Stationed in the National Space Centre in Leicester, England, NSC Creative
is a computer animation studio specializing in immersive experiences for fulldome, stereoscopic 3D and virtual reality (VR). Its 20-person team delivers projects for planetariums, corporations and theme parks, and also provides VR training and consulting. Entrenched in an industry where pipeline speed and efficiency are vital to keeping up with client demands, NSC is always on the lookout for ways to improve creative workflows.
“Being able to adopt new technology quickly is crucial in the fast-changing world of immersion,” shared NSC VFX Supervisor Aaron Bradbury, who brought Shotgun, the scalable software platform for production tracking, review and asset management, in-house five years ago. “I first heard about Shotgun as we’d just started project for the Cairo Children’s museum. It was getting harder to manage the team’s schedule, and I knew we’d need a big project management tool or everything would buckle. Shotgun was the perfect solution.”
In Bradbury’s eyes, Shotgun integration marked a huge turning point for the facility. Presently all media is loaded to Shotgun for review and everyone uses it – whether uploading or setting up shots, reviewing shots or commenting on them. “If a director asks for something to be bigger, the only way we can be sure it’s done is through Shotgun. With notes in notebooks, things get missed, but when it’s in Shotgun it’s all there and laid out nicely,” shared Bradbury. “Our artists love the Media App because they can see everyone’s work in one place and annotate. It’s a centralized point for checking out what’s happening on every project and super awesome when sitting with artists and talking about their reviews on different parts of a shot.”
Shotgun complements NSC’s existing toolset which is used across projects and includes Adobe Creative Suite; Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya; The Foundry’s Nuke; the Unity 3D engine and Thinkbox Software’s Deadline, Krakatoa and Frost. The company has also developed proprietary tools like Revolve, for rendering images and videos in 3ds Max to a VR headset, and Portal, a real-time engine to review immersive environments.
When NSC recently took on a theme park attraction for Cinecitta in Italy – essentially a 15K stereoscopic immersive tunnel that takes the audience on a wild ride through space – Bradbury and the team stayed apprised of tasks and progress in Shotgun to turn it around in three weeks. Both Shotgun and RV also proved important tools for NSC’s work on the soon-to-be-released 360° project We Are Stars.
NSC continues to uncover new capabilities in Shotgun. While updating a fulldome promotional video, they discovered that they could review previs in Shotgun on the dome theatre. Historically the team had to be at workstations, typing responses, annotating shots and sharing feedback with artists, but now they can stream 4Kx4K images from the system or load up a browser window and view them in real-time on the dome. “Shotgun has been really great for reviewing shots,” added Bradbury. “We can crop an image to where the fish eye video would play, then draw and annotate on the frame using a laptop while inside the dome. It’s fantastic, because we can see where the line exists in 3D space. It makes editorial decisions much easier.”
From the very beginning, Shotgun’s approach to development and support stood out to Bradbury and continues to. “You feel a personality with Shotgun, and they’re forward-thinking in the way they approach technology and support,” he expressed. “I love how they’ll reach out to us just to see how things are going. It’s impressive because artists aren’t always the first to report issues, so by reaching out they’re opening a forum for us to provide feedback.”