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

Fill up on Vancouver’s best barbecue and local brews and wines and get primed for later-night fun. Capacity is limited so be sure to RSVP.

Tuesday August 12th, 5-10pm

Vancouver Rowing Club, 450 Stanley Park Drive

Hope to see you there!

The Shotgunners
Get to know... Mackevision
In the spirit of connectedness and collaboration, we’ve been chatting with Shotgun customers worldwide to gather stories, passions and advice to share with the community. We had a chance recently to catch up with Heiko Burkardsmaier, Head of Legal Business Affairs at Mackevision (HQ in Stuttgart). Mackevision VFX Supervisor Jörn Grosshans and the team at Mackevision were recently nominated for a VFX Emmy for the company’s work on ‘Game of Thrones’ season four together with other VFX companies, and their breakdown reel for the project has been tearing it up online.


Tell me a little bit about Mackevision.

Mackevision is one of the global leaders in computer generated imagery (CGI) which covers 3D visualization, animation and visual effects for OEMs across the automotive industry. We develop technological solutions for generating images and look after the entire CGI process from data preparation to creative design. Basically we get the technical data from the car engineers, we convert that into Maya or 3ds Max files and we use that to provide any number of configurations – such as color choices, wheel choices, fabric choices – and deliver prints of whatever configurations they request, often for use in marketing. There are endless configuration options, so we’re dealing with a lot of data. We have a configuration backbone that we programmed ourselves called COBA. It’s quite a complicated process involving lots of data and having the right tools to access and manipulate that data quickly.

Mackevision has offices worldwide and about 300 employees. In the U.S. we have offices in Detroit and Los Angeles; the main office is in Stuttgart, Germany, and we have additional offices in Munich, London, Hamburg, and Shanghai. Then we have two sales offices in Japan and Singapore. In 2013 Mackevision started its VFX department and since then we’ve worked on a couple of productions, the biggest one so far is Game of Thrones season 4 where we did 72 shots.

What does the name mean?

The original founder’s name was Marcus and Mackevision is derived from that – his nickname was Macke. When new owner came on the company name already had such recognition in the market that he kept it.

Why has Mackevision been so successful?

For the car industry you need to have specialized solutions; you don’t just provide CG images but you have to adapt to the automotive design process. We have an R&D department of about 7-8 people who are specifically programming things for each automotive client’s specific pipeline. So that’s key, we know how the automotive industry works and how to adapt our process to the specific requirements of the clients. We are always aiming to technically and creatively hit the highest target. We want to have the best solutions available.

For the VFX department, we were known to HBO from our previous work on seasons two and three of Game of Thrones prior to joining Mackevision, so when we started this department we were able to get great artists and great support and trust from HBO, and they gave us some really nice shots for season four.

Mackevision VFX Supervisor Jörn Grosshans led the company’s team
on ‘Game of Thrones’ season four. He is among the nominees for a
2014 Visual Effects Emmy Award.

What is a day in the life of Heiko like?

My day starts with getting coffee and checking my email, then we start talking about whatever problems there are on current projects that I need to address. That’s in terms of running the VFX department. Then I’m also the company lawyer, and I’m also the sales guy for VFX, so I check if there are any new projects or legal things that I need to follow up with.
What are the three most important things in your office?
Of course the storage and the render farm – those are crucial. And the right talent – great artists and great IT people. It’s also essential for our company to have the special tools that we have programmed, like COBA.

What tools do you use in-house at Mackevision?

We basically try to use everything off the shelf. We use Nuke for compositing, and our main 3D software is 3ds Max but we also use Maya and Krakatoa when necessary. We’re relatively small for VFX, 50 people – the automotive side is bigger and they have their own specialty tools, but for VFX we like things out of the box. We have a pipeline developer that tweaks the plug-ins for us to optimize each tool but we don’t have a big R&D department to create special tools for us. Shotgun is of course at the top of our list. I always think of it as a database more than software, but it’s essential for our VFX department to manage all of our projects and keep everything running. We also use Shotgun as a time tracking tool and we also use the data we get from Shotgun as a controlling tool. So it’s basically at the heart of each production.

