Review: Shotgun Software
Joshua Saeta
Issue: November 1, 2014

Review: Shotgun Software

MANUFACTURER: Shotgun Software

PRODUCTS: Shotgun, Shotgun Review

PRICING: $49 per seat/month, free trial available


As a VFX supervisor, a large part of my job is making order out of chaos. In my time at Rhythm & Hues, Prime Focus, and now Silver Pictures, I’ve worked on dozens of effects-driven films and the challenges I face are consistent: How can I effectively track progress and approval status across the production? How can I best manage teams across multiple continents? How can I have my finger on the pulse of how shots are progressing when I’m away from the studio? How can I sync up with the director most effectively? And of course, how can I get the most ROI out of my budget?

I have found solutions to these challenges and more with Shotgun. Over the past year I’ve used Shotgun on projects that include The Legend of Hercules, Earth to Echo, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Each film had a VFX team of between 100 and 200 artists, dispersed across the US, UK, and India. The immediate benefit of adopting Shotgun is that all of your data associated with a production is suddenly organized and structured, and you can find what you’re looking for immediately. Shotgun is immensely helpful in giving me an informed view of realtime progress, whether it’s for specific shots, assets, artists, or departments. It allows me to easily see the status of any given shot or sequence across departments so that I can determine how our schedule might be impacted, and adjust plans as needed. Being able to clearly see where everything stands makes my job run much more smoothly, and I can easily look up information in a multitude of ways depending on what is most pressing.

Shotgun’s integration with creative tools is also very workflow-friendly. For instance, I can receive scripts via Shotgun and copy and paste them directly into a Nuke session and it works seamlessly. If I’m in the screening room or on-set and need to quickly block out a shot, that’s a great resource.

The way I work, I’m rarely at my desk. Shotgun is cloud-based, which is key for flexibility during a job, particularly when I’m working with mobile production teams and artists in multiple locations working on different schedules. I have one page within Shotgun where I can pre-set filters and then simply refresh to see the latest essential project info at a glance. During pre-production I may pre-set them to look at models, but later on when we’re doing lighting and shading, then my priorities change. It just takes a couple of clicks to change the filters, and then all the information I need is refreshed and at my fingertips. It’s great to know that I can securely access all the same information, in the same familiar interface, from anywhere. When I’m working with international teams, even if my phone goes off at all hours, Shotgun allows me to easily pull up the latest shots and notes on my laptop at home.

Along those lines, I’ve been testing Shotgun’s new mobile review app — Shotgun Review for iPhone — and that is a really exciting development. Normally, getting everything converted and sent off for client review is such a process, but with Shotgun Review I can just pull up a scene on my phone to show the director and make sure that we’re blocking it out in the right way. We don’t have to wait until the end of the day for the full-scale review. It’s so easy to use and turnaround notes on-the-go without the formal “let’s wait for a client review session” aspect. The level of communication that the app offers is incredibly beneficial — I can be on a location scout or on-set but still looking at shots being completed in another country and quickly show them to the director between takes for immediate feedback. It keeps everyone moving forward faster and with better alignment. Plus, it lets you access everything via your mobile network instead of just on WiFi or a local server. I can’t wait to explore Shotgun Review more and see how much it speeds up a project.

In the past, production tracking really only occurred at the executive level, and there was no coherent process — every project had its own method. Shotgun brings everyone together, letting artists at all levels check progress, share assets, and feel that external motivation to stay on track. It keeps everyone aligned and keeps the production running efficiently. Plus, it’s extremely flexible and can be customized as needed. Now that I’ve seen what’s possible with Shotgun, I never want to work without it.

Joshua Saeta is a VFX Supervisor with Silver Pictures. His credits include work on The Matrix Revolutions, The Cabin in the Woods, Superman Returns, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. He can be reached at: