In June this year, Autodesk acquired Shotgun Software. At the time, fxguide looked at what this could mean for both companies, and what could be in store for users of the popular production tracking software. Today Shotgun has released several updates with Shotgun 5.4, following on from an iPhone app and MARI and Flame integration - all completed since the Autodesk acquisition. We check in with Shotgun’s Senior Director Don Parker to hear about the Autodesk experience so far - which hasn’t all been smooth sailing - and what the newest updates involve.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Parker says. “What we set ourselves up for was kind of insane.” The insanity ranged from doubling the size of Shotgun’s team by literally combining two 30-person teams, yet still pushing out constant releases. “A lot of the guys at Autodesk had come from the world where they’re shipping one release a year, while we were just coming off shipping a release once a week for 10 weeks. When they heard that they were like, ‘what??’”

Annotations to concept art in Shotgun 5.4.
Annotations to concept art in Shotgun 5.4.

But Parker says, “we didn’t want to go dark for a year doing God knows what. We’ve all seen that happen.” In addition, there had been some suggestion that Shotgun would favor - or even only develop for - Autodesk products. “We knew there’d be sensitivity around whether we would only support Autodesk products. In fact, that’s one of the questions I asked!”

What did happen straight after the acquisition, however, was that the already-in-development iPhone app and Shotgun integration with The Foundry’s MARI became key product goals - both were ready by SIGGRAPH 2014 in August. Then at IBC this year, Autodesk showed Shotgun integration with Flame, a long sought after feature.

Parker admits the Flame work is a clear and obvious benefit of being part of Autodesk. “We had talked to Autodesk in the past and had looked at the API that was available,” he says. “But when we sat down with the Flame team it turned out they had been hearing a lot from their customers. It was on the top of their to-do list too. We greenlit that and worked on it together. They showed it at IBC and we shipped it. It’s in the latest release of Flame. It’s sort of opened up the floodgates of customers who use Flame talking to us now about what they want to do next.”

In the process, Parker says that the Shotgun and Autodesk marriage has not always been easy - from small things like different ticketing systems to larger cultural issues. “Some people ask me, ‘What does it feel like? Can you swear when you talk? Do they filter your emails for swear words?’ None of that is true of course. The Autodesk guys were, like, 'It feels like you have acquired us rather than us acquiring you.’ But I think what finally solved it for us was that we got everybody together for a full summit in September. Beer was probably the important ingredient!”

As had been forecast with the acquisition, Shotgun being part of Autodesk has meant having access to greater resources. “There’s a whole group that can figure out how to do localization in Japanese for us,” explains Parker. “We can leverage that. We can keep our focus on the ball in terms of shipping, shipping, shipping.”

Project tracking settings.
Project tracking settings.

In this newest Shotgun 5.4 release, several updates have been made, including:

- Shotgun Review now has higher quality streaming video, zoom and panning.

- Features for single PSD and image files have been incorporated. “We had been focused on movies and iterations of shots,” says Parker, “but we kept having art departments talk to us who dealt with high res images like PSD files. They wanted to upload a high-res PSD and be able to look at that - a still image and zoom way in and still annotate.”

- Thumbnails are now ‘smarter’, updating automatically to represent the newest version of your shot.

- More features that allow users to adapt Shotgun to their individual studio and database needs.

- Back-end optimization.

The future looks bright for further developments too, although Parker is somewhat cagey about what they might involve. Certainly there will be, he admits, more integration with Autodesk products. “We’re scheming and planning stuff for our clients - thinking about the future of Maya, for example. So yes we are absolutely going to do deeper projects together at Autodesk than we would have been able to do separately. But we still have awesome relationships with companies like The Foundry and Side Effects. It’s still us, just us a little bit super-powered.”

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