Image Engine taps remote ShotGrid pipeline for VFX on ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’

How the VFX studio has been using a custom ShotGrid pipeline during remote working.

For the anticipated return of Marvel anti-hero Venom to the big screen, Image Engine recently pivoted its workforce of more than 280 artists and production team members to a fully remote, virtual pipeline. With roots in developing fantastical creature effects, the Vancouver-based VFX powerhouse has been crafting cinematic visual artistry since working with Director Neill Blomkamp on District 9 more than a decade ago. Today, the studio’s project workloads span motion picture and episodic VFX, with team members across departments leveraging a custom ShotGrid pipeline to manage artist resources, timelines, and budgets.

At the onset of the pandemic, Central Production Manager Melissa Gray helped oversee the transition to a remote pipeline to deliver VFX for Venom: Let There Be Carnage. While the team previously used ShotGrid primarily for streamlining communication, shifting to a fully remote workflow created a greater reliance on the production management toolset. Today Image Engine depends on ShotGrid to manage schedules, dailies, and notes—enabling them to keep projects and departments on track throughout everyday operations from home. The studio also uses ShotGrid to manage deliveries and keep track of artists’ work and assets as they pass between departments, without production management teams ever needing to log in to artist DCCs.

To manage incoming project workloads for the facility, Gray plays a key role during the bidding process as bids are nearing the award stage. She shared, “The most complex aspect of my job is making sense of bids that come through, in terms of actual resources required. What does 500 days of environment entail, in terms of the number of individual artists needed each day and how much of their time? Should we move this artist into a different role? Do we need to bring on more artists? It’s like a Tetris game to make schedules interlock, and it requires ample communication to sort out the specific logistics.”

As the lines continue to blur between traditional feature film and episodic effects, resource planning is more critical than ever for facilities like Image Engine to deliver projects on time and on budget.

Gray recently participated in testing working prototypes of ShotGrid’s new Resource Planning views—which help improve scheduling workflows by allowing producers and management teams to easily optimize artist resources and scale for growing workloads. She added, “My job revolves around resource planning, so any tool that will take out some of the manual work that we’re doing will be incredibly beneficial. Every facility seems to use a different tool for resource planning, which makes it difficult for creating standards across the industry – having this tool in ShotGrid will help facilities and productions run more efficiently.”

Looking ahead, Image Engine is continuing to evolve to accommodate the new ways of working that were accelerated by the pandemic. Now that filming on location with massive groups of people is no longer an option for many productions, clients are coming to Image Engine to develop digital worlds and vast environments. As the company continues to build on its virtual production offerings, ShotGrid will continue to keep the studio’s pipeline running smoothly.

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