Top vfx com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tools

How do artists, di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers main­tain com­mu­ni­ca­tion to cre­ate the world’s most suc­cess­ful block­busters?

3D World - - CONTENTS -

We take a look at three of the most pop­u­lar tools that en­able con­sis­tency and qual­ity on projects

We’ve en­tered a global age of vis­ual ef­fects. Su­per­hero ac­tion flicks might be tak­ing the cin­ema by storm, but these projects come with an im­mense shot tally that can rarely be han­dled by a sin­gle stu­dio. In­stead, 3D as­sets and Vfx-heavy shots must be al­lo­cated across sev­eral dif­fer­ent teams, coun­tries and time zones. From Hol­ly­wood to New York, and from Lon­don to Van­cou­ver – these ma­jor cities are com­monly con­sid­ered to be the nexus of mod­ern block­buster film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion.

Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is ca­pa­ble of unit­ing post-pro­duc­tion at the global level. Here we look at three of the most pop­u­lar tools that a pro­fes­sional artist might use to trade ideas, main­tain­ing con­sis­tency and qual­ity on large-scale projects.


As the re­cip­i­ent of both an Academy Award for tech­ni­cal achieve­ment and an En­gi­neer­ing Emmy for its im­pact on the tele­vi­sion in­dus­try, cinesync is one of the most widely adopted ap­pli­ca­tions in vis­ual ef­fects and an­i­ma­tion to­day.

cinesync is a re­mote re­view and col­lab­o­ra­tion toolset that en­ables users to view and col­lab­o­rate on high-res­o­lu­tion, high-frame-rate video in sync with oth­ers in any phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion, re­gard­less of avail­able band­width. Whether sep­a­rated by a few towns or thou­sands of kilo­me­tres, users can col­lab­o­rate on im­agery as if they in the same room, util­is­ing in­ter­ac­tive func­tion­al­ity such as an­no­ta­tion, draw­ing and note-mak­ing tools in com­plete real-time syn­chro­ni­sa­tion.

This abil­ity to col­lab­o­rate over vast dis­tances has caused a fun­da­men­tal change in the way that pro­duc­tions are ap­proached and man­aged, from pre through to post. Su­per­vi­sors, pro­duc­ers, di­rec­tors, ed­i­tors and artists the world over have hugely al­tered their work­flow: pro­duc­tions no longer need to meet in the same phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion, or get mired in reams of email feed­back chains when it­er­at­ing on a vis­ual el­e­ment of a show. They can com­mu­ni­cate ideas di­rectly onto an im­age, wher­ever

they may be in the world, en­sur­ing a faster it­er­a­tive process and a less am­bigu­ous trans­fer­ence of cre­ative con­cepts.

The speed and re­li­a­bil­ity of cinesync used in this ca­pac­ity has al­tered the con­cept of ‘post’ as a strictly fi­nal el­e­ment of a show. With cinesync, con­sid­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion around VFX and other vis­ual el­e­ments can take place from the pre-pro­duc­tion stage on­wards. HBO made use of cinesync when work­ing con­cur­rently on Game of Thrones’ stand-out bat­tle scenes in sea­son seven, specif­i­cally the Loot Train se­quence and the Frozen Lake bat­tle. While one se­quence was shot in Spain, the other was in North­ern Ire­land. cinesync en­sured that the pro­duc­tion team could re­view dailies and dis­cuss the post work, de­spite the cre­ative team be­ing split up across the north­ern hemi­sphere.

cinesync’s solid se­cu­rity fo­cus makes these dis­cus­sions pos­si­ble. Bol­stered by high-end wa­ter­mark­ing, guest au­then­ti­ca­tion and en­cryp­tion tech­nol­ogy, cinesync em­pow­ers pro­duc­tions to lever­age global col­lab­o­ra­tive work­flows in a time when con­tent is sen­si­tive and se­cu­rity is a prime con­sid­er­a­tion. cinesync is put to use on the in­dus­try’s most-an­tic­i­pated block­busters for this very rea­son, sup­port­ing pro­duc­tion for HBO, Net­flix and Mar­vel, along with other big names in film and TV.

