Street Team Summit and Siggraph
This year, we timed our Street Team Summit for the week before Siggraph. The big bonus was that we all got to attend Siggraph and meet clients who we generally only work with through tickets and in online meetings.

So, what is the Street Team Summit?
It's an opportunity for all of us on the Street Team who are scattered across the globe to get together once per year and work, plan, and bond in one location. We spent a lot of time doing our regular jobs—just because we are at Summit, doesn't mean support can come to a standstill. The difference is that at Summit, we did it within shouting distance from each other rather than on Slack.

We also initiated some new projects that you will see come to fruition over the next year, from documentation and videos, to improved internal workflows that will make us more responsive to your needs.

Bonding with coworkers from far-flung locales is incredibly valuable as well. We work very closely and share issues and depend on each other. So things like late nights watching Family Guy and Bob's Burgers are important.

And, when not working?
Of course we spent all day Saturday at Disneyland. And by "all day", I mean OPENING to CLOSING! But we didn't stop there. One team member has a spouse's Silver Pass. So… for exercise, four of us would jog to Disneyland arriving at 8AM, go into the park for one ride on HyperSpace Mountain, then jog home for breakfast/work. It was a 5K round trip from where we stayed!

Batting Cages. 'Nuff said.

We also sampled the fantastic variety of food found all over Anaheim. Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, and our very own Street Teamer/Persian chef, Tannaz, gave us a taste of Persian food and showed us the steps to make it. Check out her food blog here.

Week Two: Siggraph
Demoing Shotgun 7.0 in the Booth
Reviewing shots in context anywhere in the app—from any clickable thumbnail in Shotgun—to a Playlist, was really exciting to demo. People understand how important reviewing in context is to helping them get shots finaled—and that importing cuts quickly makes updating shots much more efficient. It seemed like everyone from artists to producers wants in on the action.

It was great making connections with potential clients that are evaluating Shotgun but have never contacted support. We were able to answer their questions and let them know that Shotgun support is an intrinsic part of the evaluation process and that leveraging us is the best way to get up and running.

Great quotes from the Shotgun booth at Siggraph:
- "We can annotate directly on frames? Amazing! This will be so useful at our studio." 
- "My key takeaway from Siggraph is that I must learn Shotgun."

Also Overheard:
- We got lots of great feedback about our Street Team support responses.
- Many people have heard of what Shotgun is, and they all say “it is about time I learned it.”
- People at the job fair were talking about Shotgun.
- A potential client mentioned that their current system is not scaling for them and how much more robust Shotgun is - then they returned the next day with a colleague to discuss details.

What the Street Team Saw
VR was everywhere. One of our favorites, Pearl, directed by Patrick Osborne, used Shotgun to help keep track of all the work. There was also an archaeological VR experience which was a fun mashup of Brandon's work at Shotgun and his wife’s profession as an archeologist. Of course, Eli controlling a mechanical puppet via a VR headset and Xbox Kinect, while singing “I am a Frog”, rounded out the list of favorites.

We also noticed Cloud everything. It's nice being a "born in the cloud" software company.

Everyone loves free things at Siggraph. Best schwag? The Shotgun Beer Mug from the Pipeline Hero Awards!

                                                  

And, of course, the Shotgun Party
- Go-karts. They were fast and fun! Electric go-karts are very cool.
- Super-awesome DJs! Our very own Andrew Lawrence (Espio—look him up) and Patrick Boucher kept the tunes going all night.
- VJ-ing awesome cat videos on the screens

                                         

It was lots of fun getting time to chat/connect with clients in a social atmosphere. It’s great getting to interact with many of the people face-to-face after so much correspondence via support tickets and email.

Retrospective
Summit and Siggraph were a great combination and we used our time in a productive way that will benefit you all in the coming months. We really appreciate the time connecting with those of you who made it to Siggraph this year. For those of you who didn't make it, maybe next year? Or just hit us up at http://support.shotgunsoftware.com.


About the author: Matt has been helping the Street Team for over four years—after several years in animation and VFX. He likes music, coffee, and watching his kids turn into adults. Matt is originally from Indiana and lives in the Bay Area.


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Shotgun Street Smarts: Getting Started
A few weeks ago, Eli brought you some tips on setting up your first Shotgun project. This week, we’ll expand a bit on an important topic he brought up: the discovery stage in the roll out plan. At this stage, the studio you are at has decided to use Shotgun for production tracking. Maybe you’ve been there a while, or maybe you just started. In either case, where do you begin?

Being in charge of putting together the studio’s Shotgun workflow can be a daunting task, but just like any project, you start by breaking it down. Before we begin, you may want to bookmark this link. There are tons of tips there that can help you — from setting up a very basic Shotgun workflow to more advanced methods.

The first question you’ll need to answer is: what is your workflow? For example:

         - How does your project start? What’s the “first thing” that happens?
         - Who are the key players?
         - How does the data/information come in?
         - How does it leave the studio?
         - What do you spend a lot of time doing repeatedly?

