Posts in Cerebro

CASE STUDY: RUSSIAN FILM GROUP CORPORATION

2018/11/14 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: RUSSIAN FILM GROUP CORPORATION”

We have new amazing stories from Cerebro customers. This time, we talked to the film producer, director Alexey A. Petrukhin, and VFX producer Maria Zaykovskaya from the Russian Film Group Corporation about the release of the Viy sequel, their experience with film production in China, and further plans.

Alexey, tell us how you started your career in the cinema industry. Your first higher education was in management economics in sport, the second was in law, a PhD in juridical science. At what point in this story did cinematography come into play? Was it your childhood dream — to bring some good into the world?

Alexey Petrukhin: That was strongly put. People don’t often say that filmmaking is a mission. For me, it all started as a bit of fun. All things you’ve mentioned are a certain background, my life experience, the kind that was received at the time when the country was being rebuilt after the collapse, and it gave me potential. Among other things, it gave me decent income that allowed me to come in contact with the magic of cinema. To be fair though, back then it was mostly vanity-induced. It was only later that I understood that cinema is not just entertainment, but a serious industry for any country.

Cinema creators are, essentially, as important as doctors. There are doctors that heal and doctors that do harm. Filmmakers have the same kind of responsibility. You can bring something good and kind into the world with your film, inspire people — that’s what films should do, first and foremost; they unite people, teach them something, tell them something new. But you can just as well make a film that can make people lose the will to live.

When you run into serious difficulties, you are faced with a choice: to fight or to change the route. It was a similar moment when I came to a realization of how filmmaking fits into my life, how I myself want to be working with it, precisely. I decided to make filmmaking my primary occupation and start working more in that department.

When you were little, did you ever think you would one day act in movies, become a producer or a director?

No, it was never my dream. There was a period in my childhood when I wanted to join a circus, become a clown. I was a very serious child, had perfect grades, was one of the leaders, and not just in my grade. I felt uncomfortable revealing it, but on the inside, I did dream. This is the only connection my thoughts at the time had to the entertainment industry.

We did always love movies, went to the movie theater to see the same ones dozens of times, it was inspiring; for instance, the Indian Disco Dancer, the Russian Pirates of the 20th Century, and all of the Jackie Chan movies.

Then, in the 80s, I had my own video rental store, so there was a bit of a connection with movies, but I had no intention of being in them, I was just making money.

On your website it says: Alexey Petrukhin — producer, director, screenwriter. Why does it not mention that you are also an actor?

In every feature, there is always a micro scene with me in it, just for a gag and for the sake of showing up in a film, but at some point, I realized what I really can or cannot do. Of course, a film is an illusion, and computer graphics, special effects, superb editing, music, and sound design can make even the least talented actor into a superhero people will love.

I often get asked how I choose the movies when I give money for a film as a producer. But it’s the investors that give money for the films; the producer is the person who creates a film from an idea and delivers it to the viewer. You take an idea, you feel that it is needed, useful, good, kind; you determine what it bears and for whom exactly. After that you need to choose a screenwriter, and if you have one confirmed, you select a director and cinematographer who understand the initial idea and share it with you.

For instance, we have Artur Abidinov working with us. He is a fan of China and India, the culture and history of those countries, and all Eastern martial arts. So for him, working in filmmaking is not just a job, it’s life itself. The producer’s goal is to connect all the dots, make it work, find the money, the sponsors, the investors, take on the responsibility for everything. Although it often happens that as a team, we also put the money up and become investors in our own projects. 

It seems that cinematography is a very personal story for you. You spoke very emotionally about how film awards are given to people who have shown their country in the worst light.

What I meant was that if you show your own country in the worst possible light, then aside from just the festivals that we all want to be in — in Cannes, Venice, Germany — you will have considerably higher chances to be recognized. And if you make a film that straight up calls for a revolution in the country, then Hollywood will put you on a pedestal, you’ll get an Oscar and a Globe, the whole world will learn about you, and everyone will go and watch it in your own country, download, buy, even reluctantly. Then some portion of the people will be charged with negativity and join the opposition. This way cinema is used as a weapon of mass destruction. This is not a conspiracy theory. Many people say, “Make a movie like the ones Americans make, and you will get screen time.” But you try and make that kind of film. The market capacity is incredibly small, and it’s all controlled by the major players. When you make movies, you need viewers, like in China. But India and China, they don’t give up; they thrive and hold an immensely large society in unity and genuine patriotism.

