Autodesk previewed what it called the "Future of Production Management" at its user event at Autodesk University last week in the form of three new technologies foreseen in future versions of Shotgun.
The three functions – Story-in-Context, Generative Scheduling and Asset Lifecycle Management – link the production tracking system with the schedules of the editorial software, introduce project planning based on machine learning and apply approaches based on the CAD and BIM services from Autodesk based VFX and games work.
Story-in-Context: Integration of shotgun into timelines of editing tools like Premiere Pro
Perhaps the easiest is Story-in-Context, an attempt to improve support for editorial timelines in Shotgun using Pixar's new OpenTimelineIO open standard.
It's based on a custom Premiere Pro plug-in developed by X2X Labs during production on Terminator: Dark Fate to automatically cut VFX recordings into editorial timelines.
In an article in Post, VFX editor Jon Carr describes the tool Shotgun uses to track metadata, versioning and retrieve footage as "like magic".
Not only does the plugin speed up editing of recordings – a significant time saver on large projects – it also allows VFX artists to view their work in competition with the latest editing.
Autodesk now plans to bring "a deeper edit timeline integration" into Shotgun, including the option to transfer on-set data directly from Premiere Pro to Shotgun.
Generative Planning: Automatically prioritize thousands of production tasks
Next up is Generative Scheduling, a machine learning-based system for automating production planning.
It enables users to "create a production plan – the tasks, their resource requirements, dependencies, and time constraints – and create complete actionable schedules that are optimized for resource use".
Interestingly, no historical data is required, either from the studio using it or from other studios in previous productions – or any training data at all.
Autodesk describes it as "using a bespoke evolutionary calculation engine that learns how to make the decisions a production manager would make" to find an optimal solution for a particular plan.
The technology it is based on, Consilium, was developed by former Autodesk senior architect Phil Petersen, who sold it to Autodesk earlier this year and has now returned to the company full-time.
(Despite the name, there is no connection to the Australian AI company Consilium Technology.)
The system was tested in production by the stop-motion studio LAIKA in its film work.
"The first time we successfully got a schedule from Consilium back in Shotgun was a big 'aha moment'," said Pipeline TD Michael Nowakowski. "Instead of manually balancing 12,000 tasks, we could just push a button and get a scheduled round-trip trip to the shotgun."
Autodesk now plans to integrate Consilium directly with Shotgun, and says it will "keep its eyes open" to take advantage of the technology outside of the company's M&E software.
Asset Life Cycle Management: Cloud-based asset management with a comprehensive range of functions for entertainment purposes
The ultimate technology, asset lifecycle management, also transcends domain boundaries within Autodesk.
The system is based on Forge, the company's suite of cloud-based developer tools previously used primarily by AEC and manufacturing companies to develop web services based on Autodesk APIs.
Autodesk describes it as "secure, fully functional … asset management in the cloud".
In the presentation at Autodesk University, Sarah Hodges, Associate at Autodesk, described the system as automating dependency management, assembler assembly, and part of the communication process.
"The platform will automatically create and update your scene file with all of its dependencies," she said.
“Now imagine someone else is working on the same asset. The platform manages its changes for you, incorporates them, and updates the scene while your own work is preserved. "
"(When) you are ready to share your own work, the platform helps with the review. It ensures that the correct versions of all assets are included and that pipeline quality checks are performed to notify all downstream employees."
Of the three technologies, it appears to be the earliest in development. Autodesk only started building the "necessary infrastructure" earlier this year and is now "working hard to get it into the hands of beta testers."
Prices and availability
Autodesk has not announced any release dates for any of the technologies featured at Autodesk University. According to the company, all technologies are in a “technology preview or in an early stage of development”.
The current production setup, Shotgun 8.18, costs $ 30 per account per month for an "Awesome" account and $ 50 / account / month for a "Super Awesome" account, which offers additional security and support options.
For more information on Generative Scheduling and Asset Lifecycle Management, see the Autodesk blog
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