Meet the Studio: Mammal Studios
We recently had the chance to visit boutique VFX house Mammal Studios to chat with them about everything from the magic of the movie making business to how Shotgun has enabled their 12-person team to operate "like a mammal."

Meet the Team
The team at Mammal shares what it's like working in the heart of historic Hollywood, the importance of team collaboration, and why they're excited to come to work every day.

Acting Like a Mammal
In a world of quick turnarounds and soaring production demands, the team explains how Shotgun helps them stay as nimble and efficient as possible. 


Shotgun Street Smarts: An Inside Look at Cyborn
Shotgun has amazing clients all over the world creating beautiful media. I recently got to speak with project manager Ken Vandecappelle and associate producer Iris Delafortry from Cyborn about how they use Shotgun. Cyborn is a film producer and 3D animation and motion capture studio based in Antwerp, Belgium.

This is Cyborn’s first year using Shotgun, and the team is using it to work on a feature film project called, Ploey, You Never Fly Alone. This 3D animation feature film is a co-production between Cyborn and GunHil, a studio based in Iceland. About 30 people at Cyborn are now using Shotgun, as well as eight people at GunHil.

Ploey is about a plover, a type of small bird common in Iceland.

“It’s a family film with beautiful animals and lots of action,” Iris said. “It’s about the fascinating adventure of a young plover, who needs to survive the strong arctic winter and his natural enemies.”

“The beautiful environments and designs were inspired by the fascinating landscapes of Iceland,” Ken said.

“We should have the film in theaters by Christmas next year, so by 2017,” Iris said. “There's already a teaser online so it gives you an idea of the story.”

Why Shotgun?
“We decided it would be beneficial for both parties to have some sort of system to share information,” Ken said. “And it didn't take us long to realize that Shotgun was something that was widely used in the entertainment business.”

One of the biggest reasons to use Shotgun was because of the amount of collaboration required for an animated movie project. “We needed something that was easy and flexible enough so we could communicate with the other parties,” he explained.

Another big reason was because Shotgun is part of Autodesk, Ken said. Autodesk acquired Shotgun in 2014.

“Because we use Autodesk tools, it was a logical step for us,” Ken said. “We knew that if Shotgun was part of Autodesk, it would not disappear in a year. It was really important for us to know that Shotgun was still going to be alive when we finish Ploey, so we can use it for other projects in the future.”

Learning Shotgun
It took a couple months for Ken to understand how Shotgun works, by watching tutorials and contacting the Street team, he said. After Ken became more familiar with Shotgun, he said everything felt like second nature, and he is now ready to implement more features.

“I'm pretty sure we can do a lot more in the next few years, because our knowledge will only expand in that regard,” he said. “Our experience will probably change again in a couple months, because by then we will have added so much more new data and we will have evaluated so much more new stuff. For that, as far as I am concerned, we’re going in the right direction.”

Ken said the next phase will be to teach everyone else at Cyborn how to use Shotgun.

“It’s one thing to know everything yourself; it's a whole different matter to explain to somebody else,” he said. “We still have a long way to go because not everybody is at the point where I'm satisfied with their knowledge about Shotgun, but that's okay. We're working at it one day at a time.”

Working with Street
Both Ken and Iris said they were impressed with Shotgun’s Street team and the support they received.

“We were really surprised in the beginning; they responded and followed up so quickly,” Iris said.

According to Ken, it’s also nice to see that the people from the tutorials are actually on the support team.

Cyborn’s workflow
Because Cyborn is working with GunHil, Cyborn’s workflow starts with the work they get from GunHil. This includes concept and layout.

“During our “weeklies” [weekly meetings, sic] we go over the layout and all parties come together to decide what is good and what needs to be changed,” Ken said. “That includes animation, so the supervisors are also present.”

The next stage involves the environment pipeline steps, as well as working on hair and fur. After that is lighting, and compositing and special effects, and then the work is sent to GunHil for final compositing and sound.

To review work with GunHil, Cyborn uses Screening Room. However, the team uses RV internally.