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

We have our own fluid solver, it doesn’t have a name but it was written by one of our auto R&D guys who’s a PhD student in VFX here in Stuttgart and he wrote it as his PhD thesis. We found out that we can use it really well with Softimage to do CG water, and we did quite a lot of those types of shots on Game of Thrones.

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

That’s really important. We have 50 people total in VFX and one guy who only works on pipeline development – so that’s a lot of human resources dedicated to pipeline considering our small size. One thing that’s so fascinating about Shotgun is you can add new tools to it and program your own stuff – that’s what really moves us forward and streamlines our processes and makes things easier for our artists. Every new project has its own challenges so we need to keep adding stuff to the pipeline and to Shotgun. It starts with something small like an artist suggests having a pop up window to see comments, so our pipeline guy just tweaks it in Shotgun and it makes everyone’s life easier.

Why is pipeline important?

Artists are very creative and very technically savvy, and the pipeline really provides the structure for what they do. It links the technical needs and the creative side. It structures the work so that we don’t lose resources and money. When you have multiple people working on different tasks on the same shot, that’s risky – you have to make sure everyone’s on the same version. That’s where Shotgun is really key. It gives structure to a very complex business.

What inspires you?

Watching movies. If I see a great movie, it inspires me to do things with the VFX team here that are really challenging. And working on something that you love is inspiring. For example I’m really a fan of Game of Thrones, so being part of that whole package, the story and the acting, that’s very inspiring.

How do you stay connected to the artist community?

Here in Stuttgart the VFX industry is kind of a family. I’m a lecturer at the film academy and the university here, so I stay in touch with the schools to know who the up-and-coming talents are and make sure the teachers there have us as resources. It’s a small community and we really try to communicate with everyone, via holiday parties or email or LinkedIn. Keeping personal contact is key, and it’s easier to do that at a smaller facility like ours where we can hand-select people. We’re lucky to have a bunch of really good, experienced artists working for us.

What is your favorite thing about working in Stuttgart?

You have the feeling that something big is happening. Other parts of the VFX world are fighting against globalization but here the industry is still growing. We have all these schools and talented young people coming out and it just feels like we’re moving forward. We’re not necessarily on the VFX map yet so there’s a sense that we’re expanding and growing – a feeling that something big could happen here.

When you aren’t working what is your ideal way to spend the day?

With my family and kids, definitely.

What led you to visual effects?

It was basically by accident. The company where I worked in 2001-2002, they did film production and post-production, and I was running the legal department. The company moved to Berlin but I wanted to stay in Stuttgart, and the only job for me in Stuttgart was at a small company that needed legal but also needed help running their VFX department, so I ended up doing both. Then I moved to Pixomondo and ran their VFX office here which was a bit bigger, then I moved to Mackevision in 2013 to start their VFX department. From my legal background I have a lot of experience with film financing, and that knowledge is very helpful.

What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?

Two things – to have the best talent available (and to keep them), and to have a continuous amount of work. Small and big studios alike always have one bad quarter, usually in the summer when everything is shooting and they’re not ready for VFX yet. That’s why the model at Mackevision makes sense, because we have the automotive side to always keep us busy throughout the year. When you’re only doing movies, it’s difficult to have constant work coming in, and now with globalization the margins are so small that it’s hard to stay open if you don’t have work. So you need to find other solutions.
Congrats to our clients who worked on Emmy-nominated shows
Shotgun is excited to support the awesome studios that created the spectacular visuals for shows recognized with VFX Emmy Award nominations 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!

Outstanding Visual Effects

Outstanding Special and Visual Effects in a Supporting Role

Outstanding Animated Program

We did our best research to list all of the Shotgun clients we could find associated with each show. If you're not listed, let us know and we'll update the post!

Week 11: 10 in 10
Surprise! We took it to 11! This week brings a few fixes and optimizations to the new note layout we released last week.