      Understanding this is a very important part of setting up Shotgun and will also help you in the long run as you evolve your workflow. It may help to draw out a diagram of how information flows through your studio. Personally, I have a whiteboard next to my desk that I use for drafting up workflows.


      Although I work for Shotgun and know that it works very well, I still need to draw out a map of how I want the information organized when I set up new Shotgun projects. As you start to plan how you want your information grouped together, don’t forget to include other people! Shotgun is meant to be collaborative. For best practices, we encourage everyone in the studio to use it so you’ll want everyone to have the opportunity to give feedback on what they want to see.

      You’ll want to start by grouping the information together from a high level. If you are on a film, you know you’ll have Shots, but you’ll want to organize that into Sequences, which is grouped by the Project. Simple enough. Those basic templates are already available to you in Shotgun. If you’re not sure how to map out your workflow, start with those pre-existing template and go with it! You can add or revise those templates to make your own.

      Let’s take a TV Episodic workflow as an example. You may want to add additional organization levels like Seasons. Or maybe you’ll organize things by Spots if you’re working on a Commercial. In Shotgun, we call these levels of organization 'Entities'. A Shot is an Entity, a Sequence is an Entity, an Asset is an Entity, etc. You can also enable Custom Entities to track things that may not already be in Shotgun or are unique to your workflow. While entities such as Shots, Sequences, Assets can be renamed, it will be easier to keep their names the way they currently are for as long as possible to avoid confusion later on.

      Here's an example of how I might map out an Episodic workflow. We also refer to this as a schema. For those who want more details on how the standard Shotgun schema is set up, see our article on Understanding the Shotgun Schema.

      Street_Cred_Workflow_Training_Master_v06.001.jpeg

      In the image above, you’ll notice that I also have already started thinking about the relationships between Entities. Each Entity is connected both ways. By drawing this out, I'm able to clearly understand which Episodes are in each Season and vice versa.

      Once you have the broad scope of work defined, you can start thinking about how to break out each Entity.

           - What information do I want to keep track of in Seasons? Maybe Season number, maybe a year?
           - What about in Shots? What information is important to each Shot?

      Then, try taking a look at all of the fields available in each Entity and how they can relate to the information that is important to track. Try to use what you have first, before creating additional fields to store more information. Start simple! It’s much easier to add more detail to your workflow as you need it, than to try to remove detail from it later. We’ve seen some clients set up a very detailed workflow setup that makes updating it complex. When this happens, this leads to clients not updating their information, causing data to be out of sync from what is actually happening in production. The information is only as good as what you’re willing to put in, so keep it simple. Later in this series, we’ll talk about ways to maximize data with minimal input.

      Now that you’ve narrowed down “what” information is important to track, you’ll want to think about “how” that information will be used.

           - How does an Asset begin it’s build? Do you wait for concept art to be received to kick off?
           - How is a Shot is finaled?
           - Who are the clients that approve the shot?
           - Internally, what’s the process of approving it to share with the client?
           - How will Shots be delivered?

        This is the part that can get tricky. Each studio will have their way of working together, so it’s really important that these workflows are discussed internally and everyone agrees on how things should move through the pipeline.

        When you’ve got your workflow set up, start setting up Shotgun! Create those projects, make those fields and start entering in some information to see how it’s all working. Don’t get too invested yet with the information you put in. You just want a little bit of information stored in Shotgun to start to see if the concept you just mapped out works the way you’d like.

        Once you have a handle on your Shotgun setup, take a step away from it. Let it sit for a day or two, then come back with fresh eyes. You’ll be surprised to see that you may have added too much detail for some Entities, or you may have a better way of looking at your data than you previously thought. I’ll admit, I’ve definitely come back a few days later to scrap what I did before and start fresh. Don’t be afraid to try it again! There are many ways to track a project. You just have to find the way that works for you and your studio.

        It will take a little while to get the right workflow created. Similar to most processes, you’ll need to iterate. While you may be able to get a workflow set up in an afternoon, it probably won’t be the final workflow that you’ll be happy with. The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to make changes! The beauty of Shotgun is how you can really tailor it to something just for your team.

        About Tram:
        Tram joined the Street Team in March of 2015 and makes sure that we are looking after our amazing clients in the beautiful Los Angeles area. She comes to us with VFX experience across multiple departments, from Senior Producer to Systems, with a dash of hands on pipeline experience for good measure. From Features to Commercials, from Mom-n-Pop shops to some of the old Big 5’s, she knows firsthand what it’s like to deliver projects with a scrappy team or a fully-staffed studio. Despite having worked in entertainment, she can not recite a single line from any movie, commercial, or even P90X (after 8 months of the same 12 videos over and over...) so don't even ask!


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        Get to know... 'The Squonk' team
        We recently chatted with Jannis Funk, producer and co-writer of upcoming short film ‘The Squonk.’ Based in Berlin, Funk relies on Shotgun to manage a team of 300 remote VFX artists, a library of 900 miniature models, and overall production tracking and review.

