At big studios, an internal pipeline team and proprietary project management tools are usually a given. However, for smaller shops building everything from scratch isn’t always realistic. When I joined Mighty Coconut (www.mightycoconut.com) in mid-2014, we were using simple, off-the-shelf databases to track projects, which was sufficient for five artists crammed into one room. As we grew, the setup became increasingly problematic. Last year, we integrated Shotgun Software (www.shotgunsoftware.com) into our workflow while in the thick of production for the animated YouTube Red series, Kings of Atlantis, and have been using it ever since.
When we installed Shotgun, we were already in story mode on Kings of Atlantis and couldn’t afford to be down, so we had to be creative in our integration. We familiarized ourselves with the Shotgun interface, and then hooked it into our existing infrastructure using Pipeline Toolkit. We rolled out Shotgun slowly in phases, building the new pipeline underneath our existing one, and then it was just a matter of flipping the switch. Astonishingly, we didn’t miss a beat or a deadline. There are a few ingestion tools we added on top of the platform, though we’ve largely been using Shotgun out of the box.
As part owner of Mighty Coconut, I need to keep a global view of all projects, and know their status at any given time, as do other executives. With Shotgun, everything is organized the same way, which makes it easy to not only check on projects, but also to get new leads up to speed quickly; there’s no ramp up time, they can just hit the ground running. On top of that, we don’t have a large software development team, so it’s nice to have job templates. With Shotgun, we can operate as if we were a much bigger shop, without the maintenance overhead.
I live and breathe my workday in Shotgun. When I’m off-site and we need to deliver something, I’m still able to access what I need from my laptop or through the Shotgun iPhone app, and get a remote window into what’s going on. I can communicate from a coffee shop downtown as if I’m back at Mighty Coconut — it’s pretty seamless. Before Shotgun, we’d have to wait on renders at the studio; now we’re able to monitor things from home. It’s also great for accommodating staggered hours. Some of our staff work earlier or later hours, and if I miss them in the studio, I can still provide review notes via Shotgun so they’re ready to jump right in at the start of their day and we don’t waste resources with people waiting around. These benefits add up to increased productivity and ultimately allow us to be more effective.
We’ve also found that our clients really benefit from Shotgun’s review toolset. We use the Client Review Site on a daily basis to give them single-click access to the latest iteration of a project. We’re able to build playlists to generate packages that grab the necessary assets and automatically deliver them anywhere they need to go, whether a drive or to Aspera, so our clients receive comprehensive deliverables in an organized manner, and are then able to easily submit notes.
We’ve certainly been pleased with our Shotgun pipeline thus far and are constantly finding new ways to improve it. Being in a smaller VFX market like Austin, our use of Shotgun sets us apart locally and brings us on par with larger studios in more traditional animation/VFX hubs, without requiring significant investment. It’s nice to have all our projects centralized and be able to easily onboard additional talent
when bigger projects come in.
Tim Cunningham is a Director and Executive Producer with Mighty Coconut (mightycoconut.com) in Austin, TX.