We’re continuing to crank up the volume and work on your top requests, so keep them coming.

Shotgun Passes Bishop Fox Security Audit
We’re really pleased to let you know that the Shotgun software application has passed a full penetration test by global security auditing firm Bishop Fox. This positive assessment is a milestone in our ongoing investment in ensuring that our software meets the stringent requirements of the creative industry and that all of our clients can trust the confidentiality, integrity and availability of their intellectual property on the Shotgun platform.

We’ve engaged Bishop Fox, a vendor approved by Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and other major studios, to monitor and evaluate the security of the Shotgun application on a quarterly basis. The assessments identify, within designated times/scopes, any security issues in the Shotgun software application. The assessment team combines automated application vulnerability scanning and manual penetration testing techniques to attempt to locate attack vectors and simulate real-world exploitation. Earlier this month we received confirmation that the application passed all testing without incident or issue.

The way we work with Bishop Fox is more like a partnership -- we collaborate closely with them to make sure each release has no vulnerabilities, but also to stay on top of security best practices, which we implement as part of our ongoing engineering and QA process.

In addition to our engagement with Bishop Fox, Shotgun stores files on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, which complies with MPAA content security best practices, and we’ve adjusted our software to comply with MPAA policies. Cloud-based implementations of Shotgun are currently in use on productions from all of the major studios. And now that we’ve joined Autodesk, we have a team of eight engineers focused solely on improvements to the platform (security & performance), while other teams are working on new features.

We know that studios are in a tight spot in terms of security. Extremely compressed project timelines and the need to collaborate with globally distributed teams require the use of use cloud-based processes, while their clients’ strict requirements for securing intellectual property challenge many online methods for data sharing. We’re making big investments in security so our clients can have confidence in our tools and can demonstrate to their clients in turn that Shotgun is secure and approved for use.
Week 10: 10 in 10
We made it! 10 releases in 10 weeks, and the final one is a biggie. First, I’ll give a quick overview about what we’re releasing this week, then a bit about what’s coming next (HINT: we’re just getting started).

Redesigning Notes

This week we’re releasing a complete redesign to Notes that addresses a ton of feedback we’ve gathered from talking to our clients. Here’s how it looks:

Notes are one of the most commonly used features in Shotgun. They’re used to deliver feedback to artists and inform people about important changes to shots, assets, and other things you’re tracking. These updates aim to help people get the information they need quickly so they can turn their attention back to the things they care about (the work!). For instance, we now include any Versions (media) attached to your Note so you can play it right from the Inbox.

We’d love to hear what would make Notes even better, so be sure to let us know after you give them a spin.

What’s Next

As we move into roadmap planning for our next big projects, we’ll continue to work on features and bugs from our feature request forum. So if you’ve put features on that list but haven’t seen them announced in 10in10, don’t worry -- we haven’t stopped. You’ll continue to see quick updates released (sometimes each week!), so keep an eye on the blog and subscribe to updates about new releases here.



Get to Know... Cluster Studio
In the spirit of connectedness and collaboration, we’ve been chatting with Shotgun users all over the globe to gather stories, passions and advice to share with the community.

Armando “Doc” Ricalde, Co-Founder & Director of Technology at Cluster Studio in Mexico City, reveals how a physicist became an animator, and the importance of a good chair.

Tell us about Cluster Studio.

My partners and I started doing 3D animation for commercials as a collective of freelancers in 2003. We worked out of an apartment we affectionately dubbed “The Shire,” but quickly realized that we needed a bigger space if wanted to handle larger projects and have customers view us as a company rather than a just group of freelancers, so Cluster Studio was born. Now, we are one of the largest commercial visual effects companies in Mexico and have a staff of 50.

Why has Cluster Studio been so successful?

We have high quality standards, deliver on time and offer excellent customer care. If our clients have a problem, we help them solve it – whether it’s creative, technical or of some other nature.