“RV has more functionalities,” Ken said. “It’s faster because you don't have to access the internet to play your files, and it still collects data from Shotgun Studio. But you have more functionalities; you can put movies on top of each other to actually see what’s different. You can place them all next to each other and get a better overview. So the supervisors and the artists can choose which version they think is best.”

Cyborn is also using Toolkit, although they are still working on its customization so that everyone in the studio can use it.

“We use Toolkit mainly for publishing, but we’re still scripting on that,” he said. “Not everybody is using it right now but we have implemented it.”

Favorite Shotgun features
“I think the feature that I’ve used most until now is the RV player to get all the shots together,” Ken said. “I really like the history filter; it enables you to compare different versions, which makes it easier to review the data.”

Ken also said that even though he initially had trouble with Shotgun’s filtering system, he now finds it really helpful.

“The filtering system is also something I love,” he said. “It's very complex and robust and you can look everything up. The problem is, you just need to find it. But once you get to know it, it's really nice, because you can customize the system by saving your personal filters and your own pages.”

Next steps in Shotgun
“I think if we were to have a new production the same size, starting right now, then we would use Shotgun for it as well,” Iris said.

“We just scratched the surface,” Ken said. “I think the next step is to get everybody on the same level as me, so everybody knows how to use all the apps and features. That will probably be one of my major challenges. And I do not even know everything, so we still have a long way to go. Like I said, we have a good support team [Shotgun Street team] that we can depend on.”

About Sabrina:
Sabrina joined the Street Team in October 2015—after working in book publishing and instructional design, building online courses about films and games. Now she gets to spend her days helping clients learn everything they need to know about Shotgun, which includes writing how-to articles, developing multimedia and interactive content, and taking advantage of Shotgun’s tools to track it all. She spends her nights geeking out about dinosaurs with her husband on their podcast, I Know Dino. Fun fact: The time between when Stegosaurus lived and when T-rex lived is longer than the time between when T-rex lived and now.

Labels: ,

Get to know... Animatrik
We recently spoke with Brett Ineson, the president and CTO of Animatrik. Founded by Ineson in 2001 in Vancouver, Animatrik is a leading provider of motion capture and virtual production services, working with clients across film, TV, and games. With the largest mocap sound stage in North America, the studio has to track massive amounts of data on a daily basis. Read on to find out how Shotgun helps the Animatrik team stay focused.

Tell us about your company and the type of projects you work on. 
Animatrik is a performance capture and virtual production studio headquartered in Vancouver. Our business is split between video games and film. Some of our recent titles include the Warcraft film, Suicide Squad, and the upcoming Gears of War game.

How many people in your studio are using Shotgun? Are they based in multiple locations? 
We have a total of 45 people that are split between two studios in Vancouver and LA, and about 40 of them – mostly artists, producers, and supervisors – are using Shotgun across both locations. 

How did you first hear about Shotgun? 
Just from following industry trends – we started to notice people using Shotgun more and more. When we first started Animatrik, we were tracking production through Excel and realized pretty quickly that Shotgun could take care of the heavy lifting. That was about five or six years ago.

What content creation tools do you use in-house? 
We use Maya, MotionBuilder, Giant, Blade, Motive, and some proprietary tools for tracking and solving motion capture data. Some of our custom tools package up deliverables and materials for clients; these tools will actually re-edit and re-cut data and video on our server, and those all interact with Shotgun.

Can you describe a recent project where Shotgun was particularly useful? 
A recent project we worked on is the new Gears of War game. It was a big project that spanned 18 months or so with lots of different shoots and data to track. Shotgun really helped us manage our resources. We could see how many people we had on a particular part of the pipeline, know where we were on the workload, and make sure we were on track and could move people around from other projects if needed.

What are your favorite features of Shotgun and what do you primarily use it for? 

We use Shotgun for all our projects to track mocap and facial tracking data, share videos of shoots with our clients, and let people quickly jump in and see where a shot is in the pipeline. We’ve also implemented a process that updates the Shotgun database in real time as we’re conducting a mocap shoot.

