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Shotgun Facilitates 300 Remote Artists for ‘The Squonk’ Short

Berlin-based filmmaker Jannis Funk relies on Shotgun to manage a team of 300 remote VFX artists, a library of 900 miniature models, and overall production tracking and review.

LOS ANGELES -- Short film, The Squonk, is the brainchild of Jannis Funk (co-writer and producer) and Mike Bothe (co-writer and director), and is based on a 19th century American folktale about the eponymous woodland monster. Originally a student project and now a passion project, Berlin-based Funk has recruited over 300 remote visual effects artists since principal photography in 2012 to donate their time and expertise to the film. Shotgun has been key throughout the process, from initial planning through production tracking and review.

The Squonk began in 2011 as Funk’s thesis project at Film University Babelsberg. Funk adopted Shotgun during the early planning stages, using it as a database to plan each shot and associated tasks. The entire film was storyboarded, previsualized, and loaded into Shotgun before principal photography even began. VFX Supervisor Timor Kardum of also used Shotgun to note how long each task would take and how difficult it would be, which helped Funk during the artist recruiting process as he was able to give potential artists an accurate idea of the tasks, and assign tasks that they would realistically be able to fulfill.

Principal photography began in 2012 and included a 150 square foot life size set against a blue screen. Following the shoot, the crew constructed various miniature sets, and 900 individual elements, mostly miniature trees, to use as the basis for background replacements. Each tree was photographed at different angles and in different lighting situations, then added to a “tree library” in Shotgun. Artists could then easily sort by lighting situation and choose which element would work best on a shot-by-shot basis.

Funk shared, “We’ve been lucky enough to get volunteers from Framestore, Double Negative, Digital Domain, Scanline, Weta; lots of people who already work in these top facilities pulling long days and then they’re nice enough to go home and work on The Squonk. Shotgun has been the backbone for our project, it has made it possible to realize a production at this scale and with this environment of international artists working remotely.”

Shotgun is also the center of Funk’s review process. The project’s VFX phase is now 89% complete, and the film is on track to be completed this year. With 220 total shots, 153 of those VFX shots, an efficient review process for the dispersed team is key.

“When you work remotely and you can’t get together with your team and look at the same screen and point at what’s in front of you, the Shotgun Review system is really helpful to immediately make notes right in the browser,” explained Funk. “Our director of photography lives in Switzerland now, our director is in Hawaii, Timor and I are in Berlin, and we can all comment on the same version as soon as it’s uploaded. I don’t know how that would be possible without Shotgun.”

Source: Shotgun Software