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

I wake up every day at 6:30am to shower then help my wife get our two kids ready for the day. I walk the kids to school, come back home to eat breakfast then drive to Cluster Studio. I usually get in around 9am or 9:30am to prep before everyone else arrives at 10am. I like to have some time to myself to organize because things can get so crazy. We have meetings in the morning that cover different topics depending on the day – like on Mondays, we plan for the whole week, with the all of the studio reviewing projects and deadlines. Working in commercials, we often have to deal with more than 10 simultaneous projects – sometimes even 20. We eat lunch at 2pm, which we cater in the office. We offer post and finishing services so there is a lot of client traffic here. In the afternoon, I usually have meetings with the R&D team and the Systems Administration team to review work and task progress. Sometimes I am also supervising a project, so I may need to review shots and I generally spend some time in the day shaping the pipeline. I’m constantly modifying the pipeline and trying to perfect it; it’s never-ending work. Most days I leave around 8pm but it might be closer to 10pm if we’re under deadline.

What are the three most important things in your office?

My computer, a picture of my wife and sons—to remember why we do all of this—and my chair; I have a new Herman Miller chair. We spend so many hours a day at our desks so you need to have a nice place to sit.

What tools do you use in-house at Cluster?

Maya is our primary 3D tool. We also use 3ds Max, MentalRay, ZBrush, Mudbox, Modo, MARI, NUKE, HIERO, Pixar’s RenderMan, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, CINEMA 4D, Storyboard Pro, Premiere, Final Cut, Smoke, Flame, Baselight, PFClean, FFmpeg, ImageMagick, Google Apps (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, YouTube, etc), Libre Office, dcraw and pfstools, Github, Bitbucket, Python (to glue everything together) and of course, Shotgun.

As far as proprietary tools that we’ve created for Shotgun, we’re currently using about 26 custom Apps, which are basically scripts mostly written in Python. Our most useful Apps create bid quotes, schedule jobs, generate slates and automate similar tasks. Some Apps have GUIs written in PyQt, some are standalone Apps and others integrate with our main applications like Maya, NUKE and Flame. We also have a C++ App compiled for Flame and Smoke to automatically create projects using information from Shotgun.

Which in-house tool are you most proud of?

I think our Shotgun App to create quotes while bidding, csQuotes. It’s funny because it is a tool used by producers, not artists. I have wanted to have something like this for a long time and it is changing the way we see our business. Before csQuotes, our producers used local spreadsheets (not in the cloud) to do quotations while bidding. The criteria wasn’t unified, the format wasn’t consistent and there wasn’t an easy way to know what they were bidding for or how much potential money they represented. Now everything is in Shotgun and linked to our clients: advertising agencies, production companies, etc. I can see the necessary information laid out in graphs, which is much faster and easier for analyzing data in order to make decisions. The same tool is used to send all this information directly to the accounting department so they can issue the corresponding invoice (also logged in Shotgun), so we can track this very easy. Since the project is also created automatically in Shotgun and in the filesystem thanks to the Pipeline Toolkit, everybody can start working right away. It feels so good when your dreams finally come true.

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

For about two years now, when I’m not in meetings with clients, training someone or doing research about new technologies (I have to wear so many hats), my time is devoted to the pipeline. So, a lot of time and effort is invested. We have two full time developers working on the pipeline everyday, plus the system administrator, who implements things needed on the servers and workstations side (when not providing maintenance or support).

Why is it important to pay such close attention to your pipeline?

Visual effects is complex and requires teamwork from people across disciplines using various tools. Artists (even incredibly talented ones) are only human and a solid, flexible pipeline helps us work smart and minimize mistakes. When necessary data and information flow across the studio’s departments with the least possible effort, everyone can focus on their actual jobs and responsibilities, where they really shine, and not waste time managing data and performing repetitive tasks over and over again. I always say, let the computers do what the humans usually fail to do, that's why we invented them, isn't it?

What inspires you?