         Tell us a bit about ‘The Squonk’
        ‘The Squonk’ started back in 2010 in my first year of school at Film University Babelsberg. It’s based on an American folktale from the 19th century, about an ugly monster known as The Squonk that cries because he’s so lonely, but his tears bring forth the flowers of spring. My co-writer and director Mike Bothe and I fell in love with the story and wanted to make it as a short two-minute side project, but once we started to work on the script we realized it was bigger than that, so we pushed it back to 2011. At that point, we worked on the script and it grew to 15 minutes, which was not doable at the time, so we pushed it again to 2012. That was my penultimate year at film school so I decided to tackle it as my thesis project, which was a good chance to get some funding for set design and props. So, at that point it became a large-scale production; it actually ended up being the largest production in the history of the school, even though it’s just a short film.





        We finally began principal photography in 2012. We built a 150 square foot life size set in a studio with real plants and fake life size trees and we built a real lake with eight tons of water. We also have a lot of blue screen shots; most of the visual effects work is creating backgrounds from matte paintings and using various miniature sets and individual elements. In 2013, we built every shot in miniature models on a 1:12 scale, plus 900 individual elements, and since then we’ve been working on the VFX.

        Another VFX challenge is The Squonk itself. We have to track its eyes for every shot and replace them with digital eyes to look more life-like. Now we’re 89% done with VFX, and we’re looking forward to finishing the whole film sometime this year – about three years later than I originally intended! The final piece is 17 minutes and has 220 shots total; 153 of which are VFX shots.

        "We’ve been lucky enough to get volunteers from Framestore, Double Negative, Digital Domain, Scanline, Weta; lots of people who already work in these top facilities pulling long days and then they’re nice enough to go home and work on ‘The Squonk.’"

        How many people are working on ‘The Squonk?’ 
        We have more than 300 people on board on for this project. It takes time because people are mostly working on this in their spare time, for free – we are totally relying on people’s help and I’m very indebted to so many people who have contributed their time and talent. Many of the shots are complicated and we need professional artists to work on them to do the high level matte painting and compositing. We’ve been lucky enough to get volunteers from Framestore, Double Negative, Digital Domain, Scanline, Weta; lots of people who already work in these top facilities pulling long days and then they’re nice enough to go home and work on ‘The Squonk.’ To find artists, I mostly skimmed through showreels on the internet and if I liked something then I reached out via email and convinced them that I needed their contribution. We’re actually still looking for some help with animation and compositing!

        How did you first hear about Shotgun?
        Shotgun came on board as early as 2011, before we started shooting. Our VFX Supervisor Timor Kardum had just started using Shotgun at his company OMSTUDIOS, and he recommended that I try it out for this project.

        How are you using Shotgun on ‘The Squonk’?
        In the beginning, we used it as a database for planning. We created all the shots and tasks, and Timor created bids for how long each task was estimated to take and their level of difficulty. This was very helpful when I was recruiting artists because I was able to give them an accurate idea of the scope of tasks and could assign ones that they were realistically able to fulfill.

        Another great thing we did with Shotgun was we created a library of all the miniature assets. So, in addition to creating some of the major sets in life size, we also created miniature sets and 900 individual elements – mostly miniature trees – to create the background replacements on our blue screen shots. We photographed the trees from different angles and with different lighting, then tracked and coded all of them in Shotgun. We called this our “tree library.” So for instance “lighting situation 3” meant it was low light from the right side, so if you needed an element to add to a shot you could easily sort by lighting situation in Shotgun and it would show you all the elements that would work in your shot. It took three weeks to upload and tag all these elements, but from there on out, people could just pick and choose easily. I would have had no idea how to do this without Shotgun.

        Then, of course, we used Shotgun for the review and approval process and to keep track of progress.

        "Having hundreds of people around the world all on Shotgun is a really cool way of working."

        How is Shotgun essential for this project?
        ‘The Squonk’ is really only possible because of Shotgun; it’s the backbone of this whole project. It has made it possible to realize a production of this scale with this environment of international artists working remotely. Since principal photography, everyone has been remote; some people would come into OMSTUDIOS if they are in Berlin and want to use the render farm, but for the most part people work from wherever they are. Having hundreds of people around the world all on Shotgun is a really cool way of working.



        Shotgun actually helped right from the beginning while we were still in the planning stages. We set up the whole film in Shotgun before we shot anything. Every shot was storyboarded and some were previsualized, and they all had tasks attached – we had to create models for most shots in 3D to figure out how big the set had to be and what could fit in the studio. Shotgun became like my external memory. I just couldn’t keep track of hundreds of tasks and shots on my own.

        "Our director of photography lives in Switzerland now, our director is in Hawaii, Timor and I are in Berlin, and we can all comment on the same version as soon as it’s uploaded." 

        It’s also the center of the review process, which is crucial. When you work remotely and you can’t get together with your team and look at the same screen and point at what’s in front of you, the Shotgun review system is really helpful to immediately make notes right in the browser. Our director of photography lives in Switzerland now, our director is in Hawaii, Timor and I are in Berlin, and we can all comment on the same version as soon as it’s uploaded. I don’t know how this would be possible without Shotgun.

