Shotgun's development has always been driven by close collaboration with our customers. By diving into the field, we get a better handle on how Shotgun is being used and get to see firsthand the challenges that keep customers up at night. Through these interactions, we uncover new solutions and establish best practices, which often make it into future Shotgun releases to benefit our entire user community.
We're passionate about production and truly understanding how to tackle the greatest challenges studios face. We recently put our money where our mouth is and embedded Shotgun developer Jean-François (JF) Boismenu at Rodeo FX as a senior software pipeline developer for a three-month 'externship.' Having worked on Shotgun Toolkit for more than two years, JF brought his expertise to the table, and in return, got a chance to learn about Rodeo's pipeline and see our tools in action on the production floor.
Some of Rodeo's biggest workflow challenges revolved around the ability to get project files out of Autodesk Flame and into the Shotgun pipeline quickly. This issue became apparent while the VFX team was working on huge, complicated VFX sequences for a recent major studio film release. In troubleshooting the Shotgun loader feature, which allows you to import data into your creative application, JF saw how repetitive it was for Rodeo artists to load a large number of assets. Working together, JF and the Rodeo team branched the Flame export tool and modified it to enable more options and batch loading for a streamlined workflow that now requires far fewer manual steps. When JF returned to Shotgun, he integrated these changes back into the platform.
JF also worked with Rodeo to devise an improved pipeline that would simplify the process of bringing shots from Shotgun into Flame. A lot of VFX studios are used to working on a shot-to-shot basis, so they don't generally have an opportunity to look at the whole timeline in this process, so we built out three new workflows for Shotgun and Flame that make it easy.
'Element Publish' is a fast ingest tool that is being used on every show at Rodeo FX. It allows users to take frames and publish them inside of Shotgun. At the beginning of the pipeline, the artist can find those frames and build playlists. Users can publish a foreground/background plate and any set of frames required to do a shot, and can easily review those shots directly in Flame.
'VZERO Publish' gives artists the framework to do their work in the context of the shot, depicting what a shot would look like if there weren't any effects. If a shot is trimmed or sped up, then half of the frames are rendered. It can be used to output the correct frames that are going to be part of the end result before the VFX are added in.
'Reference Publish' is part of the review workflow and speeds up A/B shot comparisons. An artist will publish content, and the VFX supervisor will ingest it into the timeline, do some correction and then publish a reference for the artist with notes. The user can then toggle between the director's vision and their current version.
We've been blown away by how hard Rodeo is pushing on our tools, and the loader features, and new publish workflows are an example of what we can achieve when we work closely with customers. It's this sort of collaborative relationship that helps us make Shotgun a stronger product, and we look forward to continuing this feedback loop with the community to help bring more productivity features to market.
Rob Blau is Product Owner with Autodesk's Shotgun Software (www.shotgunsoftware.com).