Shotgun Software announced their visual effects production tracking application, after 3,5 years of development, as a private beta.
I had the chance to test shotgun in production on two smaller projects in our studio. We used it to track tasks and versions between three branches. I would like to give you an idea about the capabilities of the application.
First some key features:

  • Cross platform/Web-based
  • Rapid task creation with customizable task templates
  • Flexible scheduling including giant-charts
  • Integrated messaging
  • Issue and bug tracking
  • Customizable home pages and project dashboards
  • Custom reports of live data
  • Tagging for fast and flexible organization
  • Customizable Page, Entities, Relations
  • Open Python API provides full CRUD access to all data

Shotgun allows you to track every “entity” of a typical visual effects production (shots, assets, versions etc.). There are a couple of predefined entities but you also have the possibility to create your own and link them to every other item in the system.
The heart of shotgun is the schedule which allows you to manage tasks linked to entities, which can be assigned to people or groups. The powerful filtering functionality allows you and everyone in the studio to look at the data and the schedule in the way you want to work with it.

Integration

Shotgun is the most open (out-of-the-box) production tracking application that we tested so far. It is really easy to integrate it into a pipeline. The application provides a python api but you can also access and write data using a xml-rpc interface. The api is well documented and allows access to all fields in the database. In a quick test, our r&d department was able to connect our versioning tools with the database in less than one day.

Usability

As I mentioned before, the application is extremely customizable. You can easily create own pages from entities (e.g. shots) and just add every possible connected date field to it (e.g. status summary).
Unfortunately the interface is not really self-explanatory yet. You definitely need some guidance to use the full potential of the application. They published some really nice tutorial videos on their website.

Conclusion

I think the current version is just the starting point. It seems like the  developers concentrated on building a reliable and especially adoptable and customizable system as a foundation to build on top of it.
In fact, it is one of the most customizable and flexible web applications I have ever used. It feels much more like a database management system, in which you can create your own application, then like an out of the box package.
The coolest thing about the application is the team behind it. Talking to the people who created it, feels like they really love what they do!
There are a couple of things I would love to see in future releases (mostly for producers and the management):

  • Printing features! (customizable layouts, etc)
  • Bidding and change order management/tracking
  • Costs management & controlling
  • Time-sheets (partly implemented)
  • (Management) summaries across projects
  • Resources leveling like in MsProject
  • Additional editorial features: edl import, scan orders, counts sheets, etc.
  • Project wiki and/or wiki pages per entity
  • Personal dashboards to present eg. all tasks and related notes accumulated on one page
  • Project dashboard with summarized data from several entities on one page (not spread over tabs)

Links

http://www.shotgunsoftware.com
Shotgun Tutorials