The Road to Shotgun 5.0

May 9, 2013



Shotgun 5.0 is one of our company's biggest, most ambitious projects to date, and we're releasing it next week. As one of the people who worked closely with the design, engineering, and product teams on this release, I'm going to share a few of the insights and challenges we encountered along the way.

Our Early Days

During the early days of Shotgun, we made it a priority to win over a particular type of person at the studio: the "Data Mastermind".

Many of you either are, or work with, these types of people. They're brilliant individuals who balance the entire production in their heads. They can recite their studio's production pipeline from memory. They create incredible Excel spreadsheets that perfectly capture who is doing what, when they are doing it, and for how long. They help move all the important information from one end of the building to the other so that no one is ever stuck. One of the lessons we learned early on was that if we couldn't build something the Data Masterminds could use, they'd find ways to work around the system and build their own.

So for a long time, we hustled to build them something they loved. Now after 9 years, they've taken our software and accomplished amazing things. Many studios now use Shotgun to track some of the industry's greatest work.

Focusing on Artists

But, over the past couple years we've been hearing about a slightly different set of needs from another type of person at the studio: the Artist.

Artists are a different kind of genius. We've seen them create amazing things in Maya, Nuke, After Effects, and Photoshop in ways that blow our minds. Admittedly, we haven't put a major focus on creating the artist dream tool. In fact, we weren't even sure what that would be.  So we set out over the past two years to talk to as many artists and supervisors as we could because we heard they were facing some pretty unique challenges. 

The first project that came out of those discussions was Revolver, which we recently renamed to Screening Room. We partnered with Tweak Software (makers of RV) to create the ultimate review tool, and it's been a really big hit with artists and supervisors.

But we didn't stop there. We continued to go from studio to studio, talking to hundreds of artists and supervisors about the other issues they faced.  Almost every person we talked to said they were receiving way too much email, most of which they never read. They also told us about the incredible complexity they were facing at the studio. Instead of spending lots of time and energy on the art, they felt they were knee deep in complex workflows and processes that were slowing them down.

The Solution

How could we help? When we asked artists what we could be doing to make their jobs easier, they had some pretty interesting ideas:

- "Just show me a page of everything I need to do with an easy way to get information about the shot."
- "I want to know when someone publishes the file I'm waiting on to do my work."
- "I just want to go one place to see all the shots I need to review."
- "I want to know when someone is about to change something that affects my work."
- "Sometimes I just want to see what other people at the studio are doing. It's like we're working on this awesome film and I don't even realize it until I see it in the theaters."

A lot of the studios we spoke with had experienced growth in the past few years. They were working on more projects with more people, but also at a faster pace. It seemed to us like when studios grow and the level of quality increases, artists become less and less connected. What once was a walk down the hall and a tap on the shoulder is now just a quickly composed email. It's not that artists don't want to talk. They're just working on so many things at once they simply don't have the time to communicate how they used to. Accepting this new pace of work as a given, we set out to solve the communication problem. Our theory was that if we could help a studio move like a school of fish instead of pile of cars in traffic, we'd come one step closer to improving the lives of artists.

Stay Tuned

Join us tomorrow for a look at our first attempt to solve the studio communication problem. It ultimately wasn't the solution we went with for 5.0, but you won't want to miss it.