        What content creation tools are being used on ‘The Squonk?’
        It really depends on what our artists have access to and their preferences, but we have mostly recruited Nuke artists for compositing and Maya artists for 3D. Some shots were also created in 3ds Max. In the beginning we wrote a very long FAQ that described the whole workflow including Shotgun. I’ve been impressed with how smoothly things have gone.

        Describe a typical day in your life.
        My day job is at a feature film production company where I do a lot of financing and screenplay development. I keep up with ‘The Squonk’ in my spare time after work and on the weekends to coincide with artists who might be working similar hours, so then I’m always looped in and I know where everything stands.

        What has inspired you creatively?
        We tried to create the film in the German fairy tale style that was en vogue during Romanticism and to replicate the symbolic language of that time. Visually the point of reference is Romanticist painter Casper David Friedrich. He traveled throughout Europe and captured details like single trees from all over, and then went back home to his workshop and put those disparate elements together to create a whole new landscape. This is very much how we created our landscape as well. We tried to replicate the feeling of his paintings in a film.

        Lastly, what is your favorite thing about working in Berlin?
        Berlin is awesome! It’s very international. For a city of this size, it’s very affordable. It’s very vibrant and welcoming, there are a lot of artists and start-ups, lots of creatives and cool stuff always happening.

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        Shotgun & RV 7.0 is here!
        We're excited to officially release Shotgun and RV 7.0! This update brings new tools and features that simplify editorial workflows. With new editorial-aware playback tools across web and RV, and improved integrations with creative apps like Flame, Hiero, and Nuke, it's easier than ever to get cut info into Shotgun and review in context of a cut.



        Check out the Release Notes for an overview or learn all about the release here.


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        Congrats to the 2016 Pipeline Award Recipients!
        We had the honor of recognizing excellence in pipeline tool development and people who have made significant contributions to the pipeline community at the 3rd Annual Pipeline Awards at Siggraph yesterday!

        Allan Johns (left) accepting his Shotty Award for Rez, and Janice Collier (right) accepting this year's Hero Award













        We were once again blown away by the spectacular range of submissions we received, covering everything from artist tools to integrating Shotgun into an educational curriculum to tools for publishing, review, reporting, and more!

        Once again, we recognized two types of contributions – pipeline tools (cleverly-developed, elegant solutions that solve problems common to many studios) and pipeline heroes (people who have moved the field forward within the Shotgun community and out in the wider industry). Without further ado, here are Shotgun's 2016 Pipeline Award recipients:

        Pipeline Shotty Awards
        For the top tools of 2016

        Rez, Allan Johns
        Rez is an open source, cross-platform package manager which creates standalone configured environments for third party and internally developed software. Rather than installing packages directly into environments like most other package managers, Rez installs all package versions into repositories on disk and references them in dynamically-created standalone environments. Rez is widely used by the pipeline community and solves countless package management problems for pipeline developers in VFX and animation production around the world.

         

        Blur Dev Tools, Blur Studio
        Blur’s open-source software has provided Python integration for 3ds Max for many years, and has acted as the foundation for visual effects and animation pipelines around the world. In addition, a bevy of workflow-enhancing tools for 3ds Max are provided and have given countless artists a substantial boost in speed and capacity. The ability for engineers, technical directors, and artists to write their own tools using Python and build their user interfaces using the Qt framework in 3ds Max has made Blur’s open-source plugins invaluable to the industry at large.

         

        Shotgun Task Triggering Workflow, Brown Bag Films
        Brown Bag Films has developed two tools - a Task Trigger Workflow Setup utility and a Shotgun Trigger Engine - which help them track the steps required to move tasks along in their asset build pipeline, from artist to artist or project to project. Tasks are pre-created using the task templates and then assigned to artists. When a task is set to “Ready to Start” it goes into the artists queue. Once they have finished their work, the task is set to “Complete” and the triggering engine then sets the next task in the workflow to “Ready to Start” moving it onto the next artist.

        Burrows Dropper Ganger Tool, Burrows CGI Studio
        The Burrows Dropper Ganger Tool enables artists to easily drag assets from within Shotgun in the browser and open them within other applications including Maya, 3ds Max and Rhino. As assets are dropped into the application window, the URL link from the associated webpage is used to set the context, so assets are connected to all of the right things in the pipeline. This tool has massively impacted the speed at which artists at Burrows CGI open hundreds of individual files.

        Pipeline Hero Award
        For people pushing the field of pipeline forward significantly, within the Shotgun community or in the broader industry

        Janice Collier, Mammal Studios
        Janice was recognized with the Pipeline Hero Award this year for her outstanding contribution not only to Mammal where she has helped create a pipeline for the 15-person company on par with international facilities 10 times their size, but also for her contribution to the ongoing development of Shotgun’s Toolkit. She has provided valuable feedback over the years through her participation in debugging sessions and willingness to have longer discussions with the Shotgun team on Mammal's workflow - ultimately benefiting the entire Shotgun community.

