When countries are conquered, natural resources and mass media are captured first. Cinema is the strongest, most powerful, and ubiquitous form of mass media. We’ve learned how to read newspapers, yes, but even now society believes them, no matter what they write. Many people say, “There is no smoke without fire. There is still some truth in there, even if altered or embellished a little.” And only a small percentage of people can understand what has been exaggerated or made up in order to cause a sensation. Journalists are just like directors. You’re doing an interview with me, but the true purpose is not PR, but inspiring the readers. They will learn something new and that’s the educational side you bring to the people. Any piece of news can be delivered differently. It can be done in a way that will make you want to lock yourself in your home and be afraid of everything, and you won’t want to live. But information could also be delivered in a way that will make people informed, composed, and react faster in a difficult moment.

How would you describe, in a sentence or two, what the Russian Film Group corporation actually does?

It’s a team of like-minded people. I’m often called its founder and owner, but that is not true. The company has several legal persons, a team, directors, founders, partners, investors. What I am is a representative, a participant, a producer. This is not stipulated by the company’s charter, I just represent the team. We want to participate in the creation of the brand for Russian cinematography. We want to release films that awaken and reinforce the Russian genetic code.

Is that why you decided to rebrand in 2008?

In the commercial sense, this name has disadvantages, considering the global attitude toward anything Russian, but we were not afraid and acknowledged that there would be certain difficulties; and we believed that in about 10 years, Russian films would be a brand that would attract interest. Russian Film Group and the China Film Group have started a joint project. China Film Group is a state corporation financed with billions of yuan to produce the nation’s own films, but it has the same mission that we would like to take on. We, on the other hand, are a private entity; nonetheless, we have gotten support from the Film Fund and the Ministry of Culture. This is pleasing, and even if we don’t become a state corporation, we can still grow and bring many useful things to the industry.

Why did China appear in the Viy-2 project?

Initially, the first Viy was planned to be based on Gogol, the second would be called Journey from Transylvania to Moskovia, the third — Journey to China. The fourth film was conceived as Journey to India. We knew we’d be travelling to China and that the film would have dragons. Every nation has its own deities which are similar in description and function to the pagan Viy.

When we started to research the beliefs of various peoples, it turned out that there is a myriad of entities that guard the land of the dead and the passage into it from the land of the living. We combined the first and second films and released them under the name Viy in 3D in 2014. As such, Journey to China became the second film and was named The Mystery of Iron Mask, while Journey to India became the third film.

How much time do you spend in China?

In 2015, I had 52 flights, in 2016 — 63 flights, in 2017 — 24, this year, I’m actually flying to China tomorrow, which will be my 16th flight. Currently, I don’t travel there as much, but by the end of the year, it appears there will be a lot of flights again.

How was work on the second film distributed between the Russian and Chinese divisions, in percentage terms? How much of the film was shot here in Russia, and how much in China?

If we’re talking about filming, about 10% was done in Moscow, 20% in Prague, and 70% in China. If we’re talking about postproduction, 90% is done in a studio here in Russia, and only 10%, related to voiceover, will be done in China and America.

The first Viy was the highest grossing film in 2014, you received the title of best producer of the year for it. What kind of feelings does a person have after receiving that kind of an award and being talked about by everyone?

On the one hand, you have more responsibility, on the other, it gives you a certain carte blanche, you have more trust from partners, from producers. There’s certain satisfaction; you realize that all of your calculations had been correct and you understand a thing or two about filmmaking. Yes, I would have filmed it a bit differently now, and I feel like a bit more work could have been done. But we still have the pleasure of knowing that this was the record box office for the first day and first weekend that still haven’t been beaten to this day by any other Russian film. This is why we’re hoping to raise that bar a little with the second Viy. Of course, the overall box office of Going Vertical is very impressive and motivating as it demonstrates the possibilities and the capacity of our market, and we’ll be striving for that. Nonetheless, we will at least try to keep the starting records for ourselves.

Do you think it’s a problem of the Russian film industry that no one here knows the producers and barely anyone knows the directors?

Hollywood is a great example of how an industry serves its country, and it’s more important than the army. Their films have brought up the entire world and convinced it that America is the strongest, richest, most powerful state. America has well-developed film journalism and film criticism aimed at advancing the industry. They have the main and very simple rule: you either speak well about your colleagues within the industry, or you say nothing at all. This helps a lot.

