Sweden’s ftrack , a project management platform for the creative, visual effects and animation industries has announced version 3.0 and will be showing previews at the SIGGRAPH 2014  conference in Vancouver, August 11-14. Working closely with existing customers including The Mill, Cinesite, MPC Commercials and ZeroVFX, ftrack has focused on enhancing an already intuitive workflow while expanding the tools for multi-location pipelines and deeper integration with key VFX software packages.
The 3.0 release will provide numerous new features and improvements, including a further refined user interface and a focus on collaborative workflows with seamless asset syncing between multiple locations and the introduction of global filters to quickly narrow scope.
- New features – Additional features include improved time tracking tools for artists and review and approval tools to allow outside clients to annotate and communicate efficiently with production.
- Pipeline integration – Deeper pipeline integration includes a more robust API and a standalone publishing application that has been designed to allow quick and easy publishing outside of any host application.
- Collaboration and integration work – Working with key software partners will also see deeper forthcoming integration with Thinkbox Software’s Deadline, Imagineer Systems’ Mocha and Cospective’s Cinesync. In addition, ftrack is collaborating with The Mill on development of plug-ins for NUKE and HIERO to provide a smoother, more intuitive experience for artists using ftrack in these applications.
The version 3.0 announcement comes in the wake of recent major client adoptions; The Mill has selected ftrack as its worldwide production management solution across all of its studios in the UK and USA, while Germany HQ’d Mackevision has purchased a site license and migrated all of its existing production management tools over to ftrack for both its design visualization and VFX projects.
Fredrik Limsater, CEO of ftrack comments: “We are committed to developing an easy-to-use, intuitive solution for all aspects of production management and are excited to share many roadmap features forthcoming in version 3.0. We’re well aware of the growing industry trend towards projects utilizing both production and creative resources in multiple locations and have designed ftrack 3.0 to sit as a seamless solution within this environment.”
The ftrack platform offers many benefits to anyone working in a visually-led production environment and is now being used by a variety of customers around the world, doing anything from high-end commercials, design visualization, episodic TV and films, through to independent shorts, rides and games.
MPC LA are the latest large commercials customer to pick up ftrack to manage the production of its heavy roster of spots running through its pipeline. At one time there are around 15-20 commercials in production at the renowned facility, many of them CG heavy, with multiple teams working on shots in both the Los Angeles and Bangalore offices.
“On commercials projects having the organization in place to ensure they run smoothly is so important,” notes Jonathan Vaughn, head of effects and CG supervisor at MPC in Los Angeles. “Often your timeline on a project could be two or three weeks and during that time and you can really easily lose track of where things are and what’s going on. Communication is not always the best in commercials. With ftrack it’s almost like you’re communicating and you don’t even know it. Because you have this easy-to-access place where everyone can go in and view all the assets in a simple format. Not only internally, but to be able to globally keep on top of exactly what everyone is doing is just priceless.”
The Mill is another huge commercials powerhouse that’s currently in the process of implementing the solution at it’s worldwide locations. The Mill has sites in London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago where each location has the ability to run the same project with an identical toolset. They often have several hundred commercials online simultaneously across the four installations and this workflow volume presents significant organisational and tracking issues.
Dave Levy, Group CG Technology Director at The Mill comments: “After evaluating numerous options, The Mill chose ftrack as its worldwide production management tool for several reasons. It presents a well designed, easy to use interface that both artist and producers can quickly pick up and understand while also providing a robust back-end infrastructure and deep API that allows for custom integration in our pipeline. In a commercials environment with tight deadlines and multi-user, multi-studio collaboration, ftrack provides a solution that will allow us to make more efficient use of our talent and resources when delivering jobs.”
Plug-in collaboration with The Mill
“Working with ftrack’s engineering team, we’ve developed a suite of plug-ins that integrate fully within our digital content creation applications to allow artists to publish, launch and share all aspects of their projects. Versions of these plug-ins will be made available through ftrack to their user community. The team at ftrack fully understands our distributed model. We use per site utility servers, which must be able to perform local heavy lifting but still be recognized as part of a global common structure,” Levy explains.
ftrack for visualization
Outside of commercials, Mackevision has opted for ftrack for it’s 250+ strong global team of artists and designers. The company are market leaders in 3D visualization, animation and visual effects for film, print and interactive media, with a high volume of their work focused on creating photoreal configurators for clients like Mercedes. They also happen to do award-winning VFX work on a little-known TV show called Game of Thrones.
Speaking of the recent adoption, Thorsten Kaufmann, Production Pipeline Architect at Mackevision explains: “We went through a really detailed evaluation, exploring three options; modernizing our in-house database, rolling out Shotgun globally or striking a new path with ftrack. It would have taken at least one year of development to catch up with all user requests for our system and while Shotgun is of course a good tool we felt that they were more focused on VFX company customers and that the platform would not totally support the special needs of a company with so diverse projects and clients like us. The cost of ftrack was also just far lower than developing our own solution or going with Shotgun.”
Commenting on the benefits of the ftrack platform Kaufmann continues: “ftrack has a modern and responsive UI that is flexible enough to support both traditional VFX workflows and other types of workflows and team organizations. The initial setup of projects is easy to learn and the support team is fast and efficient and always willing to help. The Locations framework and upcoming additions to it will also give us the ability to manage asset availability across different offices, which is key for us as a global company.
Film and television work
Soho-based post production house, Lipsync has been operating since 2006 and has now also picked up ftrack for its team of 30 artists and producers. The company has worked on big name film and TV including Total Recall and Kick Ass 2 and the BBC drama Great Expectations.
Sal Umerji, Head of VFX at Lipsync Post explains: “We needed a very flexible asset tracking system without building one ourselves as we are a small studio and we only have a few number of developers. Before ftrack we were literally using excel spreadsheets and filemaker. the thing I really love about ftrack is that it can literally handle any kind of workflow you throw at it, and for us it’s a great tool for client review.
In the coming few months Lipsync has number of large episodic shows to work on. Umerji continues: “ftrack will help us keep track of all assets for each episode as well as overall show projects and the reports it allows us to generate will be incredibly useful in production meetings so we can quickly see which episodes or shows need more resources.”
Users interested in seeing a Siggraph preview or in participating in the 3.0 beta can contact firstname.lastname@example.org . ftrack will also be hosting a happy hour/demo on Tuesday, Aug 12th from 4-6pm at Rogue Wetbar & Kitchen by the Vancouver Convention Center.