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        Shotgun & RV 7.0: Unveiling at Siggraph!
        We’re excited to announce Shotgun and RV 7.0, featuring Shotgun Review’s first step into the world of editorial. This release is full of new tools and features aimed to simplify editorial workflows - allowing users to spend more time creating and less time coordinating. With new editorial-aware playback tools across web and RV, and improved integrations with your favorite creative apps, it's easier than ever to get cut info into Shotgun and review in context of a cut.

        See it in action at Siggraph!

        We’re at Siggraph where we’ll be showing what’s new all week at our booth #337, so if you're here be sure to stop by to check it out.

        More Goodness in Shotgun & RV 7.0

        Editorial specific views in the Global Media App allow users to easily browse and manage all of their cut data inside Shotgun.


        A new Cuts Tray in the browser and RV lets users quickly see their latest work in context of the cut. Switch between full or mini cut mode, filter by status or pipeline step, and browse through different versions of a cut.


        An Import Cut App publishes editorial information to Shotgun and automatically generates a cut summary that can be shared across your team.


        Updated Toolkit integrations let users publish editorial information directly into Shotgun from their favorite creative apps like Flame, Heiro, and Nuke.

        An official editorial schema gives studios the ability to deeply integrate their editorial pipelines with Shotgun with ease.

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        Siggraph Party!
        We're throwing a Siggraph party for all of our friends, and we'd love to see you there! 


        Come join us for some friendly competition on the K1 Speed go-kart racetrack, followed by drinks on us. Capacity is limited so be sure to RSVP.

        When:
        Wednesday, July 27th, 9pm-1am

        Where:
        K1 Speed
        1000 N. Edward Ct. 
        Anaheim, CA

        Hope to see you there!

        cheers, 
        The Shotgunners

        How to set up Shotgun for the first time at a studio
        Before my current position at Autodesk, I did a lot of freelance consulting for studios using Shotgun. Usually a client brought me in because they liked Shotgun as a product and could see that it could have a big benefit for their bottom line, but they knew that the way they had implemented it was less than ideal. They didn’t know how to fix it, but they knew something was wrong, and now that they were already using the tool in production they needed help to backtrack and change their configuration.

        Now that I’m working with the Shotgun presales team, I’m much more likely to talk to clients when they are first getting started. It is a lot harder to fix a database that has gone indescribably wrong than it is to set one up correctly at the beginning, but it is also hard to know how to set something up correctly when you haven’t used the product ever before.

        Here are 5 simple tips to help you get started on the right foot.

        1. Start with one project
        It is a lot easier to roll out a new pipeline for one project than to roll it out across an entire studio at once. It makes it easier to change course if it turns out something isn’t working, and it lowers your initial investment of time and resources. Shotgun comes with a free 30-day evaluation - that may be enough to get you started on one project. If you need more time for an eval, reach out to support and we will do our best to accommodate.




        When I’m helping studios choose their pilot project to try out Shotgun, there are 3 things that we look for:
        1) Avoid enormous projects for your pilot. Trying out something new is easier on a small or medium-sized project.
        2) Avoid a project that is radically different from the usual work you do. If it’s a one-off situation, what you learn from the pilot might not apply to the rest of your workflow.
        3) Most important, choose a project where the team working on it is excited about trying out something new.

        Everyone has a different appetite for risk and change; some skepticism is healthy, but if someone is cynical about any improvement you might want to introduce them to the new pipeline after someone else has tried it out first.

        These three criteria can be summarized like this: choose a project that is not too big, not too weird, and not too cranky.

        2. Make a roll-out plan
        Once you know which project you are using to try out with a Shotgun data-driven pipeline, it’s time to come up with a plan. We look at pilots in three phases.

        Discovery 
        This is just taking a look at what kind of pipeline you currently have. This is the most important step in the roll-out process, even for studios with relatively simple pipelines. Take the time to talk to the people doing work at your studio and find out how the work is actually getting done today. Often there will be some surprises - tools aren’t always used the way they were originally intended. Because a pipeline is made up of people, it is always changing and adapting to new circumstances - so starting with a discovery process can help avoid surprises later.

        Integration
        This phase can take on different shapes at studios. If there are a lot of automated tools, you may need to allocate some time to get those working with Shotgun. You will also need time to build out your Shotgun pages and configuration. There is always some training needed for the team. Even if your team has used Shotgun before (and that certainly helps) you need to decide how to set it up at this particular studio for this particular workflow. This is a good time to reach out to support for a tuning session and someone from Shotgun Street Team can help you configure your Shotgun site to match how you work.

        Hypercare
        This is the term we use to describe the first few weeks of using Shotgun in production for the first time. We want and expect that you will use our support services more heavily during this period, usually the first 2-6 weeks after Shotgun goes live. This is when any big issues with the new pipeline will become clear, so you want your team to be ready to address them quickly. This is also a good time to look for small usability issues with your setup that can be easily fixed early on in the process and will save time and frustration later. These won’t always get reported - you may have to seek them out by talking to your team as they’re ramping up.

