Shotgrid (formerly known as Shotgun) is the standard production management tool. This allowed us to keep track of the status of nearly 10,000 shots and thousands of backgrounds and assets. It also allowed us to coordinate the work of teams in Helsinki, Barcelona, Ireland and Belgium, as well as reviews for most parts of the process. Behind its initially overwhelming interface is a powerful tool that has provided us with the control and flexibility to build a pipeline suitable for our hybrid production.
I had worked with Shotgun before, but this was my first time building the pipeline from scratch instead of jumping into a moving production with a weird pipeline structure that no one had, with too many tasks. It pays to design the pipeline in advance, take the review flow into account, customize the entities you will need, and more.
The downsides of Shotgrid are its high price, the lack of better integration with tools like Blender, and the difficulty of setting up a remote asset management system, which could have been useful with all the remote work during the process. pandemic. We got around that with a strict naming convention and cloud storage services like Google Drive. The recent transition to Autodesk has unfortunately pushed the price up further, which seems to create a great opportunity for more affordable alternatives like Kitsu.
Backgrounds. No shoots? No problem.
From the start, one of the most immediate charms of Royals next door was his hybrid style combining photographic backgrounds and 2D character animation. This technique presented an interesting technical challenge, because – surprisingly enough – there is not much history with this combination. Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ability to film live backgrounds was limited and unpredictable, so we turned to CGI for 99% of the locations with the exception of Malahide Castle in Ireland. , where the Queen Mother lives in the series.
The tool of choice was Blender, the number one open source 3D creation program in the known universe. We used it to model and render backgrounds, as well as some of the composition tasks.
A drastic pipeline change in the middle of production is usually not a good idea, and results in delays and additional expense. Ironically in our case, the switch to CGI became an opportunity that gave us more control over the aesthetics of the locations and the cinematography of the series without losing the unique effect of mixing 2D and realistic backgrounds. It also allowed us to test Blender in real production.
Storyboard, animation and model
For the storyboard, animation, and the rest of the composition, we used Storyboard Pro, Harmony, and After Effects. These are industry standards so no big surprises here.
In future projects, it would be nice to create an integrated pipeline in Blender to create the storyboards, 3D layout and 2D animation in the same environment. This approach would make our life easier on a hybrid production like this.
Shotgrid is great for reviews and notes on individual plans and assets because it provides context. We use it extensively to discuss the multiple complex elements of plans, keeping everything clearly in order.
We continued to use Vimeo to update episode status for stakeholders and team parts that didn’t need an expensive Shotgrid seat.
We also continued to use Syncsketch for storyboard and animatics reviews. Its modern interface is more user-friendly than Shotgrid’s, is better for full footage or episode reviews, and works great for remote reviews.
We use Syncsketch’s ability to project material together remotely and without latency during our weekly Friday meetings, when all the Pikkukala Helsinki and Barcelona teams come together and share the progress of the latest episodes of the series.
Cloud communication and storage
We have kept our communications and documents within the Google suite. Slack and Discord offer a much better user experience than Google Chat, but we made a conscious decision to prioritize Chat to simplify and reduce the amount of tools and environments the team would have to depend on.
When the pandemic broke out and forced us to work as distant and distributed as possible, we first tried synchronization solutions like Syncthing. These could have been perfect for a smaller, more technical team, but they required too much maintenance.
Google Drive was our best alternative and it worked immediately with existing users. By the time we decided this, the Irish crew working on the live shoot and CG backgrounds had already gone for the Slack + Dropbox combo. So I guess we ended up being a bit ‘hybrid’ for that part of the production as well.
One last word
Simplicity and clarity are paramount in a production of this caliber. Productions are living processes, so no matter how simple you seek it out, things are going to get tricky!