My favorite feature is the ability to use Shotgun’s Python API to write scripts and the off-cloud daemon so that Shotgun tells us when it’s time to pull data out and triggers an automated process on our servers to deliver work.

How much effort do you focus on building out the pipeline? 
We put a lot of effort into it – we have two people on pipeline full time making sure data is moving around the way we need it to and is in the state we need it to be in. We do work with the Shotgun support team on occasion, since we have customization for our proprietary tools. We also do a lot of timecode math in the background. It is comforting knowing that our own algorithms are being executed automatically by Shotgun.

What do you do to stay connected to the artist community? 
I frequent all of the usual trade shows, SIGGRAPH and games conferences, and I’ve started going to shows in Europe as well. I always connect with great people there and see what other people are doing and what’s helping them stay efficient and creative.

What is your favorite thing about being in Vancouver? 

I’m a skier and mountain biker so I love being close to the mountains. I was lucky that half the industry moved to Vancouver. I’m from Toronto originally and I was living/working in LA before I decided to start Animatrik up here.

What led you to visual effects? 
I had been doing animation and motion capture for most of my career. One of the things that I did for quite awhile was consult and install mocap stages for companies. After I did a bunch of those I decided to just install one for myself!

What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today? 
The VFX industry is pretty aggressive when it comes to pricing and can have a race-to-the-bottom approach. It can be a challenge to navigate through that, keep your business healthy, and better serve both employees and clients in the end.

Solving Human Performance from Animatrik on Vimeo.

Labels: ,

Shotgun Street Smarts: Scheduling Tips and Tricks
A few weeks ago, Tram talked about getting started in Shotgun, including setting up your workflows. Today, I want to give a shout out to all those hard-working coordinators and managers out there who are in charge of the schedule, and suggest some helpful tips.

Scheduling a Project usually involves juggling multiple people and numerous departments across various Projects. That’s a lot to handle! So how can Shotgun help you achieve transparency across your schedule and allow you to manage your teams simply and effectively? Enter the Tasks and Gantt view!

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.08.54 pm.png

When I worked in production, I lived on Shotgun. Even more so, I lived on Task Views and Pages as they gave me clarity over what my teams were working on and what still needed to be completed. It also allowed me to see the Project as a cohesive and collaborate whole—how my teams affected downstream departments as well as how my teams influenced upstream departments.

Creating and assigning Tasks
Tasks are the smallest component of work that need to be completed against an Entity (something you track) in Shotgun. You can create Tasks in numerous ways which we talk about over on our Support site. Once you have your Tasks created, it’s time to get scheduling!

One of the most commonly used scheduling tricks is to create an “Unassigned” saved filter. This filter allows you to easily see what Tasks you’ve yet to assign out with a single click. To create an unassigned saved filter, head on over to a Tasks View/Page, click on [+ New Saved Filter], and set the conditions as below:

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.17.38 pm.png

Once you’ve assigned all your Tasks, you might want to view whether you’ve balanced your assignments equally across your artists. The easiest way to do this is from—you guessed it!—the Tasks view. Simply Group your Tasks by Assigned To to display how many Tasks you assigned to each artist and from there you can decide whether they can complete this amount of work in time.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.51.32 pm.png
Filtering Tasks
Another handy feature of the Tasks View is the ability to narrow down by department using the Filter Panel and the Pipeline Steps filters. If you’re working at a large studio, Pipeline Steps are usually closely related to departments and you may want to create a saved filter with just the department relevant to your teams. That way you can toggle between all Tasks and how they influence each other, and Tasks just relevant to you.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.26.25 pm.png

As production ramps up, it will be important to narrow down to specific Tasks to see how your teams are tracking. This is when the Filter Panel comes into play. Here you can filter to display Tasks that are a specific status, or click next to the Field condition name to toggle on the *is not* filter. The *is not* filter will allow you to display Tasks that are not a specific status, such as final/complete, without having to manually check on all the other filter conditions.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.31.46 pm.png

A pro tip when using the Filter Panel is to hold down the Command/Windows key, which allows you to multi-select filter conditions without the page updating until you release the Command/Windows key.

