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How Autodesk ShotGrid Streamlined Production Management for Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchi

ShadowMachine has shared how it used Autodesk ShotGrid to manage the production of Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio highlighting how the program facilitated the streamlining of its operations.

A US-based animation and production studio ShadowMachine is known for a number of popular franchises, including Robot Chicken, BoJack Horseman, and Tuca & Bertie. While the studio is primarily focused on episodic production, it also worked on Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio animation stop-motion film, released by Netflix in late 2022, which it considers its most ambitious project to date.

Most recently, ShadowMachine shared how it used Autodesk ShotGrid to manage the production of the movie revealing how the software helped oversee the production of the film and highlighting how the program facilitated the streamlining of its operations.

According to ShadowMachine art production manager Whitney Schmerber, the project required meticulous management of 99 different sets, hundreds of physical parts, characters, and their components. Knowing this extensive quantity of production assets that would need to be tracked, the studio decided to implement Autodesk ShotGrid ahead of production to streamline project management. 

"Paperwork tends to get lost, so we needed a way to store it all digitally for quick reference. In ShotGrid, we never delete old versions. All our assets are available and labeled to ensure we've got their history and processes documented where possible," Schmerber said. "For us, ShotGrid is an encyclopedia of everything in the feature, down to the tiniest wood shavings."

ShadowMachine said it made sure to maintain ShotGrid as a single source of truth by promptly adding the artists' work to the software. In the initial stages of production, this involved sharing concept art and character designs, followed by technical designs, which would guide the sculptors in creating the puppets.

Sets also required technical designs and concept art, along with reference images for refining the intricate details. After gathering creative data and status information in ShotGrid, the team proceeded to sculpt the real objects for filming.

To simplify scheduling, ShadowMachine categorized builds by size (small, medium, and large) and designed ShotGrid task templates. After this process was complete, the work was sent to the set design, prop design, and graphic design departments.

A tech check was conducted, during which department heads reviewed the drafts to identify any significant potential design and functionality issues. Meanwhile, the art director created a build bible that contained all the necessary documents to prepare the shops and manage the fabrication schedule. The primary objective was to ensure that everything was built correctly and aligned with the filming schedule.

During production, besides the art production manager, the assistant camera operators had the most interaction with the software and would frequently upload the day's photography into the database. Storyboard artists also contributed content to the system. In post-production, editors utilized ShotGrid to import sequences directly, ensuring that the latest version of the film was being worked on and that the statuses were updated.

The global pandemic temporarily shuttered the studio mid-project, and the team had to adjust to working from home. Without an art director available to check on physically built assets, the team resorted to capturing pictures with their phones.

To ensure a seamless transition, ShotGrid became an essential tool as the team did not want to miss any critical details during the switch to remote work. The studio used ShotGrid to itemize each task, allowing Schmerber to manage asset assignments, completion timelines, and reference needs for the 54-person crew. She also oversaw physical asset transit between artists' homes.

"ShotGrid gave us a solution to lean into and track our processes. There’s no way we could have finished 'Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio' without it," Schmerber concluded.

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