Shotgun at VES Summit


We're excited to be participating in the upcoming VES Summit this Saturday October 18th in Hollywood where the VFX community comes together to discuss and explore the latest breakthroughs in film, tech, gaming and entrepreneurism.

Our very own Don Parker will be leading two roundtable discussions on building a successful business and turning customers into both investors and partners (and friends)!

"How to Build a Successful Business in Today's Climate"
Saturday October 18th
11am-12pm and 1-2pm
Location: W Hotel Hollywood, 6250 Hollywood Boulevard


More info on the VES Summit and how to register here
Security Notice about Shellshock
What’s this all about?

On September 24th, a new family of security bugs in the Unix Bash Shell referred to as “Shellshock” was publicly disclosed. Many Internet web servers use Bash to process certain commands, and this security bug could be exploited by an attacker to cause vulnerable versions of Bash to execute arbitrary commands.

By the nature of our system and its current implementation, our servers were not affected by these bugs and no data was ever threatened by it. However, to protect against possible future changes that could make our system vulnerable, we have promptly updated all our servers with the appropriate fixes.

What do you need to do

Customers with Hosted Sites

If you have a hosted site, then you have nothing to do!

Customers with Local Installs

To avoid being hacked, all servers should be updated with a fix as described here.

If you have any questions about this, don’t hesitate to contact us at support@shotgunsoftware.com.


Todd Perry Works from Anywhere With Shotgun Review App
Independent visual effects supervisor Todd Sheridan Perry (TeaspoonVFX) is currently working on several projects with Workhouse Creative in Seattle, WA. Todd’s been a longtime customer, and was also a beta tester and early adopter of Shotgun Review for iPhone.

We recently spoke with Todd while he was in line at Starbucks, checking out Shotgun Review on his iPhone while waiting for his coffee. He is currently using Shotgun to manage two simultaneous projects at Workhouse, a company owned by director Keith Rivers with 10 full-time staff, four of whom are VFX artists. One of the projects is an indie short film directed by Rivers, and the second is a music video for local Seattle artist Allen Stone co-directed by Rivers and Daniel Brown featuring over 65 VFX shots.

“I just got an email notification from Shotgun that an artist submitted a shot. With Shotgun Review, I can take a look at the shot on my iPhone from anywhere,” said Perry. “It’s really liberating to be able to give feedback to an artist from my iPhone in line at Starbucks. Obviously it’s not going to be the super nitpicky details like color comments, but I certainly can see if a shot is headed in the right direction and see if something is going wrong. I can zoom in, get a closer look, annotate and make little scribbles directly on frames and then it gets back to the artist almost instantly.”

Less than a month after its official release, Perry
is already benefitting from having access to Shotgun via his iOS devices. “As a VFX Supervisor you’re often tethered to an office, working long days and nights waiting to receive shots to review. While it’s still essential to work in a screening room for director-assisted review sessions, or evaluating fine details and color work, with Shotgun Review I can deliver almost immediate feedback on most aspects of a sequence from anywhere while the artist is still in the mindset of that same shot. Often when artists don’t get feedback for one or two days, they have to retrace their steps to recall what stage of the project they were in. More immediate feedback makes the process more efficient and usually delivers an overall better final product.”

Perry also observed that the ROI of deploying Shotgun, even at a boutique shop like Workhouse Creative, outweighs the incremental spend of adding licenses for artists as needed. “You have to assess the costs of lost notes or making mistakes or missed shots. I’ve talked to many producers about this, and as long as you set everything up correctly from the get go in Shotgun, it just works. It’s so much easier for artists, supervisors and producers to have a bird’s eye view of statuses on all aspects of a production. In the long run, Shotgun saves artists time and lets them focus on making better art, and saves supervisors the time that can get lost when fine details on a project get lost in a broken communication chain.”


Shotgun Review for iPhone is available for free for all current Shotgun subscribers. Download it for free on the Apple App Store today.


Don’t have your Shotgun site? Sign up for a free 30-day trial here
Get to Know... Armstrong White
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Brandon Bartlett, CG supervisor at Armstrong White, a company that specializes in photo-real CG motion and still imagery for automotive brands. We spoke with Brandon about Armstrong White’s unique workflow and how they leverage Shotgun to help support an enormous volume of simultaneous projects.