Even if an American hasn’t seen a film, they will still praise it, even if unnaturally. No one will badmouth someone else’s film behind their back. But here, unfortunately, bad things are covered more eagerly than good things. Basically, in America, they write about success, while here, more is written about failures, scandals, rumors.

So if you want to become famous in Russia, you need to accuse, insult, bully someone, fail disastrously, and then journalists will show up and write about what an epic fail it is. That’s when everyone will know you. It’s difficult to get famous here otherwise.

You said in an interview once that you tend to gather a team with difficulties. How does this happen? Are there people who show up and say, “I want to work with you. Hire me!”?

The more flaws you have, the more likely you are to be on our team. Of course, you want to work with extraordinary people who are creative and who sparkle. If you are a producer, your main goal is to enthuse everyone with an idea, unite them, direct all those sparks into a single fire so that it would give warmth to everyone. That is the hardest part.

Please, tell us about the Indian Viy and your future projects.

The Indian Viy titled Journey to India: On the Threshold of Immortality is a very powerful story that will include all of the best things we’ve learned in the first films. I can feel that we’ll have a lot of fun with it. The only thing I’m scared of is that we have once again set a high bar for ourselves, came up with new effects, new scale, decorations, characters, because we wanted everything to go down smoothly; I don’t know how we’re going to do all this and whether it can be done at all, even though I’m certain that we’ll do it. We’ve already shot some of the footage. We’re slowing down for now, because we’re having some trouble coordinating in China. We’re moving forward thanks to the Film Fund and the Ministry of Culture, for which we are immensely grateful.

This film will be an Indian-Chinese-Russian coproduction; we will attempt to combine all three cultures. The feature should be interesting for each country, and we have worked on the screenplay for a very long time to make sure we don’t make our old mistakes.

Indian celebrities will take part in the film, so those who love Indian movies will be glad. Our Indian colleagues have visited us, and now our specialists are going to visit them for two or three months to organize everything in their studio; they are some of the greatest Indian showrunners, making 2000 episodes a year. This means they make five episodes a day. That’s insane. At first I thought I misunderstood them, but it’s true. We’ll try to get them to working in Cerebro, so that our cooperative postproduction is more efficient.

In the story, our characters end up in India, where Asurs appear, meaning zombies, i.e. entranced people who can still become themselves, but very few know about this. We are also planning to have China, Cossacks, our cartographer once again with his scientific story, Indian princesses, all of them freeing the Indian people and saving the world with dancing, kung fu, sabers, and horilka. There will be monsters, there will be zombies, and we can’t forget magic either.

What are you planning aside from Viy?

Crime and Punishment. It will be a powerful film based on Dostoyevsky’s novel. The narrative will be from the point of view of Dunya Raskolnikova, who arrives in search of her brother. At the end of the book, Rodion was sent into exile. He wrote letters to his sister about demons possessing people’s souls and the Earth being in danger. He was considered insane. Dunya sets off to look for him, goes to all the seedy places that he used to visit, meets the occult society that summons those spirits. This will be similar in style to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, or Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, a fantasy story mixed with reality, quick and lively.

We’ve also finished The Final Trial (sequel of the original Uchilka, The Teacher), which is a thriller and a drama. It turned out to be socially important; it’s a uniting, inspiring story. Viewers will be able to see it at the beginning of February of the next year.

Aside from that, we are shooting Leave the Group, about social media and the so-called death groups. We also have two comedies completed, Greek Nut and I’m Not Like That, Neither Am I; although I would rather call them dramedies — philosophical, but with subtle humor as well. We’ll also please the youngsters with the release of a film about Russian hip-hop titled BEEF — this is a unique experiment which viewers will be able to see at the end of January. These are the films that allow us to work within our distribution territory during the year, while big releases still take two or three years to make. We could do it stronger and faster, but we don’t always have enough investment.

I would like to express gratitude to the entire Cerebro team for our productive collaboration, and I really hope that our partners and colleagues will also make use of all the possibilities that your company provides.

Please tell us who you are and what you do for the studio.

Maria: My name is Maria Zaykovskaya and I am a visual effects (VFX) producer. I’ve been working for the studio since 2012; when I started, the first Viy was already in post-production. Now we’re working on the second part and have the third one at the development stage.