Generating reports
A Project’s production is rarely a solo effort, and as a coordinator or manager, you’ll often be asked to present a report on how your teams are tracking. A report in Shotgun is a page with applied filters, color formatting, and field layouts. Let’s say you want to create an Anim Department report for any Tasks due this week. You would create the saved filter as below:

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.37.48 pm.png

Because you used the dynamic filter token of “current week”, you won’t need to manually recreate this report each week as it will dynamically update as the data changes—another benefit to using Shotgun and its live data!

Color formatting
You might also want to highlight Tasks that are overdue in a report. To do this, you can create a new formatting rule for Tasks that were due before the current date (again using the dynamic token so you don’t need to manually update this report) where the status *is not* complete/final.

Step 1:

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.43.39 pm.png

Step 2:
Select either a New Page rule or Global Rule.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.46.06 pm.png
Step 3:

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.44.46 pm.png

Once you’re happy with the report, you can click on the Page Icon > Save Page As and name the new Page “Weekly Anim Department report”. You can then access this page whenever you need to, without having to recreate the page or reset filters due to the dynamic tokens.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 3.50.29 pm.png

That’s it for this week! If you have any scheduling tips and tricks, please let us know in the comments.

About Astrid:
Astrid is the Shotgun APAC Program Manager who brings a wealth of experience from having worked both as a VFX artist and on the Production side. She’s based in Melbourne, Australia. She has two cats—one of which is perpetually climbing on her keyboard to try and answer her tickets. If you receive any strange replies, apologies—​it was the cat!


Get to know... The Sequence Group
We recently spoke with The Sequence Group, a boutique studio using Shotgun’s Review tools and Pipeline Toolkit to deliver complex projects that would otherwise be difficult for a company of its size to manage. Sequence handles live action production, animation and visual effects for everything from commercials to marketing materials, in-game cinematics, live events and more. The company maintains a base of 10-15 full time employees and expands to up to 40 based on project demands. Creative Director/Founder Ian Kirby and Lead Animator Anne Jans filled us in on some of the latest projects they’ve worked on across their Vancouver headquarters and satellite Melbourne, Australia location.

How did you first hear about Shotgun? 
Ian: I heard about Shotgun years ago, but it was too expensive for a studio of our size. After the license fee was reduced, we gave it a second look. Shotgun acquiring RV was the incentive we needed to finally make the commitment, and we implemented Shotgun about a year ago. Having all of our projects linked online, and also locally on our servers, combined with the automated Autodesk Maya integration sold us completely.

“We don’t have TDs or developers on staff, so in-house capabilities for custom code are limited. That’s why Shotgun, and in particular Pipeline Toolkit, is so fantastic for us. We don’t have time to write tools ourselves, and Shotgun has been completely plug-and-play for us,” said Kirby.

What was involved in the Pipeline Toolkit integration for you?
Ian: The integration was pretty easy. Anne is a lead animator and not a coder, but she set up our whole integration in a few hours.

Anne: We figured out how to get Pipeline Toolkit up and running pretty quickly as the process is very well documented online, complete with videos that I found helpful. We primarily are using Toolkit for Maya integration with Shotgun. It’s been great. All of our assets, shots, scenes, and playlists are submitted into Shotgun directly from Maya with the entire folder structure that we’ve adjusted to our needs and preferences. So on the 3D side, we use everything that Pipeline Toolkit offers out of the box.

What have you been working on recently?
Ian: We recently did a full-CG commercial for the “Marvel Avengers Alliance 2 Civil War” mobile game release. We handled everything from start to finish, from storyboards to final delivery, based on a script developed at Ant Farm in Los Angeles. For the Marvel spot, we had artists collaborating from offices in Vancouver and Australia, and only had six weeks to complete the 30-seconds of CG. There’s no way we could have delivered that job in time without Shotgun.