Tell us about Armstrong White.

We work with a lot of agencies that represent vehicle manufacturers, so we create content for websites, print campaigns, trade show videos and catalogs for GM, Nissan, Infiniti, Mazda and Subaru to name a few– these are huge projects. We’re based in Detroit, so as a result of being here, lots of agencies and car companies know us and our reputation for doing very good car work.

Armstrong White has a team of 48 people. We’re an anomaly because of the sheer number of projects that we do – we have 88 projects currently online. Our average is between 50-70 projects active at any given time, and because we have several that turn around in just days, we have projects going in and coming out in the same week. It’s not like episodic or film – our needs are different and our timelines are very truncated.

What’s your favorite thing about being in Detroit?

I’m from here so that helps, but I think the city is fantastic. You go downtown and it’s hitting a revival. You hear a lot about Detroit and how it’s bad, you have movies that depict it as terrible place, but downtown is coming back. They’re building another sports arena for the Red Wings, there are a lot of local breweries, we’re actually number four on the list of brewers in the nation. Detroit’s just a really nice place to be, but we get harder winters than people in California are used to. The seasons changing is nice, fall is fantastic. And in Detroit you can park on the streets without getting absurd parking tickets. I was in L.A. for one week and I got three parking tickets in the same day!

When you aren’t working, what’s the ideal way to spend a day in Detroit?

Go to cider mills, and I’m a hockey fan so when fall rolls around it’s time to go see hockey games.

What first led you to CG?

I knew I wanted to do something creative and movie related forever. I went to school for computer animation at the College for Creative Studies here in Detroit, and graduated with a BFA from the animation and digital media department. I started with Armstrong White doing night work with them right out of college. We had three or four months to prep an entire vehicle line for Chrysler — it was very learn-as-you-go for me at that point!

How long have you been with Armstrong White?

When I started working here right out of college, that was about 10 years ago. At that point I spent almost 3 years at Armstrong White before leaving to work with VFX studios (With A Twist, then Pixomondo), and I came back here in January 2012. When I came back on board I got Armstrong White to start using Shotgun since we were moving onto larger volume projects.

What’s a day in the life of Brandon like?

Typically I come in, check email, and check Shotgun to get caught up – with clients all over world we get requests at odd hours, so my inbox is always full of producer or client requests. I also need to get caught up on anything that’s happened with various apps I’m maintaining, so if there is a new release of software or something, that’s typically when I check it out, early in the morning. Once I get through that, I hop into Shotgun to see what tasks I’ve got going on and I work through those based on what’s due when. We have general production meetings throughout the day – we have a lot of clients in California, so with the time difference, once our afternoon kicks in, California is up and running so the day gets busier having conference calls and creative meetings with them as well. Then at end of day I tackle pipeline issues so that the studio can work faster, better, and stronger.

What are the three most important things in your office?

My workstation, I can’t do anything without that. The render farm is super important because with the size of images we have to render. And, of course, the microwave, for reheating my coffee.

What tools do you use in-house at Armstrong White?

Our main CG application is Maya, so we’re running Maya with Deadline as our render manager and we also use V-Ray for rendering. We’re also using Tweak’s RV with Shotgun for doing reviews, and Shotgun is the entire backbone of our operation for keeping everything organized. Since our print work requires a lot of retouching, we’re also using Photoshop, Nuke for compositing, and we occasionally use ZBrush and Mari when we need to. We do a lot of straight unwrapping and texture creation in Photoshop as well.

We also use some specialized tools, some of which we’ve written ourselves – we’re a niche within a niche so for some projects our tools have to be tailored. We do a ton of CG work and compositing, but not in the same way as film and TV studios; our typical renders are anywhere from 8-16K on average, so we’re rendering very very large still images, kicking those out and in order to make that load workable, we’ve developed specialized tools to parse those single frames. One tool leverages tile submissions on the render farm so we’re not limited by V-Ray’s distributed bucket rendering. We can hook an entire farm of 30+ machines into it. We have a Photoshop ripper to generate Photoshop files from EXR files for our retouchers, giving us more latitude to change the paint base color and those types of things.

