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Shotgun and Revolver Streamline Prime Focus’ Global VFX Collaboration


Jon Cowley, VFX supervisor at Prime Focus Vancouver working on VFX shots in Shotgun.

Global entertainment services company Prime Focus World provides visual effects and stereo 3D conversion services to major studios around the world. The company’s visual effects artists have created shots for top films such as Avatar, Tron: Legacy and the Harry Potter, Twilight and X-Men franchises, and its stereo 3D technicians have converted blockbusters including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon using its proprietary 2D-to-3D process, View-D.

With facilities in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and India, Prime Focus’ global digital pipeline seamlessly connects 3,000 artists and technicians worldwide and allows for around-the-clock service. In addition to adopting a more collaborative global VFX model, the company recently shifted from a Windows/3ds Max pipeline to standardizing on Maya and Nuke on Linux, and turned to infrastructure platforms like Shotgun and Revolver to evolve into the future.

“We were set to do both VFX and stereo 3D conversion on Men in Black 3,” explained Prime Focus Vancouver VFX supervisor Jon Cowley. “We already had a consistent production pipeline in place, but my main concern was effective project management. When I’m supervising from Vancouver and there’s a whole team in Mumbai that’s working while I’m at home, or asleep, what would be the best way to manage their progress? That’s when we decided to implement Shotgun.”

“Once we chose Shotgun, it was extremely easy to integrate into our pipeline. It was literally all set up over one weekend and immediately began impacting our workflow,” said Cowley. Prime Focus also tapped in-house developers to spend an extra six weeks to integrate Shotgun into the pipeline, tailoring the software with Prime Focus-specific delivery tools and a new dailies logging system.

“We are also using the beta version of Revolver every single day and it is absolutely changing the way we work globally and will definitely become part of our standard pipeline,” Cowley added. “We’re using it as a dailies review system, to give shots and annotations firsthand to all of the artists around the world.”

Improved Project Management and Communication
Shotgun streamlined Prime Focus’ production tracking, management and overall collaboration across multiple facilities in L.A., Vancouver, India and London as they delivered 319 VFX shots for MIB3. “Plates would come into Vancouver, then go to London for tracking, then to Mumbai for roto and prep, and then to LA for stereo work – so at any given time there were hundreds of versions of each shot around the world that all needed to be tracked. Shotgun allowed us to log and track everything very easily,” explained Cowley.

The company also developed a custom delivery tool powered by Shotgun that allowed it to log and track shot deliveries to the client. “That was really key for me,” Cowley explained. “That tool came in very handy three weeks before our final deadline when the client changed a spec in our deliveries, which often happens at the 11th hour on a show. This meant we had to go back and re-deliver an entire month’s worth of work – around 360 versions – of these shots. Thanks to Shotgun, one coordinator was able to easily find and re-deliver everything in a single day, whereas previously it would have taken several people several days and caused a lot of gray hairs in the process.”

Prime Focus is also currently beta testing Revolver, Shotgun’s new all-in-one review product. Revolver combines production tracking and review, making it easy for teams in any location to view the latest work in the context of the cut, browse and compare iterations, annotate on images, write notes and collaborate on work in real time. Tweak’s high-end native player, RV, is integrated to provide real-time playback of hi-res frames from local storage at the desktop or in the screening room.

“My background is in industrial engineering, which is all about how to make products more efficient,” said Cowley. “Revolver does exactly that. It allows us to dramatically decrease the time between when the VFX supervisor reviews a shot and when notes on that shot get back to the artist. Now I can be looking at a shot and annotating it in real time during dailies review, and before I even leave dailies I know that my notes are already being addressed by the artist. The size of that gap is what can make or break a deadline – so the immediate feedback that Revolver provides is really invaluable.”

Prime Focus is currently working on visual effects for Total Recall and other upcoming feature films, building their workflow around a Shotgun and Revolver core.

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