When you introduced yourself before the interview, you said your name was Marusya, which is an affectionate form for Maria. Any reason why you like to be known as Marusya?

I’ve always been Marusya, since childhood. Ours is serious business, but not too serious at the same time. “Marusya” is easier to remember than “Maria” and that’s why people tend to know me as the Marusya and don’t mistake me for someone else. But I don’t mind when they call me by my full name too (laughs); when we have a business meeting, I am Maria.

Tell us more about the work at the studio. How is it organized and how many people you have?

We have a rather complicated setup. For many years, Viy has been our fundamental project. We do all stages of film production, starting with the script and up to post-production. The whole thing happens in multiple countries and different stages require that a great number of our employees work out of the studio. That’s why we, like most businesses like ours, have a backbone group of 10 people or so, and they are our think tank. On different stages of production, we change people, places, and objectives, but the main tool stays the same. Further down the road, depending on the stage of production, a number of employees may vary, but it’s usually around 25-50 people.

So most people work from Moscow?

Depends on the production stage. Our director is a very interesting, creative person who likes to have things under control and make sure everything is okay. That’s why it is important, and even more so during the development and pre-production, that everyone involved is at the same place. Most of the time, it happens to be Moscow. All artistic, technical, and creative development happens in the studio since it’s faster and the director can be more precise in setting the goals. During the filming, the majority of people are not in Moscow, but rather on the move. Now we’re at the post-production stage and most of us are engaged with management and control. As a VFX producer, I mainly work here in Moscow, in our “think tank”.

How do you control your employees and keep track of their work?

We use Cerebro and all existing communications and control methods employed in different countries. We have an established process and Cerebro, of course, helps us a great deal. We’ve been using it since the post-production of the first Viy. Since we’re starting the next film as soon as we finish the previous one, it’s very important that we maintain the work made five, six, or seven years ago. For example, Viy 2 was partially filmed in China, and before that, we spent six months getting ready. So the production designer responsible for computer graphics was in China, but the director and the CG supervisor were mainly staying in Moscow; set construction, graphics, and further locations were dealt with all at the same time. If you take into account the time difference, the firewall, etc., it was crucial that everything worked fast and could be found in the same space. But since our work was based on Cerebro, it was very convenient and at times even faster than via FTP or remote access, despite the fact that we had people working in Moscow, China, India, and Germany at the same time.

How did the implementation of Cerebro go? Were you working for the studio at the time?

As far as I remember, the first wave of implementation was a long time ago, even before both parts of Viy, probably when they were filming Velvet Revolution. As for more current times, active implementation started during the post-production of Viy in 2010-2011.

Did you have any problems with the implementation?

No, not really. We’re used to any tools, whether it’s Cerebro, a website, or a forum like good old times. And that’s why we didn’t have any problems and neither did our employees, people and studios we’re working with. Most of them already have well-established relations with Cerebro. I recall that we didn’t even use your servers but our own from the start. And we had no problem with external access either.

Are there things Cerebro lacks in your opinion? Something to make you work more efficient, something you would like to improve?

Your developers and us maintain a very close relationship (laughs); we have a wonderful chat room, where we can suggest ideas, ask questions, make corrections, and ask to add something specifically for us. We are a fairly unique project in a way that we have an enormous number of technical and creative tasks going at the same time, a lot of processes, and we simultaneously perform production and filming in different countries. We have a very dynamic editing process with constant changes since we work with different markets. Corrections are made quickly and are often counterintuitive,  when the relevant process has already been initiated. And it’s crucial to be able to make corrections in time and see the history of changes. And many options that Cerebro offers help with it a lot.

There are many technical requirements that we must meet. Specifically, we have our own file naming system for the internal CG and DI processes. And this is where we disagree with our developers, who, say, are trying to save server space. So as soon as issues arose, we asked you to cancel some updates, and your developers promptly helped us. After all, every studio is unique and that’s why we work closely with your developers and they often take our wishes into account. What distinguishes us from the others is that we are not a computer graphics production studio, but rather a management center. Production studios mostly use connectors with gateways to other software systems, which supervisors find the most convenient to work with. But we, as a studio that mainly deals with development, goal-setting, and CG, would rather prefer to have a connection with editing software and import things straight to the assembly. But it’s pretty hard to achieve in Cerebro as I recall.

Please, describe your typical day at work.