Though, at the end of the day, it isn’t so much what tools you’re using to produce the work as it is the people producing the work. We recently migrated from 3ds Max to Maya as our primary 3D tool, and we’ve made a host of other foundational toolset changes over the past few years including adopting Shotgun – the fact that we made those changes as quickly and effectively as we did is indicative of how flexible and skilled the team here is. These workflow changes were key to increasing our productivity without sacrificing quality.

Which in-house/custom developed tool are you most proud of?

When you buy a car you can access a vehicle configurator and that has to be able to showcase every possible color, finish and model combination.

Our CG Supervisor Damian Fulmer and Developer Drew Loveridge have developed an awesome proprietary tool called “State Manager” which helps us set up scene files by managing groups of geometry in various states: visible, invisible, matte, and so on. Due to the volume of automotive work we do, we have an intimate knowledge of how large numbers of parts fit together, we just needed an efficient way to automate that assembly process. That’s what State Manager gives us. It allows us to create full beauty renders of configurations as well as isolate the elements that make up the parts of those configurations. We’ve been extending it to be able to share the configurations and override them across and in individual scenes to allow for client feedback. Originally the intent was simply to alleviate a lot of the overhead in our configurator workflow, but it’s so effective that we found ourselves using it for stills and animations too, and it has become an integral part of how we think about projects.

How much effort do you focus on building out the pipeline?

We have one dedicated developer that spends all his time writing code, and a few other artists that dabble here and there. I’d like to focus on it more; it’s more fun than standard day to day stuff because it’s like putting a puzzle together, that “how do I make things work” question. As far as general pipeline stuff, I get to it between projects when I can, and Shotgun has been a big help in providing support and setting up our current configuration. We’re using Shotgun Pipeline Toolkit to generate our folder structure; before Toolkit we did it by hand, we had a template we used and then replicated folders manually which was a pain. Now they’re created automatically with each new project and they’re all linked into Shotgun so artists can easily access files without having to browse through the entire directory. We’re looking at expanding that and doing some new custom development with Shotgun, and Shotgun Desktop is definitely one of the things I’m excited about. I’ve installed it and am working on making it more applicable to how we work.

How do you stay connected to the creative community?

Obviously forums are a great way, and Shotgun has a great forum system and a terrific community of users. Thinkbox, The Foundry, all of those forums allow us – being so far from from epicenter of VFX and CG – to stay connected. We go to shows too, I was just at SIGGRAPH and got to meet the folks from Shotgun who I had been talking to through support and forums.

Also I’m a huge Cinefex fan, it’s a great resource and even though it’s just a quarterly publication it’s clear that they deliver quality over quantity. YouTube and Vimeo are great for keeping tabs on what’s being created by other artists and facilities, and sites like fxguide and CG Channel are great about keeping the community up-to-date about what’s going on as well. Skimming through those feeds is a typical part of my day, whether it’s first thing in the morning or in between tasks. With so many facilities and talented artists out there, it’s great having all these resources to make that content available.

What are some Shotgun ‘best practices’ in place at Armstrong White?

I used Shotgun when I worked at With A Twist and Pixomondo, and I had a good understanding of Shotgun as far as being a general user, but I didn’t have any influence on how it was structured or how templates were built because they had pipeline leads at those places who did fantastic work. Since we aren’t the typical VFX/Animation/games facility customer, we’ve geared Shotgun to a print and interactive workflow rather than film and TV. We don’t deal with sequences, so we typically deal with Shotgun tasks and bypass sequences entirely.

Also with the number of projects we have online, we have producers working on 10-15 projects simultaneously rather than working on multiple shots for just one show. Because we do so much vehicle work, we also have a garaging system, so figuring out how to link all the vehicle assets to all the projects they’re being used on required creating non-project entities on Shotgun linked together to communicate project-to-project. For example if we get a product change on a vehicle, that vehicle might be used on five different projects. We needed a way to communicate those changes to every user accessing that data across every project it's linked to.So we worked with Shotgun support for doing that and once that was in place here it became a huge life saver.

