As we are right now in the development phase for the second generation of our in-house vfx production management tool, I did a little research on the web to see what’s out there. I was researching to get some inspiration, but also to double check if there is really no package that would fulfill our needs or which could be integrated into our existing production pipeline. What I was looking for is a production management tool for the visual effects industry, focusing on project and information management. Originally something that is “more then a shot database”. I would like to share the list of tools that I found and I would be super-happy to get some links or feedback from you! The list is in now way meant to judge over the tool. It is just a list of links, thoughts and ideas.
“Showrunner” is the Ultimate Visual Effects Project Management Tool.”
It is Filemaker based and seems to target especially freelance producers and production managers. It has functionalities to work out budgets and assist with I/O related stuff. It is not possible to manage more the one project with a single installation of Showrunner.
Showrunner was some years ago an inspiration for our current in house tool, which is also based on Filemaker. Their is a free and a Pro-version for 99$ available.
“Shotrunner is an online web application for collaborating on and tracking the production of VFX shots and other production assets. It enables collaboration across a distributed post-production team. It allows independent producers to breakdown and organize shows, communicate, assign and track work, and track assets.”
What I really like is the web based approach and that the developer had a collaborative approach for distributed teams over the internet in mind. The tool seams to be heavily under development. Unfortunately there is no online demo, yet? I think that it is – even though it is in a very early stage of development and has to proof itself in production first – the most interesting approach so far.
Missing Link
“The web-based software Production Kit is an innovative solution designed for a better workflow and an efficient project management, especially when dealing with company wide or distributed content creation. This can be the case, if for example more than two parties are involved in an international co-production.”
Missing Link is focusing on workflows within a production and is based on a quite interesting approval and documentation concept.
Unfortunately their is no price list on the website but I think that costs are higher then 10.000€/year?
“For several years, idagrove|filmeffects has put much effort into the development of a database system, which manages information, quotes and workflows within visual effects projects, increasing transparency and efficiency at every point in time.”
Mathilda has a quite similar approach as showrunner. It is focusing on managing single projects and thereby should be most interesting for freelance supervisors, producers and production managers. Mathilda is clearly the tool with the most advanced budgeting and controlling functionalities in the list. The Producer license of Mathilda costs 1.899€ (3000$)
Most of the listed tool could perfectly fulfill the needs for managing smaller and bigger shows. Except of Missing Link, all the packages seems to mainly target freelance producers as they do not provide any functionality for their integration into an existing production pipeline or to share data with standard ERP systems like SAP.
What I miss in the listed systems:

  • Nearly all of them are limited to the management of single projects.
  • It is not possible to share/manage resources across projects
  • Almost no integration into an existing production pipeline (Editorial, Render Management, Department communication)
  • No connection to existing ERP software
  • No integration into LDAP Directories or Active Directory to easily maintain user information
  • Most of the systems seem to work as a black box. This stands in contradiction to the idea of a (vfx) production pipeline in which tools are integrated by exchanging data with each other or a central instance (e.g. a database)
  • I know this seems secondary to most producers but the user interface (design) of nearly all listed packages is really mediocre 😉 (to offensive)

I think it would be super interesting to start an open source approach/project to develop standards, concepts and the tools to manage projects and information within a company and between different vendors working together on a visual effects project.