REVIEW: SHOTGUN SOFTWARE
PRODUCT: Shotgun Software
PRICING: Ranges from Lite ($19 per user/month) to Partner ($149 per user/month)
- customizable workflow
Today’s productions for film, broadcast and even the Web are seeing extremely large digital pipelines and even crazier deadlines. Media is coming from every which way, be it on Compact Flash, P2, drive or telecine. Just keeping track of the media, let alone the production schedule, who is on the job, and which tasks a certain department has, can be very daunting and at times would require you to hire a database whiz to design some custom software.
This is where Shotgun Software comes into play. Shotgun is a cross-platform, Web-based production tracking and collaboration system for studios. This software was created by people working in the 3D feature film industry; they saw a need for a well-rounded set of tools for studios to track and collaborate on projects.
Shotgun had been in development for about three and a half years before I joined the beta team about a year ago, and the time and effort spent really shows in Shotgun’s versatility. Since it is Web-based, all you need is a Web browser and an Internet connection to log in. And because it uses the Web, there is no need to wonder if someone is looking at the most recent version of the project because as soon as a task or field is changed on the server, everyone on the project is updated. Integrated messaging allows everyone to keep track of notes, tasks, emails, and attachments, which can be filtered by type, status or a custom header.
Hosting your own data, or having Shotgun host it for you, lets you choose where your data will be stored. One of the many things that keep a studio on track is its schedule, and Shotgun allows you to customize pretty much anything to fit your studio’s needs. If you happen to have someone handy with Python, you can start creating some really new ways to tie Shotgun to your visual effects or post pipeline. Shotgun also partnered with Tweak Software to bring in the RV Playback System for review and playback. I have been using RV for visual effects and animation for a while now and the feature set and stability make it tough to compete with.
Shotgun is like Filemaker on crack, but much less daunting to set up or maintain. Producers, artists, leads and interns can import, export and share information, whether it’s stills, Excel spreadsheets or reference clips. Because it’s so easy to use, a studio can have everyone up and running quickly, allowing more time for productive things, such as roto and Starbucks runs.
If your artists, or staff, are spending large amounts of time worrying about who has what file, if a shot was finaled or if there are schedule conflicts, then you are not really being productive. Shotgun offers a subscription-based pay system, which allows you to only pay for what you need and save on overhead. You don’t have any contracts or commitments when subscribing, so after you’ve finished a project you can stop and start up again when a new production begins.
Because of Shotgun’s open technology, you can really tailor it to your studio’s needs. Open Python API, event triggers, asset management integration and being able to extend the UI with tab widgets are just some of the tools at hand to get your pipeline where it needs to be. One thing that comes to mind with the above listed feature set is automation. Shotgun allows you to automate very tedious tasks with some of its scripting capabilities. Let’s say you need to pull the same shot for 13 artists who then need to comp that shot into 40 different scenes? Create the temps and have everyone be notified of when a change is made. How much time could that save you?
I have been using Shotgun daily for roughly the past year and am just finishing up another feature where it has been instrumental to my workflow on visual effects and collaboration with the other artists in the studio. Shotgun allows me to get work done without the hassle of jumping around to different databases or apps to get the information I need for my projects. The future of Shotgun is looking even better from a user standpoint thanks to integration with studio tools such as CineSync, Qube and others.
Jim Geduldick is Senior DI/VFX Artist at Offhollywood in NYC and co-leader at AENY. He can be reached at: Jim@aeny.org.