        After the first few weeks of use, Shotgun should become a natural part of your workflow. From that point on, you will continue to maintain and develop your pipeline as you did before, but with Shotgun now integrated into it. You can then start rolling out Shotgun on other projects at your studio, repeating the phases above.

        3. Ask for help
        We have a lot of resources to help clients who are getting started with Shotgun. As I said before, it’s a lot easier to set it up correctly at the beginning than to correct it halfway through - and we have resources to help you with that too.

        Street Team
        The Shotgun Street Team should be the first place you turn for help with Shotgun. You can create support tickets at our support site or by emailing support@shotgunsoftware.com. Street Team is a small team of industry experts, and you will get to know them personally if you reach out for support. They have all been on the other side as clients before they joined our support team, so they understand your pain.

         
        Pipeline Services Team
        The Shotgun Pipeline Team offers help with on-ramp and integrations (such as new Toolkit setups) on a consulting basis. They can come to you for an on-site tuning session, on-site training, develop custom solutions, or implement a variety of specific pipeline tools that match your workflow. Reach out to support and we will put you in touch with someone about a visit.

        Online Documentation and Forums
        Our support site includes online documentation, training videos, and a forum where users ask questions and share feature requests. You can create support tickets, check out our forums, and make feature requests all in the same place. Shotgun developers also have a user group where they share tips, tricks, and pipeline woes to a community of like-minded folks.

        Both the Street Team and the Pipeline Team can help you at the beginning of rolling out a new Shotgun instance, and they can also help you improve your setup once you are up and running. The Pipeline Team offers some of the same services in terms of tuning and training, but they will go more in-depth, like coming on-site and delivering custom code to help you automate and integrate key parts of your workflow. Pipeline Team work is negotiated as a separate consulting contract from your Shotgun licenses.

        4. Configure Shotgun to match your existing workflow
        Everyone can see ways that their pipeline needs improvement. When you introduce a tool like Shotgun, there is an opportunity to take stock of the current situation and possibly streamline how things are done.

        However, it is usually a mistake to change your workflow in order to match a new tool. Shotgun is highly customizable, and the more you are able to match Shotgun to the way you work currently, the easier the transition will be.

        Because it’s so easy to make changes to the configuration in Shotgun, you can further develop your pipeline as you continue - in fact, you can never really lock down your pipeline completely. Pipelines are always changing. The hardest part of making the switch to a new tool is helping people become accustomed to a new way of working - and that transition is easier if the new tool matches their old habits as closely as possible.

        Most of the time you are working under a deadline at high performance: your team depends on having their work be second nature. Make changes incrementally, and it will be easier for them to incorporate the changes into their workflow. If you need to make big changes, account for the adjustment time in your schedule.

        We don’t, however, recommend keeping production managements systems in place simultaneously on the same project. Sometimes there is a temptation to keep the old system and the new system running in tandem, so you can really compare apples to apples. No production team wants to enter data into two redundant systems -- either integrate the systems together or cut the cord and enjoy the benefits the new system brings.

        5. Collaborate with your team
        I talk a lot about data-centric pipelines because I believe that basing your pipeline on a flexible, metadata-rich database will make your work more efficient. But pipelines aren’t just data. Pipelines, first and foremost, are made of people doing work. Those people may use tools, and those tools may generate and share data--but when you’re looking to improve any part of your pipeline, it’s important to collaborate with the people actually doing the work.

        We advise against what we call the "eat your spinach" approach to rolling out new pipeline tools or processes. It rarely works to say, "Everyone start using this now because we said so and you have to." Show people the shiny new media they can view, the crucial data that is automatically updated where they used to hunt for it, the painful process that is now reduced down to one click. You will have a hard time keeping them away from the new system.

        On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes I hear clients say, “We don’t have any pipeline! We just need something, I don’t care what.” This also isn’t true. Everyone has a pipeline, but some pipelines are more manual and some use more automated tools--and you do care about your pipeline, even if you aren’t happy with it right now. It affects your costs, your ability to meet deadlines, and your experience at work. This is why I put a lot of emphasis on the discovery phase of the roll-out process, more so even than integration.

        Some pipelines are more organized and some are more improvised--each comes with benefits. A very manual, improvised pipeline is also extremely flexible. This can work great for small teams, but often becomes a problem when the team begins to grow. A highly automated pipeline is great for efficiency but can become too rigid and require a lot of overhead when your workflow needs to change.

        The important thing is to recognize that you have the pipeline you have for a reason, and it was developed over time by your team so that they can get their work done. Take the time to find out how they are currently working and why that method was developed.

        The only example where someone really doesn’t have a pipeline is a new studio starting up that hasn’t done work before. In that case, don’t try to solve everything in advance--expect to make changes as you move forward.

        No one can provide a “pipeline-in-a-box” that works for everyone, but we do have experience seeing hundreds of pipelines in action. We can recommend best practices as your pipeline evolves. A pipeline is always changing like a living organism. We give you flexible tools that you can adapt to how you work, but it’s a good idea to start out by doing a little research to learn about your own process. Our Street Team can help with a tuning session or our Pipeline Services Team can offer you a comprehensive pipeline assessment.