Every day I’m probably inspired by something a little different but I don’t really stop and think about it. Sometimes I’m inspired by my family or by others’ work, like I see something really cool that’s been done by an artist or studio. I’m often inspired by challenges that I might face in my work. I think about the speech that JFK gave when the US was going to the moon and he said they were doing it because it wasn’t easy, but because it was hard. Sometimes I am inspired by the challenge of doing something unique just because it’s really hard to do.

How do you do to stay connected to the artist community?

With the Internet, it’s really easy to interact through online forums, email lists and at events like SIGGRAPH. Shotgun also provides a great avenue for connecting. There’s a big online community of people from studios all over the world asking for help or sharing insight. Shotgun’s collaborative spirit spills into their user base that actively communicates about best pipeline practices. A guy from Montreal, Dave Lajoie-the Director of R&D at Digital District ( recently started a local Shotgun user group but with technologies like Google Hangout, these events aren’t limited to one geographical area anymore. The user group meetings are broadcast online and anyone can interact and actively participate as if they were there in the room. It’s not hard to stay connected; you just have to be willing to participate and offer help—not just ask for help. Sharing our Shotgun tips has been a great way for us to stay connected, build credibility in the global community and gain exposure for our work. Because so many of the creative companies that we admire, like Psyop for example, are also active in the Shotgun developer community, it’s also been a great way for us to build relationships.

This year, we started a technical blog ( where we share knowledge about developments here at Cluster in an effort to give back to a community that has been so generous in sharing with us. We programmed the first version of the integration for Hiero in Shotgun Pipeline Toolkit and sent it to Shotgun when we finished. They continued developing it and released it to the community, which has been really cool. When we started using Shotgun, we are quite small relative to studios around the world. Now a lot of studios that we really admire know who we are because we share a lot of tools through forums and user group meetings. It’s a really strong community and everyone is open to giving back something because so much of using Shotgun is being part of that group, sharing what we’ve learned in our respective pipeline experience.

What is your favorite thing about working in Mexico City?

Almost everything is centralized in Mexico City. All of the big production companies are here and all of the big international advertising agencies have offices here so all the action in commercial production is right in our backyard. Cluster Studio is located in a really nice neighborhood called Polanco, which is famous for a street called Avenida Presidente Masaryk—it’s like the Mexican Soho, complete with fancy restaurants and shops.

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

Mexico City is huge. We have almost 25 million people so we have lots of options. We have more than 170 museums and many large parks. You could spend a whole day in Chapultepec, which is a massive park that has a zoo; art, anthropology and natural history museums; bike paths and a big lake for boating. All around the park there are always events and performances—it’s a great place to go on the weekends, especially with kids. There are also many archeological sites nearby.

What led you to visual effects?

It’s actually a curious thing. I am a physicist, and the other founding partners include a systems engineer and an electronics engineer. When we were in school, we didn’t have the option to study computer graphics or anything related to animation at Mexican universities. From my second semester of studying physics at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), I started working at the Institute of Astronomy at the University. My goal at the time was to become an Astrophysicist, and there I was doing scientific visualization, some illustrations and 3D animations which first sparked my interest in CGI. We are all self-taught in 3D animation because we felt really passionate about it and there weren’t formal educational programs for the kind of work that we wanted to do. Of course, universities now offer many programs in 3D animation and visual effects. We’re now asked to give lectures about our experience and have even started an intern mentorship program at Cluster.

What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?

Long story short, do more with less.
Call for Footage
Our client community is what makes Shotgun, Shotgun. Our tools are successful only as much as they take roadblocks out of your way so you can get on with creating. When we have an opportunity to showcase Shotgun (at events like Siggraph), along with our technology, it’s important to us to showcase the great work you create when you use them. We’re getting ready to cut our Siggraph client reel and would love to include your work. Would you consider sending us some footage to include by July 18?

How we’ll use it:

We will show the Shotgun client reel at Siggraph 2014 in Vancouver only, running it in our booth (#741) between Monday, August 11 and Thursday, August 14, 2014. It will not appear online or be rebroadcast in any way.

Type of material:

We’re looking for finished clips and/or making-of clips from feature films & shorts (live action and/or animated), TV shows, games, commercials, trailers -- whatever you’ve created that utilized Shotgun in some way.