In fact, com­mu­ni­ca­tion via cinesync was in­di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the very first char­ac­ter crossover in what later be­came the Mar­vel Cine­matic uni­verse. Dur­ing post-pro­duc­tion for the very first Iron

“Pro­duc­tions no longer need to meet in the same Phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion, or get mired in reams of email feed­back chains when it­er­at­ing on a vis­ual el­e­ment of a show”

Man film, an ILM artist added Cap­tain Amer­ica’s shield into a scene – a lit­tle joke for Jon Favreau in their next cinesync ses­sion – but Favreau ended up leav­ing it in to see if fans no­ticed. of course, ev­ery­body saw it – and the Mar­vel Cine­matic uni­verse ex­panded from there.

cinesync was cre­ated for a truly global in­dus­try, by de­vel­op­ers who are acutely aware of the needs of dig­i­tal artists, hav­ing per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced the bot­tle­necks that go hand in hand with pro­duc­tion. It has rev­o­lu­tionised the way in which tele­vi­sion shows and block­buster films alike can be pitched, pro­duced and de­liv­ered by open­ing the doors to seam­less global col­lab­o­ra­tion.


Shot­gun is a pro­duc­tion track­ing sys­tem for VFX artists, cine­matic di­rec­tors, pro­duc­ers, and ev­ery­one else in­volved in the cre­ative process. Ev­ery step of pro­duc­tion is rep­re­sented vis­ually in Shot­gun, so you can see the life of shots and as­sets as they move through the pipe­line. Artists can be al­lo­cated key dead­lines and mile­stones, en­abling stu­dios to pri­ori­tise cer­tain shots, re­ac­tively scale up pro­duc­tion and han­dle un­ex­pected changes with ease.

Shot­gun sup­ports a range of dig­i­tal con­tent cre­ation ap­pli­ca­tions, al­low­ing VFX fa­cil­i­ties to cus­tomise their pipe­line and max­imise ef­fi­cien­cies for a num­ber of pro­cesses – from pre­vis to com­posit­ing. An­other huge ben­e­fit of the Shot­gun toolset is its in­te­gra­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. For in­stance, any playlist in Shot­gun can be opened in cinesync. once a cinesync re­view ses­sion is com­plete, all of the notes and draw­ings can be ex­ported back to Shot­gun with a sin­gle click. Shot­gun’s user in­ter­face al­lows easy ac­cess for artists to cre­ate notes and an­no­ta­tions quickly and sim­ply.

For all of the artists out there who em­pha­sise vis­ual artis­tic di­rec­tion, draw­ings are listed in the notes sec­tion in Shot­gun as thumb­nails rather than full-size frames. The frames can still be ac­cessed by click­ing on the thumb­nails. If you’re tak­ing notes in Shot­gun but are an­no­tat­ing in cinesync, those same an­no­ta­tions will be au­to­mat­i­cally linked to the rel­e­vant notes.

Many suc­cess­ful stu­dios, such as Im­por­tant Look­ing pi­rates, con­sider the cinesync/shot­gun in­te­gra­tion a key part of their pipe­line – and man­age quite a bit of through­put for a 100-strong team of artists. “cinesync is part of our daily rou­tine,” con­firms co-founder Nik­las Ja­cob­son.

Im­por­tant Look­ing pi­rates re­lied on this com­bi­na­tion of cinesync and Shot­gun through­out pro­duc­tion on Juras­sic World:

Fallen King­dom, serv­ing as the film’s largest ven­dor after ILM. “We just save the an­no­tated frames dis­cussed on-call and reingest them into Shot­gun to share with the team,” says Ja­cob­son. “our team com­pleted 100 shots, where the main chunk was for a seven-minute-long se­quence right at the open­ing of the movie. You’d recog­nise a lot of our work, in­clud­ing the Mosasaurus in the wa­ter and T-rex chase. It was a su­per iconic scene and a fun se­quence for us to work on.”


