisting in ticket resolution and site deployment. For our clients, this means more efficient team conversations for decreased turn-around times. And corgis.

Project: Sublime Text engine for Toolkit 
JF


JF focused on creating a generic Toolkit engine that uses XML-RPC as the communication channel between the DCC and Toolkitapps. The complete integration was done inside Sublime Text 3 and supports importing in ascii art versions of Photoshop files.


Project: Artist Home Page 
Tom


The artist homepage concept provides artists with a Shotgun landing page that presents three channels that they can monitor and use as entry points into their Shotgun workflows. Each channel presents a different context; the projects they are working on, the people that they work with, the notifications in their activity scroll. The channels are presented in columns that can be individually ‘tuned’ to tailor how to display the information in each one.



Project: Searchable time machine for production support
Robert


This project consisted of creating a system that gathers logs and relevant execution information for 30 days allowing the Street Team to better investigate issues our customers may be facing. Through an integrated search engine, the Street Team can quickly access operation logs to provide a quicker response. This can also be used to monitor real-time trends and also identify potential issues before they happen.

Project: A Toolkit Tornado Engine
Stephane Deverly


Stephane developed a Toolkit Tornado Engine that launches Toolkit apps from a URL. A new sgtk:// protocol handler allows the apps to be launched from a Shotgun Action Menu Item. The engine can also be used to serve web pages from Toolkit.



Project: Shotgun Review for Android
Neil


Neil prototyped basic functionality of the iOS mobile review app using 100% cross-platform tools, and ran the app on an Android phone. He used the widely popular Cordova library to build the app in HTML 5 / css / javascript: the same toolset as our browser-based Shotgun client. This approach would make it much easier to develop and maintain mobile apps that run on all platforms.


Project: Shotgun Promulgation
Rob

Rob added Apple Push Notification support to Shotgun so that notifications are sent for everything that shows up in your Shotgun Inbox. Shotgun Promulgation is an OSX menubar app that receives these push notifications and shows you an alert to make it trivial to open the event in Shotgun. For example, if the event is from a Version, you can open the media in Screening Room just by clicking on the notification badge. Even cooler? If the notification is from a note, you can reply right from the notification and skip going to Shotgun entirely.


Project: Event daemon plugin for calculated fields 
Eli


Eli developed a prototype plugin for the Event Daemon to provide calculated fields inside Shotgun. Using a method similar to Excel, it allows the user to enter a formula directly into the Shotgun field, which is then replaced with a calculated value through Eli’s plugin.
Users can create custom calculated fields.

Then input the desired formula using the custom fields.

Then calculated value is automatically generated.


And the Winners are...

Best User Facing Idea


Fields With Benefits by Ben W., Ben H., and Colin

Best Internal Idea


RunDeck- by David and Patrick Hubert

Wackiest Idea

Shotgun Project Book by Jack

Which ideas would you like to see us release?
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