We also just finished a Claymation-inspired commercial for Slack. It’s very different from our other work, and involved ten different locations, and a shot with hundreds of characters. It was a project with many moving parts, and we relied heavily on the pipeline to pull it off.

Why is pipeline such an important consideration?

Ian: It is very essential. Having a solid pipeline in place can save hundreds of hours of wasted time. It allows you to see where you’re at on a project at any given time, and avoid chasing down missing assets, or mistakenly working with old assets or bad renders. With a bad pipeline everything falls apart, so it took us a while to get here, but now we can’t imagine how we did other projects without it.

How is Shotgun most useful to the way that you work?
Ian: I find it incredibly handy to have access to mobile review. Most of the day, I’m on my iPhone moving around the studio, so being able to check things quickly and provide comments without breaking up the feedback loop, even when I’m not at my desk, is great. Client review is also super user friendly; the mobile interface is really well developed.

We’re also huge fans of RV. We can sit with clients reviewing shots and instantly pull up animatics, pencil sketches or any other shots without having to dig through a folder structure manually to find what we need to review. I really like being able to review multiple versions of the latest shots overlaid or side-by-side, which really helps make the client feedback loop more efficient, and keeps everyone honest about the progression of notes and change requests!

The EDL support in Shotgun 7.0 is also super exciting. Being able to watch your edits, or do dailies without having to free up an editor to make updates is a huge time saver.

Another really common challenge that Shotgun helped us solve is the bottleneck that occurs when clients have last minute animation notes during compositing reviews. They’ll often want animations or models changed late in the game, and now, for us to be able to make those updates across an entire sequence automatically using Toolkit alleviates a lot of unwanted stress and late nights! We’re a relatively small team, many of us with families who don’t want us to be at work until 2AM—and having Shotgun helps us stay organized and allocate resources accordingly to avoid crazy hours.

Anne: As lead animator, I love how easy it is to draw on top of frames and get animation reviews out really fast. The task dependencies are great; tasks automatically move along in the chain as things progress or are approved. The naming conventions are automated, and updated as shots are revised which makes it really easy to find the latest version of any shot, and eliminates human error in naming files.

Lead Animator Anne Jans with co-worker Eric Wada
It’s also really cool to see your notes within Maya while working on a shot, without having to switch between Shotgun in your browser and Maya.

What’s the secret to Sequence’s staying power?
Ian: Probably diversity of mediums, and really caring about our work and putting everything into it. Everyone here really wants to be here, and because we’re small, artists take ownership of their work and are proud of what they produce.

What is your favorite thing about working in Vancouver?
Anne: Biking. We get to go mountain biking after work.
Ian: Biking and skiing and the ocean!

The Sequence Group Founder, Ian Kirby
What led you to visual effects?
Ian: I’ve been wanting to work in visual effects since I was 12. I’ve always loved art and computers, and later on making art on computers and figuring out how to capture reality and the problem solving that goes along with that.

Anne: I started out as a product designer and realized that I wanted my daily job to be about making the coolest things possible on a computer, which led me to animation. You can do anything you want on a computer and that’s really cool!

What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?

Ian: Maintaining the happy balance between meeting the client’s budget, doing the best possible work and staying competitive in an industry that has very little standardization.

Labels: ,

Shotgun Street Smarts: Our Favorite Features
One of the best parts of working on the Street Team is getting into the nitty and gritty of Shotgun every day. We know all the best tips and tricks to help you simplify your workflow, and add a little fun and flair.

So without further ado, here’s a list of Street’s top 5 favorite features in Shotgun.

1. Embedded web pages

“I like how Shotgun can serve as a bridge for external pages.”
—Kessler, Street Team

Sometimes an external website can come in handy for reference.

You can load content from external websites into pages or tabs. Simply choose the “URL” view type.

Then add the URL you would like to display within Shotgun.

Please note that while you can embed any webpage that supports iframes, we don’t support Shotgun pages inside Shotgun pages.

