ftrack has announced that they will be releasing version 3.2 of its software this summer. New features include Nuke Studio integration, Actions, chat features, and release of their updated API. We take a first look at these features.
Nuke Studio Integration
The team at ftrack has been working to bring a tight integration with The Foundry's Nuke Studio. This actually ends up blurring the line between the file system and the assetized workflow within ftrack. "Whatever you do today in the file system based world, you can now do with ftrack and you don't have to worry about the file system anymore," says Pengelly-Phillips.
Within Nuke Studio, artists can create the ftrack project right from the timeline. For each shot in the sequence that needs any kind of work, the artist or producer can assign the appropriate task via tags, such as Compositing, Animation, Lighting, Editing, FX, or others. The project settings will take their cue from the sequence in Nuke.
Then, once the project is created, the various shots and tasks appear in ftrack, at which point artists may be assigned the tasks. Within Nuke Studio, a new track will have been created with Nuke script placeholders for the final shots. Any footage from the file system from read nodes is assetized in ftrack and the read nodes reference that asset automatically.
Once the shot-based artist is done working on the scene, they can publish back the shot along with a thumbnail plus annotations and comments if necessary.
New Crew Tab with Chat and Notifications Features
Debuting first in Nuke Studio is ftrack's new crew tab with chat and notifications functionality, a feature which will expand to other applications in the future. The functionality works hand in hand with task assignment, with individual Nuke artists receiving notifications that they have been provided with a task.
The notification system also allows developers to extend the functionality via actions attached to a notification. For instance, when the artist is provided with a notification that they've been assigned a shot, they could directly launch the script right from the notification panel. Back on the Nuke Studio system, if the artist attempts to open a shot that is being worked on by another artist, they will receive a notification that the shot is open on another system.
Another example might be that one of the scenes in Nuke Studio has been updated in some way -- say the in and out points have been changed. This artist would be presented with a notification of the change along with a button that would allow them to update the shot with a single click.
The crew tab also provides a view of artists working on a particular shot. A coordinator or a producer can be looking at a shot that's been submitted, and they can see in a panel that instead of being finaled there are a couple of artists still working on that shot. It would allow the producer to open up the chat and check with artists to see what they were doing and why the shot wasn't finished.
"People are automatically grouped as they come online," explains Pengelly-Phillips. "If I am working on my comp, and one of the inputs that I have is from a lighting guy, and then when that lighting guy comes online, I can see that they are there, and it'll automatically classify them as a collaborator, because they contribute into the work in my scene."
For the chat system, ftrack is building in support for the video conferencing service room. Room is a service which has found a following due to it's price (free) and it's ease of integration with chat provider Slack. It supports Chrome and Firefox web browsers as well as iOS. It supports video chats with up to four people at the same time, along with screen sharing support. The nice thing about Room is that as long as a person is using a supported web browser (or iOS app), there is no need to download additional software or sign up for an account at Room. And with iOS support, vfx supervisors or producers on location can more easily take part in reviews and discussions remotely.
Chats can be started from within the crew tab or the ftrack web interface.
ftrack's overview of the new Nuke Studio integration
Actions are python scripts which are somewhat like plugins and allow users to extend the functionality of ftrack in a very native looking way. "The nice thing is that they can really tightly integrate extensions such as generating reports, or creating filesystem structures on desks," says ftrack's Martin Pengelly-Phillips, "but it appears directly within the ftrack web interface, and it feels very much part of the product."
ftrack aims to ship several examples with the software, including a PDF storyboard creation action, a Google Sheets export, a review comments summary, and more. They will also have a section on their web site for sharing actions, which aims to encourage others to share their actions and create a place where people can download and install these actions easily.
One important aspect of Actions is that they are context aware so that users will only see actions in the UI which are applicable to their current context. For instance, if a producer is working in a review session, they might want to run an action which pulls a report on all comments made during the review. But an artist might not need this functionality so they would never see this as an available action.
Programmers have the ability to modify the UI for each action, deciding what to present to the artist or producer -- this could be standard form text entry fields or pulldown menus. An example might be to add an entry box for an email address that would allow a pdf to be sent to someone via email.
The implementation of actions allows them to run not just on the main server, but also on the client machine, via the dedicated ftrack app, or even a dedicated actions service. Within the ftrack app, users can install Actions or even browse online Permissions can be made on an action-by-action basis (via API key permissions) which provides more flexibility in distributing processing in a sensible way. In addition to setting the context in which actions may be run, programmers can also restrict access to actions based upon user roles or even specific user names.
ftrack's overview video covering Actions
In the current version of the track API, some things programmers would like to do are either too slow or simply not possible because it does not cover all functionality present in ftrack. So with the new API, the aim was first and foremost to speed things up considerably and that's been accomplished.
But perhaps more importantly for production, programmers need to have access to most if not all operations which are present in the ftrack web UI. In other words, if an artist or producer can click on a button and get something done, it also needs to be doable via code. The new API provides much greater coverage of the entire system and, perhaps more importantly, it makes it easier to add API functionality alongside new features in ftrack.. In fact, the way the team has implemented the API, it actually makes it more difficult to add a feature without API support than it does to include it.
It was also critical to the team at ftrack to retain the intuitiveness of the API, since this is one of the strengths of ftrack as viewed by their customers. In other words, they liked the existing API...they just wanted it to be faster and more flexible.
For the foreseeable future, ftrack will maintain compatibility with the previous API as much as possible. They are well aware of the fact that it will take time for facilities to rewrite their code and don't want their current scripts breaking. Using the new system, Pengelly-Phillips hopes facilities "can delete lots of code, because the new API simplifies the whole thing. Actually, we've got clients that are working with it in detail, and they're very much very happy and saying, it's not too much of a transition."
Some of the new functionality will only exist in the new API so if facilities want to implement these features they'll need to utilize the new one. One could consider that a significant carrot to entice them to move over to the new API.
ftrack expects the release to ship sometime during the northern hemisphere's summer. If you're at NAB, you can check out some of the new functionality at the Foundry's tech preview at booth SL6329.
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