A cloud-based toolset that is es­pe­cially use­ful for smaller stu­dios and in­de­pen­dent artists, ftrack pro­vides a bird’s-eye view of ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing at your stu­dio across

“ftrack is nicely in­te­grated into cinesync, and we have a whole roadmap ahead of us on how to get even more clever by driv­ing fur­ther au­to­ma­tion, ed­i­to­rial and client de­liv­ery ef­forts” Michael Perdew, VFX pro­ducer, Luma Pic­tures

dif­fer­ent projects and de­part­ments. Flex­i­ble folder struc­tures, cus­tom en­ti­ties, ap­proval steps and much more can be tai­lored to suit a par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try, team size or geo­graphic lo­ca­tion. ftrack is an ex­tremely scal­able com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool, and again fea­tures in­te­gra­tion with a vast se­lec­tion of in­dus­try-stan­dard soft­ware – in­clud­ing Nuke, 3ds Max, Maya, Cin­ema 4D, and of course, cinesync.

Luma pic­tures, for in­stance, has com­bined cinesync with ftrack to cre­ate a cus­tomised in-house re­view queue. “ftrack is now nicely in­te­grated into cinesync, mak­ing the co­or­di­na­tors’ lives eas­ier, and we have a whole roadmap ahead of us on how to get even more clever by driv­ing fur­ther au­to­ma­tion, ed­i­to­rial and client de­liv­ery ef­forts,” says Michael perdew, VFX pro­ducer at Luma.

one par­tic­u­lar pro­ject that ben­e­fited from Luma pic­tures’ pipe­line was Mar­vel’s block­buster hit, Black Pan­ther, which blew away au­di­ences with its Vfx-heavy ac­tion se­quences. Luma’s in­volve­ment in Black

Pan­ther spanned 16 months with a team of around 150 plug­ging away across stu­dio lo­ca­tions on two dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents – all to re­sult in a full CG en­vi­ron­ment, CG traf­fic, a de­stroyed Lexus LC500 with de­bris, the sonic dis­rup­tor FX, and a CG pan­ther.

it’s ALL in­ter­con­nected

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools have been key to ex­pand­ing the vis­ual ef­fects in­dus­try as a whole. More so than in the past, di­rec­tors, pro­duc­ers, VFX su­per­vi­sors and ed­i­tors are spread out across dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.

From in-per­son meet­ings to on­line video con­fer­enc­ing, and from cinesync to Shot­gun and ftrack, tech­nol­ogy has made com­mu­ni­cat­ing with artists and clients eas­ier than ever. By fa­cil­i­tat­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion in this way, a large shot tally can be pro­duced and de­liv­ered by teams work­ing re­motely, en­abling seam­less global col­lab­o­ra­tion to en­sure an aligned vi­sion can be re­alised.

cinesync users can ac­cess the in-built Shot­gun Re­view to browse for pre­vi­ous ver­sions of a shot and view notes with­out hav­ing to leave the ses­sion

Below: cinesync an­no­ta­tions on a shot by dou­ble neg­a­tive dur­ing pro­duc­tion for Pa­cific Rim: up­ris­ing

Left: An ex­am­ple of cinesync an­no­ta­tions on a shot cre­ated by MPC dur­ing pro­duc­tion for Ju­manji: Wel­come to the Jun­gle

com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools are vi­tal in aid­ing the fast turn-around of projects for tv

Below: ev­ery step of pro­duc­tion is rep­re­sented vis­ually in Shot­gun, so you can see the life of shots and as­sets as they move through the pipe­line Bot­tom: ftrack pro­vides a bird’s-eye view of ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing at a stu­dio across dif­fer­ent projects, pro­duc­tions and de­part­ments – in­clud­ing flex­i­ble folder struc­tures, cus­tom en­ti­ties and ap­proval steps

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