2. Annotating on a frame

“I used to spend all day in review sessions. [Annotation is] super streamlined and easy for coordinators.”  
—Astrid, APAC Street Teamer

The ability to annotate on a frame lets coordinators view the same media along with supervisors. Frame numbers are automatically added, so you don’t have to open any additional software. And it immediately notifies the artist of the Note with annotation without having to create an email.

The alternative is to take a screenshot of the media then annotate in a software such as Photoshop and manually enter the frame number. Next, you would have to open an email and send the image as an attachment, all while continuing to take notes in a fast-paced environment. What a headache!

In Shotgun, you don’t have to worry about any of that. Plus, it’s fun to draw on stuff.

3. Bulk editing

“Bulk editing is a convenient way of making updates without needing to do an import.”
—Tram, Street Team

The ability to import is good, but sometimes it’s nice to update all the statuses of a Shot’s tasks to “final.” You can do this with bulk editing.

4. Page filters and tabs

“Tabs and filters are great because of how they work together.”
—Matt, Street Team’s fearless leader

“I personally use Tabs to show different Entities on the same Global Page when using widgets on Canvas Pages isn't desirable,” Matt says. “And then I can use Page Filters to show different Projects.”

You can use tabs instead of creating separate Pages to display different information. For example, you can use Tabs for different departments on Task, Asset, and Shots pages.

“There might be Fields that are important for Animation—maybe statuses of Rigging work get pulled through, that aren't important for Lighting,” Matt says. “So you put those on different Tabs and it un-clutters the views.”

You can also use tabs to show different Fields for the same entity.

Filters, on the other hand, can show different slices of data with the same Fields. For example, you can set up filters to show what’s in-progress, what’s ready to start, or what’s overdue, so you can see the data that is most important to you at the time. You can even set up filters to exclude data you know you don’t need to see. Just use “is not” as one of the conditions.

5. Shotgun API

“[The Shotgun API] is super powerful—it allows you to either automate things or make tools that would otherwise be very difficult to achieve in the Web UI.”
—Brandon, Street Team

As a coordinator at a studio, Brandon used the Shotgun API to automate manual, time-intensive tasks. “[Production coordinators] had to, based on a list derived in Shotgun, go on the network and copy movie files from a shot directory to another directory for review,” he says.

So Brandon wrote a Python script that could point to a playlist and copy all the files from one directory to another.

“Things like that even a production person could learn how to do and save themselves a ton of time day to day,” Brandon says.

You could also use the API to deliver reports once per week on which tasks are overdue. “You can whip up a Python script, and deliver content in an entirely different way that’s more convenient to the studio,” Brandon says.

Anyone can use the API, you just need to know some basics about programming. If you’re interested in learning Python, the language the Shotgun API uses, CodeAcademy offers a beginning class.

6. Bonus: Shotgun tricks

Lastly, we have a couple bonus tips and tricks to add some fun to your workflow (and drive your team crazy…).

GIFs in the project overview banner
Not everyone knows this, but you can add some fun animations to your projects with a GIF in the project overview banner.

“Apart from the endless possibilities of hilarious cats walking across the project overview, it provides a visual bang for your projects landing page!” Andrew from the Street team says.

Filmstrip on user images
Another bit of fun. Add a filmstrip on a user image for jokes.

Or, use the filmstrip to show quick alternate photos.

Now that we’ve shared our favorite Shotgun features and tricks, we want to hear about yours! Please share in the comments below.

About Sabrina:
Sabrina joined the Street Team in October 2015—after working in book publishing and instructional design, building online courses about films and games. Now she gets to spend her days helping clients learn everything they need to know about Shotgun, which includes writing how-to articles, developing multimedia and interactive content, and taking advantage of Shotgun’s tools to track it all. She spends her nights geeking out about dinosaurs with her husband on their podcast, I Know Dino. Fun fact: The time between when Stegosaurus lived and when T-rex lived is longer than the time between when T-rex lived and now. 

Labels: ,

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.

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

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.


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.


      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!


        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.

        Labels: ,

        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.


        << Older Posts    

        Our Story

        We are industry folk who love production. A handful of us met while building...
        Read More

        Subscribe to Our Blog

        Follow Us!