We recently spoke with Brett Ineson, the president and CTO of Animatrik. Founded by Ineson in 2001 in Vancouver, Animatrik is a leading provider of motion capture and virtual production services, working with clients across film, TV, and games. With the largest mocap sound stage in North America, the studio has to track massive amounts of data on a daily basis. Read on to find out how Shotgun helps the Animatrik team stay focused.
Animatrik is a performance capture and virtual production studio headquartered in Vancouver. Our business is split between video games and film. Some of our recent titles include the Warcraft film, Suicide Squad, and the upcoming Gears of War game.
How many people in your studio are using Shotgun? Are they based in multiple locations?
We have a total of 45 people that are split between two studios in Vancouver and LA, and about 40 of them – mostly artists, producers, and supervisors – are using Shotgun across both locations.
How did you first hear about Shotgun?
Just from following industry trends – we started to notice people using Shotgun more and more. When we first started Animatrik, we were tracking production through Excel and realized pretty quickly that Shotgun could take care of the heavy lifting. That was about five or six years ago.
What content creation tools do you use in-house?
We use Maya, MotionBuilder, Giant, Blade, Motive, and some proprietary tools for tracking and solving motion capture data. Some of our custom tools package up deliverables and materials for clients; these tools will actually re-edit and re-cut data and video on our server, and those all interact with Shotgun.
Can you describe a recent project where Shotgun was particularly useful?
A recent project we worked on is the new Gears of War game. It was a big project that spanned 18 months or so with lots of different shoots and data to track. Shotgun really helped us manage our resources. We could see how many people we had on a particular part of the pipeline, know where we were on the workload, and make sure we were on track and could move people around from other projects if needed.
We use Shotgun for all our projects to track mocap and facial tracking data, share videos of shoots with our clients, and let people quickly jump in and see where a shot is in the pipeline. We’ve also implemented a process that updates the Shotgun database in real time as we’re conducting a mocap shoot.
My favorite feature is the ability to use Shotgun’s Python API to write scripts and the off-cloud daemon so that Shotgun tells us when it’s time to pull data out and triggers an automated process on our servers to deliver work.
We put a lot of effort into it – we have two people on pipeline full time making sure data is moving around the way we need it to and is in the state we need it to be in. We do work with the Shotgun support team on occasion, since we have customization for our proprietary tools. We also do a lot of timecode math in the background. It is comforting knowing that our own algorithms are being executed automatically by Shotgun.
I frequent all of the usual trade shows, SIGGRAPH and games conferences, and I’ve started going to shows in Europe as well. I always connect with great people there and see what other people are doing and what’s helping them stay efficient and creative.
What is your favorite thing about being in Vancouver?
I’m a skier and mountain biker so I love being close to the mountains. I was lucky that half the industry moved to Vancouver. I’m from Toronto originally and I was living/working in LA before I decided to start Animatrik up here.
What led you to visual effects?
I had been doing animation and motion capture for most of my career. One of the things that I did for quite awhile was consult and install mocap stages for companies. After I did a bunch of those I decided to just install one for myself!
What is the biggest challenge in running a studio today?
The VFX industry is pretty aggressive when it comes to pricing and can have a race-to-the-bottom approach. It can be a challenge to navigate through that, keep your business healthy, and better serve both employees and clients in the end.