We talked to Stuart Lashley, VFX Supervisor at DNeg about his day-to-day and how Shotgun is a big part of it.
What does your everyday look like and how does Shotgun come into play?
One of the things I tend to spend a lot of time doing is ... Supervising! Being a Supervisor means reviewing work with an overall view of how it fits into the sequence of the movie. I am constantly having to look at things in context, in the cuts, whether that be finished comps, animations, or whatever else.
I'm constantly bringing that into a running edit, to check how it works with the shots around it. One thing that I've found very useful with Shotgun is being able to filter the type of asset that I'm looking for, whether I'm looking for the latest version or whether I'm looking for the latest version that's been sent to the client, or the latest internally-approved version. I have quick access to hundreds of different types of assets for different shots that I can sort and manage in one place.
Then of course, I use Shotgun to input the feedback that I'm giving on these shots. It’s as simple as me firing up that version, I'll have a look at it, I'll put some notes in via Shotgun, and the notes will be sent to everyone who needs to see them. The status is updated, which lets everyone know that it's been seen by me and tracks the history of any feedback or notes on that shot.
Reviewing feedback is my main use of Shotgun. It keeps that review and feedback loop going as quickly and efficiently as it can to keep the artists moving.
Prior to Shotgun, would you say that the most common challenges that you or your team faced day-to-day were review and feedback?
It was a bit of a slower loop really, because you had to rely on either direct feedback or a third party to take the feedback, input it into the system, or take it to the artist. There's lots of different ways to review and give feedback and the information wasn't necessarily logged, searchable, and there for everyone to see. You had to manually input the feedback into whatever system was being used or the artist would have to wait and come get feedback when we had time to look through their shots.
I'm able to give feedback on the slides quicker than I have been able to before, without the need for each artist to wait for a main review in the theater or have to approach me. That feedback gets sent directly to the artist much quicker while getting historically logged into the system, and can always be referenced back.
With the time you’re now saving, what do you think you're getting more of in a day?
There are always certain challenges that are present regardless. In the heat of an intense production period, it's important to make sure that the information is being picked up and seen by people as quickly as possible. The good thing about Shotgun is that even when something falls through the cracks or maybe someone missed an update, the information is there and the history of that information is there. You can quite quickly pick it up from the crack and keep going.
We're constantly reviewing our performance on each show that we do, from a creative and a managerial side. If something feels like it can be a little bit more efficiently done, then we implement a change to make it happen like altering the Shotgun pages or how the information is presented, for example.
Overall, you spend less of your time managing the day services going around, and can get through way more shots in terms of feedback. It frees me up to look at more shots in a day and come up with more ideas to pick the shots apart a little more. Probably not great for everyone, but certainly great for me!
What is one of the biggest challenges you encounter nowadays?
We're always trying to push the envelope in the work that we're doing, and generally being asked to do more and more for each movie. There's this sense of always wanting to have no compromise to the quality of the work that we deliver, but at the same time the market becomes more and more competitive every year. I think the quality bar is always being raised, and we're always striving to try and raise that bar further ourselves. At the same time, we’re trying to offer very cost-effective solutions and help the filmmakers make the best films that they can for the budget that they have. That's always been the challenge.
It becomes more and more of a challenge as the work gets more complex, and as soon as anyone breaks new ground, then it's a race to do the next big thing - in a very busy, very competitive market.
If there's anything that one can do to keep all the focus on creating those images and creating that technology and tools needed to do it, whilst not getting tied down or wasting any time trying to facilitate the creation of these things, the better. The more efficient that you can be in the tools and processes that you use, the better. It's becoming more and more important now to be able to be cost effective and efficient in the way that you're producing this work.
What do you love most about your job?
The shifting challenges. Every film that you do requires specific research on a subject that you probably would never have thought you'd have to learn about. You get to do all these mini research projects, and find out more about that subject you've been tasked with portraying on screen.
Most of the time it's an interesting journey of discovery and you come out of each one a little bit more knowledgeable about things, whether it be natural phenomena, how particular buildings are constructed, and so forth. You learn about the things you need to replicate digitally based on real information, and gathering that information is always quite interesting.
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