Shotgun Street Smarts: An Inside Look at Cyborn

Sabrina Ricci    ●    Oct 20, 2016

Shotgun has amazing clients all over the world creating beautiful media. I recently got to speak with project manager Ken Vandecappelle and associate producer Iris Delafortry from Cyborn about how they use Shotgun. Cyborn is a film producer and 3D animation and motion capture studio based in Antwerp, Belgium.

This is Cyborn’s first year using Shotgun, and the team is using it to work on a feature film project called, Ploey, You Never Fly Alone. This 3D animation feature film is a co-production between Cyborn and GunHil, a studio based in Iceland. About 30 people at Cyborn are now using Shotgun, as well as eight people at GunHil.



Ploey is about a plover, a type of small bird common in Iceland.

“It’s a family film with beautiful animals and lots of action,” Iris said. “It’s about the fascinating adventure of a young plover, who needs to survive the strong arctic winter and his natural enemies.”

“The beautiful environments and designs were inspired by the fascinating landscapes of Iceland,” Ken said.

“We should have the film in theaters by Christmas next year, so by 2017,” Iris said. “There's already a teaser online so it gives you an idea of the story.”

Why Shotgun?
“We decided it would be beneficial for both parties to have some sort of system to share information,” Ken said. “And it didn't take us long to realize that Shotgun was something that was widely used in the entertainment business.”

One of the biggest reasons to use Shotgun was because of the amount of collaboration required for an animated movie project. “We needed something that was easy and flexible enough so we could communicate with the other parties,” he explained.

Another big reason was because Shotgun is part of Autodesk, Ken said. Autodesk acquired Shotgun in 2014.

“Because we use Autodesk tools, it was a logical step for us,” Ken said. “We knew that if Shotgun was part of Autodesk, it would not disappear in a year. It was really important for us to know that Shotgun was still going to be alive when we finish Ploey, so we can use it for other projects in the future.”


Learning Shotgun
It took a couple months for Ken to understand how Shotgun works, by watching tutorials and contacting the Street team, he said. After Ken became more familiar with Shotgun, he said everything felt like second nature, and he is now ready to implement more features.

“I'm pretty sure we can do a lot more in the next few years, because our knowledge will only expand in that regard,” he said. “Our experience will probably change again in a couple months, because by then we will have added so much more new data and we will have evaluated so much more new stuff. For that, as far as I am concerned, we’re going in the right direction.”

Ken said the next phase will be to teach everyone else at Cyborn how to use Shotgun.

“It’s one thing to know everything yourself; it's a whole different matter to explain to somebody else,” he said. “We still have a long way to go because not everybody is at the point where I'm satisfied with their knowledge about Shotgun, but that's okay. We're working at it one day at a time.”

Working with Street
Both Ken and Iris said they were impressed with Shotgun’s Street team and the support they received.

“We were really surprised in the beginning; they responded and followed up so quickly,” Iris said.

According to Ken, it’s also nice to see that the people from the tutorials are actually on the support team.


Cyborn’s workflow
Because Cyborn is working with GunHil, Cyborn’s workflow starts with the work they get from GunHil. This includes concept and layout.

“During our “weeklies” [weekly meetings, sic] we go over the layout and all parties come together to decide what is good and what needs to be changed,” Ken said. “That includes animation, so the supervisors are also present.”

The next stage involves the environment pipeline steps, as well as working on hair and fur. After that is lighting, and compositing and special effects, and then the work is sent to GunHil for final compositing and sound.

To review work with GunHil, Cyborn uses Screening Room. However, the team uses RV internally.

“RV has more functionalities,” Ken said. “It’s faster because you don't have to access the internet to play your files, and it still collects data from Shotgun Studio. But you have more functionalities; you can put movies on top of each other to actually see what’s different. You can place them all next to each other and get a better overview. So the supervisors and the artists can choose which version they think is best.”

Cyborn is also using Toolkit, although they are still working on its customization so that everyone in the studio can use it.

“We use Toolkit mainly for publishing, but we’re still scripting on that,” he said. “Not everybody is using it right now but we have implemented it.”

Favorite Shotgun features
“I think the feature that I’ve used most until now is the RV player to get all the shots together,” Ken said. “I really like the history filter; it enables you to compare different versions, which makes it easier to review the data.”

Ken also said that even though he initially had trouble with Shotgun’s filtering system, he now finds it really helpful.

“The filtering system is also something I love,” he said. “It's very complex and robust and you can look everything up. The problem is, you just need to find it. But once you get to know it, it's really nice, because you can customize the system by saving your personal filters and your own pages.”


Next steps in Shotgun
“I think if we were to have a new production the same size, starting right now, then we would use Shotgun for it as well,” Iris said.

“We just scratched the surface,” Ken said. “I think the next step is to get everybody on the same level as me, so everybody knows how to use all the apps and features. That will probably be one of my major challenges. And I do not even know everything, so we still have a long way to go. Like I said, we have a good support team [Shotgun Street team] that we can depend on.”


About Sabrina:
Sabrina joined the Street Team in October 2015—after working in book publishing and instructional design, building online courses about films and games. Now she gets to spend her days helping clients learn everything they need to know about Shotgun, which includes writing how-to articles, developing multimedia and interactive content, and taking advantage of Shotgun’s tools to track it all. She spends her nights geeking out about dinosaurs with her husband on their podcast, I Know Dino. Fun fact: The time between when Stegosaurus lived and when T-rex lived is longer than the time between when T-rex lived and now.