ftrack is the AUTOMATIK choice for Sword of Vengeance
Discover how AUTOMATIK vfx uses ftrack for feature length films including Vertigo Films indie bloodthirsty vengeance romp, Sword of Vengeance.
Based in Berlin, London and Hamburg, AUTOMATIK vfx is a boutique studio founded by German based post production house, The Post Republic. AUTOMATIK focuses on larger, feature length productions – with the odd journey into commercials. Working with clients such as Warner Bros, Universal and Fox – along with boutique production houses – AUTOMATIK’s growing production team of experienced VFX artists bring a wealth of talent and expertise to the group.
With in-house capabilities to handle colour grading, visual effects, sound design and mixing, recording, editing and others, it was little surprise the production house was approached to handle work on the upcoming movie Sword of Vengeance.
Managing a movie
Jean-Michel Boublil, VFX supervisor/creative director at AUTOMATIK explained that Sword of Vengeance was both an exciting and challenging project – having to complete around 185 shots in just three months.
“It was a fun project,” he said, “To achieve that amount of shots in a short time frame with a small team, combining lots of different artistic styles and disciplines was something that required a lot of database juggling.”
The stylised look of the film was something that was planned by the director, Jim Weedon, but it was up to the team at AUTOMATIK to make the complex plan a reality. “For us it was a lot of fun to be a key part in establish the final look and feel of the film,” Boublil said, “The overall result has a very rounded and even feel to it visually.”
There’s one particular reason Boublil stands by which made the production so painless: “We could count on what was holding the information and passing the information from artist to artist – ftrack!”
The glue of the project
Having different areas to work on in Sword of Vengeance – matte painting, set extensions, compositing and blood enhancements, just to name a few – would normally mean a lot of admin and management issues. Boublil explained that ftrack made these processes simple and straightforward – automatically informing him of progress made, allowing notes and reviews to be shared quickly and easily and keeping time-consuming admin to an absolute minimum.
“We were able to streamline the project using ftrack’s tools right out of the box,” he said, “It was very useful for approving shots, as the director was in the UK and we were handling the project from Berlin. It was very easy for us to manage all the steps along the way, sending the director regular client reviews for him to take a look at.
“In that time and with such a small team I don’t know how we’d have done it without the data and flexibility that ftrack gave us – and that was out of the box, before we’d even enhanced the API like we have today. Today it’s incredible how much more work we get done and how much time is saved on management because the pipeline in ftrack does it for us.”
Integration with creative tools
AUTOMATIK’s work on Sword of Vengeance involved tools like Photoshop – used for matte paintings, which were then projected in NUKE and Maya for 3D work. Again, integration with ftrack made this process quick and easy, meaning the work on blood simulations in the fluid and dynamics simulation RealFlow and match moving with PFTrack (no relation) and SynthEyes was as straightforward as it could be.
Getting the team to use ftrack was another smooth process, according to Boublil: “It’s very intuitive and is easy to start working in the pipeline almost immediately.”
Using Locations for global efficiencies
Part of the efficiency in ftrack was thanks to Locations – the built-in feature allowing users to share assets with anyone else in the world, regardless of where they are.
“We used Locations so we could transfer shots from one studio to the other just with one click of a button,” Boublil explained, “We can go into a shot that we’re working on, for example the match moving here in Berlin, and we want to send that to the London office – the pipelines are set up the same, so we can select the task and transfer it to London with just one click. It then transfers the asset with everything that’s needed to the other studio – the other side just accepts it, then they can open the shot directly with exactly the same directory structure.
“It’s a big advantage we have, especially as it means when we have a bit of downtime in Berlin we can pull in some shots from London and vice-versa – all without sending hard drives or files and finding out this is missing, or that is missing. Locations does it all for you. Everything you publish as it is in the shot will be transferred as is to the other location – it’s a very efficient feature.”
Locations is just part of the reason Boublil is such a fan of ftrack, and he maintained it was a huge reason behind the success of the Sword of Vengeance project.
“It’s all about saving time – how we can save time, how we can let artists make decisions,” he said, “The way ftrack sends data, creates folders for us, avoids naming convention problems because it’s all managed by the code in the back, you know exactly where to find everything you need. It’s just very easy.”
With ftrack proving such a success in its use on Sword of Vengeance, Boublil admits he’s become something of an evangelist for the product. “I really love the tool, I really love the interface,” he said, “Used straight out of the box it’s really powerful already – within a couple of days you’ve got a project up and running and you’re using it. You can access the talents, resources and services that are available within the Post Republic and AUTOMATIK production group. It’s as if we are all working in the same building. It’s a great bonus for the client too in being able to offer a targeted and efficient post production service.”
Power at their fingertips
Managing a large project with a small team and a tight timeframe didn’t dampen his spirits, either, and it’s thanks in a big part to the ease of use ftrack provides. “I have my review dashboard where I come in, click on the dash, and I have all the latest asset versions,” Boublil explained, “I can preview, put notes on and customise them right away. It really saves me time in how I see and review projects. I haven’t seen any difference in using ftrack on a show of 10 shots or 200.”
That reliability proved to be a big plus point for Boublil – though at the same time the ability to access ftrack’s projects from any location did mean he found it tough to get away from his work. “I can access it from anywhere and put in updates and feedback, which the artists have immediate access to; though I’m not actually sure if it’s so good for me at times…” he added, “On top of it all, we have good customer support, they listen to our comments and requests, they really go the extra mile to help us achieve what we want to achieve.”
How did AUTOMATIK integration with Locations come to pass? Using the expertise of Lorenzo Angeli – a veteran of development solutions and one of the best people to turn to in a situation like this.
AUTOMATIK’s London and Berlin offices needed to function together seamlessly on the same project, sharing data between the two – as well as being able to synchronise data via the web interface and follow a storage system that closely matched its old hard disk structure.
When Angeli started helping AUTOMATIK the team was just using ftrack as a shot-tracking system, without making use of the many plugin integrations available out of the box. He helped them create a custom solution – which ftrack provides – tailoring it as needed to match the client requirements for the show.
In Angeli’s own words: “What I did was to provide an off-the-shelf solution for the ftrack core and ftrack plugins, allowing all to be easily configurable for non-technical persons as well.”
Angeli founded Efesto Lab to fill a gap in the field of custom pipeline development for London’s major VFX companies, such as Framestore , MPC and Digital Domain. For over five years, Efesto has worked as lead developer with studios like these, helping to build multi-site pipelines and workflows.
Efesto Lab’s services are available to all small and medium companies which can’t afford the costs of in-house development or expertise, but want the bleeding-edge technologies the market provides. Efesto Lab provides everything from consultancy, through third-party software integration and customizations, to custom cut pipeline solutions from remote and on-site.
Angeli is one of ftrack’s approved integration partners and is available for integration projects. Get in touch to find out more. https://www.ftrack.com/integrations