Company Bomper Studio
Website  bomperstudio.com
Location Caerphilly, Ireland

In-house projects are a great way to experiment, get creative, and decompress from client work. However, it can be tough to free up the time to work on them. Bomper Studio solved the problem with ftrack Studio. With the hard work of scheduling handled, Bomper could focus on the fun, creative, and exploratory side of its self-motivated project, ‘Coffee Run’.

Situated next to the medieval 13th Century castle in Caerphilly, a short drive out from Cardiff, it should come as no surprise that Bomper Studio takes its name from some characterful Welsh valley slang.

“Bomper means ‘big’ – as in, ‘That’s a bomper slice of pizza!'” begins Emlyn Davies, Executive Creative Director at Bomper. “It sums up what we’re all about: whether working in live-action VFX, hand-crafted animation, hyperreal CG – or anything in-between – we like our work to be big, bold, and bomper!”

Founded in 2014, Bomper’s in-house artists, illustrators, animators, art directors, and producers now create striking brand work for household names like Levi’s, Glenfiddich, Tesco, Tropicana, and Carlsberg. “Our credo is to embrace our natural curiosity and challenge our ambitions,” says Davies. “We play with mediums and formats, try new things, and like to have fun along the way.”

This experimental philosophy paved the way for ‘Coffee Run’ – an internal, self-motivated project with three aims: to learn new skills outside of the constraints of a client project, to expand the studio pipeline, and to have a ton of fun in doing so. The only catch was where to carve out time to work on Coffee Run, within a schedule already packed with other pressing client projects. And that’s where ftrack Studio came in.

Emlyn Davies

Founder & Executive Creative Director

Julia Britton

Production Coordinator

Bomper Studio

“The level of customizability means you can make ftrack your own.”

The benefits of internal projects

Why work on something like Coffee Run when it doesn’t add to the company coffers? The benefits are many.

“For us, the best way to test anything new is to invest our own time and money and do it in-house,” says Davies. “We get total creative freedom, and our artists can explore the areas of production where they don’t often get to ply their skills – all with less risk than if it were a live job.”

One area that Bomper’s artists felt deserved more exploration was storytelling through 3D character animation. The studio asked its artists to pitch ideas for a two-minute short with one character, environment, and scene. Coffee Run was a chosen – the somewhat biographical story of a hard-pressed protagonist making an elaborate coffee round for his colleagues.

“Pushing our craft and love for animation has been amazing to oversee throughout this project,” says Davies. “We’ve been able to explore and develop the talents of the team in highly specialist programs, including Cinema 4D, ZBrush, Substance Designer, and Houdini for hair simulations. We also learned so much about the dark art of rigging, deforming the character in novel ways to achieve 2D cartoon-style smears in 3D.”

In the production sense, Coffee Run served as an excellent testbed for a new production pipeline bolstered by ftrack Studio. “Before Coffee Run, we had several projects run through the ftrack platform, but largely motion graphics and 2D projects,” says Davies. “Coffee Run gave us the chance to see how ftrack Studio would stand up to a full CGI animation project from concept to completion – and it performed magnificently.”

Making time with ftrack Studio

Whereas Bomper can meticulously schedule and tackle client-driven work, Coffee Run presented a different kind of challenge. The studio could only afford time at varying – and often unpredictable – gaps in-between live studio projects. And that can cause problems.

An irregular schedule is hugely detrimental to creative flow: you can lose track of who completed what and when, forget which tasks have the highest priority, and suffer a communication breakdown that impacts on quality. However, with ftrack Studio, Bomper could still take a “divide and conquer” approach to its work, even when the time available for that work wasn’t easily identifiable.

“Typically, taking such a ‘use the time when you have it’ approach, would make work more dispersed and confusing – but ftrack Studio led the team to completion,” says Davies. “It presented us with an accessible hub that handily enabled team members to check in on the status of artists, shots, and assets. We could do things like group unassigned tasks by type and then make them available to the whole production team. They were then able to pick up tasks and assign themselves as their availability allowed.

“Personalised dashboards also empowered users to zone into the area or the types of tasks that concerned their work. And using ftrack’s filters, our production coordinator, Julia Britton, could check on certain types of tasks and get a clear picture of progress at any time they wanted. They could even think ahead and identify potential problems before they arose, something that would usually be very difficult on a passion project.”

The result was a team that remained on the same page – even when, most of the time, they were jumping between different books.

“The ease with which you can catch up on the latest versions of assets keeps you in the loop,” says Britton.”With ftrack Studio, you can stop, take a break, then come back and immediately re-immerse yourself in the project.”

Going deeper

Internal review sessions were also pivotal to this new, somewhat irregular, approach to production.

“The ability to add annotations or reference on a timeline to feedback to artists, using ftrack Studio’s media review tools, made things every intuitive and efficient,” says Britton. “We could also do things like queue up shots in a sequence, which made continuity a breeze. That helped to highlight any issues between shots early on in production, meaning we could fix them in layout or blocking. It solved a lot of potential headaches upfront.”

Before ftrack Studio, Bomper would need to output all files, then edit them within After Effects to achieve this result. “With ftrack’s media review tools, we could queue sequentially and also apply feedback, which all artists could see. That meant there were no communication errors – and communication is king when you’re working in this way.”

Bomper also explored some of ftrack Studio’s deeper customizability, with the help of Bumpybox’s technical director Toke Jepson.

“Using ftrack Studio’s Python API, we fine-tuned the sign-off stage of our production pipeline, making every new version upload trigger an automatic sign-off process,” says Britton. “The process also assigned relevant parties to the task, sending over the new version and an automated notification that work was ‘Pending Review’.

“With everyone in the studio working on the same project but at different times, this process became vital to ensuring that completed work was reviewed swiftly, and thus prevented major roadblocks at other stages in the pipeline.”

A bomper production pipeline

ftrack Studio enabled Bomper to not only run Coffee Run successfully from start to end; it’s also supported the company’s broader plans to scale-up from stills and motion graphics to short CGI films with multiple sequences.

“ftrack has proven essential during this leap of faith for our studio,” says Emlyn Davies. “In this kind of rapid-growth scenario, things can change very quickly. But ftrack made Bomper’s new venture and pipeline a smooth and enjoyable process. And amazingly, no one fell out during the whole project!

“ftrack Studio is the natural successor to the trusted spreadsheet. You can keep it simple and familiar, or you can dive into the more in-depth features. The level of customizability means you can make ftrack your own and get from it precisely what you need.

“In our case, it keeps us well and truly “Bomper’.”

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