        I hope that this gives you a little insight into how we approach the process of rolling out Shotgun at a new studio. If you are thinking of trying out Shotgun and you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help!

        About Eli:
        Eli has been working in computer graphics, animation and visual effects for 20 years. He has worked as a production manager, pipeline developer, and virtual set operator. Before joining Autodesk, he was a freelance Shotgun consultant helping studios to optimize their Shotgun pipeline. He is also an award-winning filmmaker.  

        Get to know... Straightface Studios
        We recently had the chance to chat with Gavin Greenwalt of Seattle-based animation, motion graphics, and VFX shop Straightface Studios. The boutique shop uses Shotgun to keep project management quick, easy, and intuitive so that artists can spend more time being creative.

        What is your title?
        We’re not big on formality here so my “official” title is Executive Vice President of Pixel Merges and Acquisitions, but basically that translates into being a CG and VFX supervisor. I work both on set and on the post side doing a lot of compositing, lighting and CG supervision.

        How big is Straightface Studios?
        We have a core team of 5-6 people and then we scale up based on projects. That’s one of the best things about Shotgun and why it’s so important to our pipeline - we can bring in freelancers quickly and get them going without a lot of orientation. We also need them to be able to work collaboratively, so if we work with artists in LA or New York we have that framework where everyone can be on the same page even if they’re not in the same office.


        Tell us about Straightface and the type of projects you work on.
        We were founded 16 years ago by Don Lange who was a lighting director for film and TV but wanted to expand into post. 3D was a natural extension for him to be able to apply his existing on-set lighting skills to the virtual world. Regardless of whether you use a V-Ray light or an Arri light on set, it’s all about creating great imagery by placing and shaping light. I started here ten years ago, and we’re a loyal group so most of our employees have been here at least 10 years which is incredibly rare in this industry.

        We mostly do commercial work. Our reputation was really built off of product lighting for T-Mobile. At one point our work was featured in every T-Mobile TV-spot on-air. Keeping up with the pace of new product and campaign updates literally every week gave us the opportunity to demonstrate how CG could dramatically accelerate schedules over photography while simultaneously increasing the quality.

        We also do production work, and recently finished a series of commercials for GlaxoSmithKline. We handled everything from pre-production and filming, all the way through editorial, post and finishing. We have great production and post foundations, so we can find the best looking and most cost effective solutions whether it’s practical or CG. We also do a lot of work for local Seattle companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

        Can you describe a recent project where using Shotgun was essential?
        We just finished an all-CG animation for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. After over 30 years of using Maurice Sendak’s Nutcracker sets, PNB decided to redesign their sets with Ian Falconer, illustrator and artist for the “Olivia the Pig” books. As part of this whole re-concepting of the show they wanted us to set the stage with a new opening overture. Where normally the Ballet would open to a painting on a curtain, we created three minutes of animation to set the tone and context for everything to come. Shotgun was essential on this because we had so many assets – over 1.5 million 3D trees, 8,540 3D bushes, 287 3D buildings, and 7 3D mice – so there were a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. Everyone was working in parallel on the project – I was working on lighting and look dev, someone else was working on fluid sims, someone else was modeling assets, and someone else was creating trees. Just to be able to see across the entire project where everything was, the latest versions, and comments specific to each asset in the entire giant landscape, was really useful.

        We’re currently working on another curtain call with more animation and some live action as well; we'll be filming some of the dancers on stage and compositing them into this virtual landscape to further connect the ballet to the animation.

        Is your team working in multiple locations? If so, where are they based? How many people are using Shotgun?
        Everyone in the company is using Shotgun to some degree. Our core team is in Seattle, but we have worked with freelance artists plugging in remotely throughout the US, Vancouver, and Mumbai. We want access to the best talent regardless of where they call home. We give someone a Shotgun login, assign them tasks, and they can see notes from anywhere. It's a nice, easy way to keep track of 20 artists around the world.

        What are your favorite features in Shotgun?
        We make great use of the web review tool. Before Shotgun, we were relying on email, so being able to remove all the ambiguity by commenting directly on a specific video is really helpful. Instead of referencing “frame 236” in an email and trying to describe a proposed revision, I love being able to just go to frame 236, add a note, and mark up the frame. Then, the artist receives an image right in their inbox of that frame with the exact comment that applies to their shot. It saves a great deal of time and prevents errors and miscommunication. That’s my favorite Shotgun feature right now.

        We have an unusual Shotgun deployment because most people are usually asking for more features, but we’re a smaller facility and have users with a wide-range of technical backgrounds, so more often than not we prefer things to be simplified and streamlined. A day for us is very fast paced with quick turnarounds, so everything we do with Shotgun has to be unobtrusive and fast. One of the nice things about the Shotgun team is how responsive they are to customer needs. They really do take studios like us into consideration when they’re developing their product roadmap.