What are your favorite Shotgun features?

I’m a big fan of the Shotgun events framework, I love the fact that we have a daemon machine that sits in the server room and we write some small scripts and have great automation – that has been invaluable for us. To set the status automatically, alert producers that things are ready to go, producers linking artists to projects automatically, that's all been great. It was amazing when we integrated it how quickly the artists hopped on board. Usually it’s producers who think it’s amazing, they want to be organized, but here it was the artists who adopted it very quickly and started making it their own.

Also, with Shotgun being in the cloud, the fact that they handle our updates is one less thing for me to have to deal with on a day to day basis; the automatic updates are so great. You can follow Shotgun’s status website and alert producers to when scheduled maintenance ticket is going on and that’s it.
Meet the Team: Core
I’m happy to introduce you all to the Core team this week. These are the guys who are building the platform that supports the rest of Shotgun and managing our hosted infrastructure. Our focus is performance, security, and services that other teams then use to build new client facing features.

For those of you I haven’t met yet, my name is Brandon Ashworth.  I’ve been with Shotgun for 4 years now and have had the opportunity to contribute to development across all of our products and most internal systems.  My focus now is spreading that knowledge through the team and leading the product roadmap for the Core team.  It’s a balancing act with many external and internal factors, but I’m going to start taking juggling lessons so not to worry!

Now for the folks that work behind the scenes to make it all happen:

Luc Laprise- Montreal, Quebec
The self proclaimed “Super Dad” originally from northern Quebec came to Montreal 20 years ago and never went back. Luc joins the team as the development manager, focusing on clearing the, sometimes seemingly boobietrapped, path to keep the team on track. In his free time, Luc enjoys watching his favorite film, Groundhog Day, which he finds himself watching over and over.

David Richer- Montreal, Quebec
David joins the team as one of our three software developers. Right now, he is working with Guillaume on taking our platform to the next level, fast, secure, and scalable! His super power? The ability to see through code! We’re not quite sure what that means, but it sounds really cool.


Guillaume Brossard- St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec
Guillaume is one of our software developers, and was the first member of this team to deploy a bug fix. He is currently working with David on platform development. With his vast experience in development, he has gained the useful ability to code in the dark. We hope the lights never go out on us, but we’re thankful to know Guillaume will get us through!

Neil Brandt- Toronto, Ontario
Neil, one of our software developers, was the very first employee to be hired at Shotgun and has been with us from the very start. His forte is security, performance, and backend frameworks...but he can do just about anything! As you may expect, we are currently sharing his expertise with other Shotgun teams, he’s just that kind of guy.

Patrick Hubert- Montreal, Quebec
Patrick is the automation engineer for the core team. He’s focusing on automating our testing framework, but also helps us automate any of our tools that we can. You know, those pesky human beings are always making mistakes. As King Arthur would say in his favorite movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “one...two….five!” Oh wait.

And that’s the Core team! We are happy to build a rock-solid foundation and support the other Shotgun teams so that they can deliver features and tools that amaze our clients.
Flame Integration Preview at IBC
We’re proud to announce a new integration that’s come together quickly through collaboration with our new Autodesk family - Flame! Using expanded options provided by the Autodesk team, we’re now able to tie into Flame like never before, which allows us to start building features that help unite Flame artists with the rest of the team. Flame/Shotgun integration will be previewed at IBC and supported in the Flame 2015 Extension 2 release later this year.

For the initial integration, we focused on enabling Flame artists to quickly and easily share work with Supervisors, Producers, Clients, and other Artists on the team. Here are the feature highlights:

Publish Conformed Sequences from Flame to Shotgun
Flame artists can export a sequence from the timeline as individual shot media in the filesystem and register it in Shotgun for other artists on the team to use as elements, eliminating the need to search around for content.

Review and Approval
Flame artists can also export a sequence from the timeline as review media and send it directly to Shotgun’s review and approval tools, both in the web and mobile with the iPhone Review app. Media can also then be shared with clients through Shotgun’s client review site.