How it will be credited:

If you’d like to put your logo bug on footage you submit, please feel free, and we’ll include your clip with your bug. Many clips will appear without logo bugs. We will credit all work featured in the reel by including a simple credit list of company names at the end of the piece.


Please send us ProRes HQ QuickTime movies if possible.

Submission channels:

-Please send your footage on a drive to ℅ Rachel Knight, Shotgun Software, 215 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, 90291, USA, (we will return it!) or

-Upload your footage to dropbox. Please email for uploading info.

Thank you for considering it! We know this is extra work for you and appreciate VERY MUCH anything you can share. We’d love to showcase your work at Siggraph!

The Shotgunners
Week 9: 10 in 10
This week we turned our sights back to performance. Many of our clients have been using Shotgun for years now, and as their teams grow and projects get more complex, we’re starting to prioritize work that helps support for their growing datasets. This past week, we identified some specific areas of slowness and sped them up. You’ll notice these changes the most on Shotgun pages with lots of data. For those of you who love technical details, this post is for you!

First, we learned that pages that are grouped by the “Project” field or any user-defined multi-entity field (such as a custom “Assets” field on your Shot entity) were running unnecessarily slow queries. In particular, they were calling out to a table that lists almost every entity in your Shotgun database (which for some clients could be 30 million+ records!). We changed this behavior so the query runs a lot faster, and scales better, meaning any page using this type of grouping will load faster.

We also found two types of filters that performed slowly for similar reasons:

- “Is blank” filters for entity fields (e.g. “Assets is [blank]” on a Shot’s ‘Assets’ field)

- Entity type filters (e.g. “Link is a Shot” on a Task’s Link field)

Thanks to the increased capacity we’ve got now via Autodesk, we’ll have a team dedicated to these types of performance and scaling issues, so you’ll continue to see more and more of these optimizations going forward.

Stay tuned for our last 10 in 10 release next week!



Shotgun at Siggraph!

We’re weeks away and getting ready to show you a whole lotta new at Siggraph 2014. Visit us at booth #741 to see the latest developments in production tracking, review & approval, asset management, and pipeline tools – or just to catch up. Our friends from Tweak Software will be there too, and more guest presenters throughout the week.

User Group
Join us for the annual ‘Shotgun client board meeting’ on Tuesday, August 12 in room 224 at 1:00. We’ll have a jam-packed hour-long session covering both Shotgun and Toolkit. Don will kick things off to share our big picture focus and accelerated roadmap as part of Autodesk, and introduce the extended team. The Product team will demo new stuff and sneak peek what’s coming. At 2:00 we’ll present the first-ever Pipeline Awards where we’ll recognize the best in pipeline/tool development. Then at 2:30 we’ll have a full half-hour of open discussion that will range from deep tech talk to feature requests and suggestions.


After the User Group on Tuesday we’ll stroll up the seawall for the Shotgun Tailgate BBQ at the Vancouver Rowing Club, where we’ll fill you up with Vancouver’s best barbecue and local brews and wines from 5:00 – 10:00 to get you happy and primed for later-night fun (official invites and a link to RSVP to follow shortly).

Digital Production Symposium

We’re sponsoring this awesome co-located event on Saturday, August 9, at Harbour Centre, the downtown Vancouver campus of Simon Fraser University (515 West Hastings St). Join us here to take in awesome sessions by DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, Weta, R&H, Side Effects and more, and share knowledge with colleagues.

Birds of a Feather

Join us at the Global VFX Pipelines BOF on Monday, August 11 at 5:00 in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Island Room where our own Ryan Mayeda will show how Shotgun client/vendor pipeline applications and workflows are being used in production today for shared shots, outsourcing and remote collaboration.

Need a Pass?

If you haven't registered yet, you can get a free Exhibition Hall pass here. And if you can't make it, be sure to follow us on Twitter @shotgunsoftware for live updates throughout the week.

The Shotgun Crew
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