Case study

Small Studio, Mighty Projects

Studio: The Sequence Group
Team: 10-15
Project Load: ~40
Location: Vancouver Canada; Melbourne, Australia 
Key Creatives: Creative Director and Founder Ian Kirby and Lead Animator Anne Jans 
Specialties: Commercials, animation, live action, events, motion comics, titles, gaming, VFX 
Marquee projects: Lululemon Down-Town, Kal Tire campaign, X-Box Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 – E3 2019 Announce Trailer, Marvel Avengers Alliance 2 Civil War spot, Slack promo

Hours saved
Undue stress and late nights avoided
coding required

Interview with Ian Kirby and Ann Jans

The Sequence Group handles live-action production, animation, and visual effects for everything from commercials to marketing materials, in-game cinematics, live events, and more across its Vancouver headquarters and satellite office in Melbourne, Australia. It’s secret to success? Embracing diverse mediums and employing artists who take ownership of their work and take pride in what they produce. ShotGrid’s (formerly Shotgun Software) Review tools and Pipeline Toolkit also play a role—supporting its team in the delivery of complex projects that would otherwise be difficult for a company of its size to manage.

The challenge

For a boutique shop with no technical directors or developers on staff, maintaining a happy balance between meeting the client’s budget, doing the best possible work, and staying competitive can be tough. Recognizing a gap in its pipeline, Sequence quickly realized that it needed to be able to link projects online and also locally on servers without custom coding. Also, bucking industry trend, the studio generally avoids asking staff for late nights so they can be home with their families. To help make this possible, it needed to eliminate bottlenecks that occur when clients make last-minute animation requests in compositing reviews.

The solution

Sequence turned to ShotGrid and the Pipeline Toolkit as a plug-and-play solution to meet these demands. Lead Animator Anne Jans spearheaded the integration, which they had working in just a few hours. “We figured out how to get Pipeline Toolkit up and running pretty quickly as the process is very well documented online, complete with videos that I found helpful,” she explained. “We’re primarily using Toolkit for Maya integration with ShotGrid, and it’s been great. All of our assets, shots, scenes, and playlists are submitted into ShotGrid directly from Maya with the entire folder structure that we’ve adjusted to our needs and preferences. So on the 3D side, we use everything that Pipeline Toolkit offers out of the box.”

Sequence’s ShotGrid-backed pipeline has already proven instrumental in keeping a host of projects on track from a full-CG commercial for the “Marvel Avengers Alliance 2 Civil War” mobile game release to a Claymation-inspired commercial for Slack, and many others. “We handled nearly everything for the Marvel spot, from storyboards to final delivery. With artists collaborating between offices in Vancouver and Australia, and only six weeks to complete the 30-seconds of CG, there’s no way we could have delivered that job in time without ShotGrid,” Kirby shared. “We also relied heavily on ShotGrid for the Slack project, which had a lot of moving parts between ten different locations, and a shot with hundreds of characters.”

“Having ShotGrid also helps us stay organized and allocate resources accordingly to avoid crazy hours. We can easily take last minute client notes into account and update across an entire sequence automatically using Toolkit—it alleviates a lot of unwanted stress and late nights!”

The features

Access to mobile review via ShotGrid has proven exceptionally beneficial to the team, including Kirby who finds himself on the iPhone most of the day as he moves around the studio. Kirby commented, “Being able to check things quickly and provide comments without breaking up the feedback loop—even when I’m not at my desk—is great.” 

In addition, the team has found Client Review and RV to be user friendly and a boon to their workflow. “The mobile interface for Client Review is really well developed, and we’re huge fans of RV. We love that we can sit with clients reviewing shots and instantly pull up animatics, pencil sketches or any other shots without having to dig through a folder structure manually to find what we need to review,” Kirby explained. “Being able to review multiple versions of the latest shots overlaid or side-by-side, has also made the client feedback loop more efficient, and keeps everyone honest about the progression of notes and change requests.”

Sequence’s animators are most enthusiastic about the features that allow them to get work out the door faster. “As lead animator, I love how easy it is to draw on top of frames and get animation reviews out really fast,” shared Jans. “The task dependencies are great because tasks automatically move along in the chain as things progress or are approved. The naming conventions are also automated, and updated as shots are revised which makes it really easy to find the latest version of any shot, and eliminates human error in naming files. It’s also really cool to see your notes within Maya while working on a shot without having to switch between ShotGrid in your browser and Maya.”

Having a solid pipeline in place has become essential to Sequence.

With ShotGrid powering our pipeline, we can save hundreds of hours of time that would be otherwise wasted. It allows us to see where we’re at on a project at any given time and avoid chasing down missing assets, or mistakenly working with old assets or bad renders. We can’t imagine a world without it.