Shot Versioning in Flame
The sequence publish feature will also prepare Flame to receive updates from the pipeline and this will be an area we look to expand post-release as we start to tie in the other applications and workflows we support.

Come see the Flame/Shotgun integration at IBC first-hand in the Autodesk booth (Hall 7, Stand D25) or check out: http://area.autodesk.com/ibc2014. Tommy Kiser is our man on the floor to talk all things Shotgun.

Last but not least, if you’re interested in talking Flame integration, please reach out via toolkitsupport@shotgunsoftware.com! I’d love to talk to you about what’s in our initial release and what the future feature set should look like.
Catch Up With Shotgun at IBC

We'll be at IBC this year showing our latest and greatest developments in production tracking, review & approval, asset management, and pipeline tools.

Be sure to visit us at the Autodesk Booth (7-D25) where we will be demoing our newest product releases: iOS Review App, Shotgun Desktop, and Mari Integration.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Cheers,
The Shotgunners
Games studio friends: Join us at XDS next week

We had a blast at XDS last year talking about best practices for managing multi-vendor games production pipelines, and we’re super excited to participate again this year. 

If you’ll be in Vancouver September 10-12 for the Summit we’d love to see you! Our Tech Innovation Session is Wednesday, Sept 9, from 9:00 – 10:30, then repeated again that day 11:00 – 12:30, both in room 223 (Vancouver Convention Centre, East Building). Here’s what’s in store:

Come meet Louai and Jon!
Louai Abu-Osba, Technical Art Director at High 5 Games, and Jon Jones, Art Outsourcing Manager at Avalanche Studios, will present deep-dive case studies on the pipelines, tools and custom workflows they’ve developed and applied to ambitious game projects. They’ll share specifics of their workflows, philosophies behind their approaches, and lessons learned, and spark ideas for tool and process development. Then they’ll join Don for a moderated discussion on best practices and open Q&A where attendees can bring their own questions and ideas into the discussion. Hope to see you there.
Meet the Team: Production Management
I’m happy to introduce you all to our Production Management team this week. These are the folks that have been tasked with building tools that help producers, studio managers, executives, and coordinators guide their teams to deliver projects faster while also running a healthy business.

I guess I should start with a bit about myself. I’m Ben Hadden and I’ve been with Shotgun for four years. I’ve dipped my toes in most parts of the company, answering support tickets, developing and writing our marketing material, website and documentation, and now leading the product roadmap for Production Management. In a previous life, I worked in production for Disney (Image Movers Digital), where I used Shotgun every day to manage teams. I’m incredibly excited and humbled to be working with this team on shipping tools that production people will love.

Now for the ladies and gentlemen behind the curtain making it all happen:


Robert Belanger - Montreal, Québec

Robert brings a breadth of experience having worked on some of the industry’s most well-known applications. He joins the team as the development manager, which means he’s our producer! Eager to ship valuable features to our clients, he’s already managed to squash two bugs relating to the API and modify some of our app’s “welcome screens” so they stop popping up after you dismiss them.



Tom Hoferek - Ottawa, Ontario

Tom joins the team as our dedicated designer, and he’s already knee deep in our future projects. Some of the work he’s doing is going to help tie together our application and give admins tools to help simplify some of the UI. He claims to have superhuman hearing, so for those of you quietly cursing those little things that bug you about Shotgun, he’s listening, and he’s on it!



Ben Willenbring - Brooklyn, New York

Ben happens to share my name, so I sometimes call him “Primo” because he was the first Ben at Shotgun (he calls me “Deuce”). Until a couple years ago, Ben was responsible for QA of our entire app. That’s no small job. But he’s managed to do an amazing job and will spend the next few months spreading that knowledge throughout the QA team. On a personal note, Ben studied philosophy in college, which I think is pretty awesome.




Colin Withers - Toronto, Ontario

Colin is the reigning arm-wrestling champion of the company, and he also happens to be one of the first full-time developers hired at Shotgun. If you use Shotgun today, there’s very good chance that Colin worked on the features you rely on day in and day out. Most recently, Colin helped build both the Media app and Client Review Site, both of which were radical departures from some of our earlier UIs. He’ll continue to work with our expanded team, bringing the same level of polish to all the future features we ship.


