During post production, a synergy for sharing information has traditionally existed between the most efficient VFX production teams and VFX vendors who view the same project data, statuses and latest versions via a Shotgun-based pipeline. Roadblocks in production communication can arise with editorial teams, who frequently use complex spreadsheets and proprietary databases that are disconnected from the VFX team. The opportunity to extend Shotgun into editorial workflows has the potential to save teams time, money and resources to iterate and complete projects faster. Shotgun’s open API and customizability makes it possible to develop integrations tailored to specific projects, which was a game changer for the Adobe Premiere Pro editorial pipeline on Terminator: Dark Fate.
Terminator: Dark Fate was a massive undertaking comprised of 2,300 VFX shots and delivery of two different final versions of the film for domestic and international release. Dealing with a considerable workload under tight deadlines created a high-pressure environment, balancing VFX vendor delivery timelines with needing adequate time to cut in shots for review by director Tim Miller and studio executives.
Our technical partners on the film were X2X Labs, and early on in post production I mentioned to software architect Nino Ninkovic that it would be helpful to have a tool that automatically cut VFX shots into editorial timelines. With hundreds of shots rolling in throughout the day, I needed a way to speed up the workflow so these shots could be reviewed as soon as possible.
X2X Labs began development on a custom solution to automate inserting VFX shots into editorial timelines while fulfilling my two main requirements: simplicity and scalability. I needed a tool that would seamlessly integrate the type of functionality that Shotgun offers through Premiere Pro without requiring my team to ever have to leave their familiar Premiere interface.
Because of Shotgun’s open API, customizability and robust management tools, X2X chose to use Shotgun under-the-hood to drive this incredibly powerful editorial shot processing function within an Adobe Premiere Pro interface panel. The custom tool also needed to be scalable enough to process any amount of shots at the click of a button, whether a handful or 1,000.
Within a month, Nino took on the challenge and delivered Autocut, a Premiere Pro panel that recognizes and automatically places the latest VFX versions into Premiere timelines, with simple Shotgun integration to track metadata, recall shots and keep track of versions on the backend. When Nino first presented me with the tool, my initial reaction was, ‘This is like magic.’
When you are tasked with processing hundreds of shots per day for review, it’s incredible to be able to select them all, hit execute and rely on Autocut to automatically cut shots into the timeline. This makes review faster and easier for the director and executives, with faster turnaround to relay notes back to the VFX vendors.
I’m cutting hundreds of shots in a matter of minutes, which would have previously taken many hours. Shotgun is managing the database and running in the background, but I’m working directly in Premiere. Each sequence still requires QC, but we drastically reduced the workload. Conform processes that previously required five to six hours of work before sending VFX shots to DI, now only take 20 minutes to confirm the entire movie.
Autocut evolved as post production on the film progressed, and X2X Labs introduced new features designed specifically for the project to further expedite the editorial process. Using Autocut’s review feature, I could load up a .csv file with a list of all VFX shots that required review, then it would populate a playlist from various reels without requiring me to sort through files.
Using Autocut to automate this review process is connected to Shotgun data, so when you click to go to a specific shot, it also brings up the notes and data stored within Shotgun’s robust database. Another Autocut feature that aided in productivity was a compare tool that enabled us to examine current and past reels and view changes within a number of minutes.
This pipeline was critical to completing final delivery on Terminator: Dark Fate, and as more editorial pipelines adopt Shotgun, future opportunity exists to create greater synergy and custom tools that link editorial and VFX workflows.
When it comes to post production, you can’t be on an island. You always need to have good partnerships and solutions that streamline collaboration. Shotgun has the suite of organizational tools and open API that really bring facilities and productions together, and keep teams across a show in sync. Coming into the industry from a VFX background, you know that the glue that binds VFX facilities is Shotgun. I hope to see continued growth and deeper integration between VFX and editorial workflows in the future.
Jon Carr is a freelance VFX editor who has worked on feature films that include Terminator: Dark Fate, Only the Brave, Mile 22 and Six Below. He most recently worked as a compositor on Top Gun: Maverick and will soon join the upcoming film Red Notice for Netflix.