        An example of that would be when the media playback software was released. Initially, you had to sign up for an account through Shotgun and enter a password to view media. Our feedback was that it would be too large of an obstacle for our clients. So, Shotgun offered us a password-free option where people can open a link in an email and look at the media immediately. That’s an example of offering a simpler solution than some customers might need but still servicing everyone.

        What content creation tools do you use in-house?
        3ds Max and V-Ray are our bread and butter on the 3D side, and then Nuke for compositing. We also use Maya, Mari, Photoshop, and Deadline. We don’t want to dictate what software our freelance artists use; we want to be flexible on our end so that we aren’t cutting off any portion of the population just because they’re more comfortable using a different tool. We’re also in the process of integrating Shotgun's Toolkit into our pipeline to take advantage of the interface for 3ds Max and Nuke.

        What makes Straightface Studios tick?
        I think what really defines us is that we are a bottom-up company that focuses on the artists who do the work. We just want to create cool work and have fun doing it with a good work-life balance. We’re a 9am-6pm company, we don’t book a lot of overtime and we don’t have a lot of crunches, and we feel that tools like Shotgun are essential to that. Usually overtime and crunches aren’t from the project itself but from failures at the project management level, so we believe that with good planning we can work smarter. We’re not trying to dictate our vision to the world, we want to collaborate with our clients and help realize their visions.

        Why is it important to pay close attention to your pipeline?
        Time is money, and every minute an artist is focusing on project management or looking for an email is a huge waste of money. Shotgun helps us manage that straight out of the box. We’re paying people because they’re amazing artists, not to hunt for feedback in their Outlook inbox. We’ve made investments in great artists and that’s what we want them to be doing, creating art.

        What do you do to stay connected to the artist community? 
        We’re members of a number of user groups and frequent the 3ds Max and Shotgun forums. There are also some good Facebook groups out there like the Nuke group. It’s good to remain in touch with these web communities because you meet great new artists and connect directly with companies and can bend their ear, like Shotgun. I also go to tradeshows like NAB and SIGGRAPH. Both are great opportunities to meet up with people and just have good one-on-one discussions about what they’re looking for and what we can do to help them get there.

        What is your favorite thing about working in Seattle?
        It’s a gorgeous city, we’re surrounded on one side by mountains and on the other by ocean. It’s green and alive, you can go skiing or wakeboarding, there’s a vibrant art scene, great food, and just generally a good culture. I think we reflect that laid-back culture in our company.


        What led you to visual effects?
        I spent a summer in Singapore when I was in middle school. My dad was teaching there for a semester, and I wanted to make characters for a game. Someone online had posted a tutorial using the Rhino3D beta, so I spent a lot of that summer in the computer lab learning how to create game assets. Once I got back I continued pursuing it. I was really inspired by the MechWarrior 2 opening cinematic and wanted to make my own but the final cherry on top was when I saw the Star Wars special editions, which I know are much loathed, but the shot where the new CG X-wings fly past Yavin and you see the pilots’ heads looking around—that was it, I was hooked, I just knew that that was what I was going to do.

        What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?
        The biggest challenge is that timelines are getting shorter, expectations are getting larger, and budgets are shrinking as advertising moves away from TV. We’re facing pressure on all 3 sides of the fast/good/cheap triangle. Where on a TV-spot, companies will have pretty reasonable budgets and longer timelines, now the focus seems to be on cranking out something for social media by the end of the week. That’s where Shotgun and other tools like it come into play. We have to keep finding ways to work more efficiently so that the quality of our product doesn’t suffer. We’re constantly working to find ways to bring film caliber VFX to YouTube or Vine budgets.

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        Introducing Shotgun Street Smarts

        Last year, we brought you Two Guys and a Toolkit which was a popular series with a lot of our pipeline friends out there. That really inspired us to put something together for our production-minded audience. So, the Street Team came together to bring you our latest series: Shotgun Street Smarts.

        Any of you who have written into support@shotgunsoftware.com have come across a member of the Street Team. We’re industry veterans, having worked in VFX, Games, TV, and Commercials as coordinators, production managers, producers, and pipeline engineers.

        In this series, we’re going to take you through where to begin if you’re new to Shotgun and how to build your first Shotgun project from the ground up. We’ll also give you ideas on streamlining your current Shotgun workflow, show you how to use new features to make your workflows even more awesome, and talk to Clients who have gone through some of these steps to share their experiences.

        Look out for new posts in the Series coming every two weeks! And if you are currently a client and want to let us know what Shotgun awesomeness you’ve set up at your studio, shoot us a message at support@shotgunsoftware.com.

        About Tram:
        Tram joined the Street Team last March and makes sure that we are looking after our amazing clients in the beautiful Los Angeles area. She comes to us with VFX experience across multiple departments, from Senior Producer to Systems, with a dash of hands on pipeline experience for good measure. From Features to Commercials, from Mom-n-Pop shops to some of the old Big 5’s, she knows firsthand what it’s like to deliver projects with a scrappy team or a fully-staffed studio. Despite having worked in entertainment, she can not recite a single line from any movie, commercial, or even P90X (after 8 months of the same 12 videos over and over...) so don't even ask!

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