François Jacques - Montreal, Québec

Francois hails from Beloeil, which I learned comes from “quel bel oeil!” meaning “what a beautiful view!” And that’s pretty much what I said when I saw him ship his first feature. Francois managed to worked out some very old bugs in our importer dealing with line breaks and quotations in spreadsheets. I can only imagine what he’ll fix next.





Marie-Claude Jutras - Montreal, Québec

Marie-Claude (or “MC”) is famous on the team for having the biggest dog. So don’t mess with her ;) She used to be an animator, which makes her a great addition to the group. She’ll be helping with QA, making sure we ship the highest quality software that looks great and makes sense to both producers and artists.





Owen Lewery - Toronto, Ontario

With five bug fixes and and a feature under his belt, Owen already feels like a veteran member of the team. He’s been busy fixing some annoying inconsistencies throughout the app, as well as adding some much-needed resizing ability to the filter panel’s query builder. He’s already getting started on UIs for our first big feature coming later this year, so stay tuned for what’s next!



And that’s the team! We’re all super excited to deliver new features and make existing ones better. The new members are also eager to get to know our clients. So if you’re a producer, coordinator, or studio manager interested in working with us on what’s coming next, reach out at support@shotgunsoftware.com.
Get to Know... Atomic Fiction
We had the opportunity recently to sit down with Kevin Baillie, co-founder of Atomic Fiction. He and Ryan Tudhope started the feature film and television visual effects company in 2010. Headquartered in Oakland, Calif., Atomic Fiction is in the midst of opening a second office in Montreal. The company has created award-winning visual effects for projects that include “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey,” “Need for Speed,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Boardwalk Empire” and many more. When we spoke to Kevin he was working on set as the VFX Supervisor on Robert Zemeckis’ film “To Reach the Clouds,” about French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s attempt to cross the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Why has Atomic Fiction been so successful?

We’ve taken a very modern approach to VFX and kind of thrown out the conventional way of thinking. We have smaller teams of people who are at the top end of the talent pool, so, while we focus on hiring talent across all fields of expertise, our main sights are on high-end talent. On the technology front we really don’t have much local infrastructure; we use Google cloud for everything rendering-wise and have written our own in-house render queue management solution that interacts with Shotgun and oversees all of the rendering work we do. We have 20% of the technology footprint of a normal visual effects company, but have access to as much, if not more, render power than anyone else out there.

What’s a day in the life of Kevin like?

These days I’m both on set and in the office -- but mostly on set in Montreal. I’ll get to set at 7AM, which is not the easiest thing for me. Once the caffeine settles in, it’s all about working with Bob Zemeckis to figure out how to most efficiently capture the VFX shots of the day. I work with everyone from the grips to the art department and Bob to make sure everything is going as planned. We take a ton of reference photography, and I work closely with the data wrangler, making sure we have all of the information we need to get the effects to look as good as they can, as efficiently as possible. We wrap 13-17 hours later. When I’m not on set, I’m focusing a lot on the expansion of our Oakland office and the build-out of our office in Montreal. So I’m working on growing the business from both a physical standpoint and a business development standpoint. It’s pretty nuts at the moment, but the good news is we that brought Mark Sadeghi on board as President of VFX, we’re bringing on a dedicated finance person, and we’re really expanding our executive management team to make sure our growth happens responsibly and is successful.

We’re also slowly working toward adopting Shotgun Toolkit as our asset management solution and our Montreal division is pushing that effort forward. It’s all possible thanks to the amazing people we have working behind the scenes. My partner at Atomic Fiction, Ryan Tudhope is in Los Angeles on set as the VFX Supervisor on “Boyscouts v. Zombies.” Atomic Fiction is the lead VFX house on that film; we’re doing about 1/3 of the shot count on “The Walk.”

What are the three most important things in your office?  

Number one is the people. I’ve seen companies with amazing tools that don’t have the right people fall flat. So by far, number one is the A+ team. Other than that, the Internet connectivity that we have, it’s very fast and that’s very important from a workload perspective so our connectivity to the outside world is not a bottleneck to our artists. And third is our espresso machine to keep everyone fueled.

What tools do you use in-house at Atomic?

We use quite a wide range, we really focus on hiring the best people, and sometimes in order to work at their best they need to be working with the tools they’re most comfortable with. Those include: Maya, modo, and we’re starting to integrate Katana. We also use some 3ds Max, Nuke for compositing, After Effects for motion graphics and then we have our own internal render management solution for render queue and also the cloud management side of things, and Shotgun, of course, for production tracking.

Which in-house tool are you most proud of?

Our render management solution is called Conductor and it’s what we’re most proud of. We had been working with ZYNC for quite a while and it became obvious that we needed control of the development of our cloud rendering solution so we switched to an in-house system that was developed by a bright young guy named Greg Denton. We worked with him at Image Movers Digital, and within a was a couple of months he built an amazing working solution in conjunction with great support from Google. The result is a tool that we can spin up to have render farm the size of what IMD had—that was a $20 million investment, and we can crank that up for a few hours, then shut it down and only pay for what we use. It scales, it’s fast and it’s our pride and joy.

How much effort do you focus on building out the pipeline?

We have a team of people that does that; probably five or six people who really have hands-on involvement in that from a coding level. I’m heavily involved on the strategy side of it and having been at a bunch of places large and small, there are things we want to focus on and things we want to avoid, so it’s a balance because I don’t want to be a bottleneck but there are certain philosophic components to our pipeline that are key to our success.

Shotgun customization or straight out of the box?

Both. We use several features straight out of the box and we also have custom tools we’ve developed. We were working on our own asset management system, which is super faxt and user-friendly, but we’re working towards using Shotgun Toolkit as the company scales. The Shotgun API is great in that it allows us to develop our own tools while always keeping production informed, and gives the team constant ability to interact with other artists in a seamless way.
What inspires you?

To be honest it’s directors like Robert Zemeckis. From a storytelling standpoint it’s unbelievable what he can come up with out of nothing, so to be able to support him is incredible. The other thing that inspires me is how busted the industry is right now. You see well established companies having a hard time, so for us and me personally for sure is ‘what can we do to help?’ This cloud based approach, we’ve been vocal about it for some time because we think it’s the future of the industry and when it works it allows us to tie revenue to expenditure, enabling us to have a much healthier business…so I think things like that, discovering ways to make the industry more viable for the companies and artists involved is a huge inspiration.

What led you to visual effects?

Jurassic Park” and “Back to the Future” and “E.T.” and “Star Wars” -- every movie I saw as a kid that I loved had VFX in it. So as I grew up I always knew I wanted to work in visual effects for movies. Seeing “Jurassic Park” was my ‘aha’ moment. Luckily my high school teacher Rick Mordby had 3D Studio for DOS; he let me and Ryan [Tudhope] use it and learn it, and we had the crazy, fortunate luck of both being hired to work at Lucasfilm straight out of high school.

What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?

For us it’s growing the studio in a responsible way. We want to keep everyone busy and grow, but do it in a way that’s sustainable. The nature of the industry is that you have a relatively small client pool and relatively few, albeit very large payments coming in. It’s hard to keep cash flow in line with expenditure. The way that we work with tools on an on-demand basis, and cloud rendering has been truly transformative for us in that regard. So cash flow is definitely the industry’s biggest challenge, but it’s one we’ve been tackling head on since inception.

Thoughts on Shotgun joining Autodesk? 

I think it’s going to be a great thing for Shotgun and its users, I know that one of the challenges of running a small business is how to take limited resources and spread them across all of the high priority development tasks you have as a company. Especially when you have customers all clamoring for different things. It’s hard to satisfy the high priority stuff and keep all of our clients happy across the board, so Autodesk’s involvement will in a large way help alleviate that problem by allowing them to expand the size of the Shotgun development team and maybe even take some riskier moves since they might be able to devote resources to more long term strategic development. So I can relate to it as a small business owner and think it’s an awesome thing to have the muscle of Autodesk backing Shotgun.
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