There’s no such thing as a typical day at work; because of the time difference we have to stay in touch 24 hours a day. When we were staying in China, I had this joke that my day lasts 29 hours: 24 local hours and five extra due to time difference with Moscow. When people go to bed in China, it’s evening in Moscow: people are in high gear and everybody wants something from you. The only typical thing about us is the basics: we check dailies in the morning and in the evening, while in between, we work the most productively, because the majority of people is at the studio or in touch. Of course, it’s pretty hard to synchronize the work of all departments, people, and studios working with the graphics, and that’s why we must always stay online. Night is our favorite time (laughs).

How do you feel about the time spent in China? Have you been there long?

I was staying during the whole filming period. We know now that we can achieve a lot and in little time, because we had two sets going and the CG team working in Moscow all at the same time. It was difficult, but it was also exciting because we were one team with great professionals from different countries. We have developed our own language during the years: it’s like we read each other’s minds and can predict what another person is going to do several steps ahead; we were like a well-oiled machine. I’ve had a good experience in China and with the Chinese team. There were some difficulties, of course, and it took some getting used to like in any international team. Everyone has their own style of work, there are cultural differences, some day-to-day matters, you have different opinions on how this whole thing should be organized. But you can solve it quickly.

How did you solve the language barrier problem? Did you have an interpreter with you at all times?

Every department had at least one interpreter, but honestly, we work in the same field, talk about the same things, and it’s not like we’re discussing abstracts ideas; after all, you can always mime. Since there are no strangers on set but professionals just like you, there’s no language barrier as such. Sure, China is special, because not many people can speak English, but they have a strict hierarchy in their departments, which is convenient. You usually talk with the person in charge and they pass on the instructions to their subordinates. Naturally, discussions were a bit slower: everything had to be translated into Russian, English, and Chinese—we were mainly using three languages. But we didn’t feel any discomfort. Of course, it is a bit extreme when so many cultures are mixed together on set: a big Russian crew, a big Chinese crew, German stereographers, English actors, but it was also great, a very interesting mix.

And what about the Great Firewall? What is the internet quality in China?

As far as the technical part goes, we didn’t have problems, only inconveniences. You could get a high-speed internet if you wanted to and employ other means of communication as well. It’s just a question of money or savvy. At the end of the day, you get used to it, you can always find a way: if FTP doesn’t work, we can transfer via Cerebro; if Cerebro doesn’t work, we’ll think of something else. If you can’t find a monitor, bring one from Moscow; if a download takes too long, ask your friend who travels by plane to deliver. All in all, everything went pretty well.

And the most important question: when will the film finally come out?

We’re finishing the graphics and finalizing the rest of the processes. So, the film will be out in the nearest future!

CASE STUDY: 3D SPARROW STUDIO

2018/11/01 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: 3D SPARROW STUDIO”

Сerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We have talked to head of HR Anna Khoroshilova and linear producer Igor Kazantsev from 3D Sparrow animation studio about their cartoon Booba, hiring practices and experience with projects management systems.

What does the 3D Sparrow studio do?

Anna Khoroshilova: The company’s full name is 3D SPARROW GROUP LIMITED. Our headquarters is in the UK, while our key production team is based in Moscow. At the moment, the main project of the studio is the Booba animated series about a 70 cm tall character that explores the world around him with a sheer enthusiasm of a 5-year-old, entertaining the audience. The project appeared on YouTube in January 2016 and quickly gained popularity around the world. Our YouTube channel now has over one million subscribers and continues to grow. The first season of the show ended in October 2017; 26 episodes were released. In addition to season two, we are working on a pilot project, also featuring Buba as the main character but in a new format. We hope this project will spark interest in our viewers.

How is Booba developing abroad?

We have licensed contracts with key television channels in Italy, Indonesia, Russia, and the CIS, as well as Arab countries. In Russia and the CIS those are Karusel, Tlum, and Ani. We are also currently in talks with the Europe and US-based TV channels. We still emphasize the development of the YouTube and Amazon channels, however. Booba first appeared on Amazon in 2017, and it was quite a success. We were even awarded a cash prize for the most popular new project.

What other projects are in production?

At the moment, we only have the pilot project of Booba to be aired in the coming months. Producers are planning new projects, but they are all at the concept stage as of yet. We are thinking about something new, but only Booba the animated series is currently underway.

How many people are involved in the company?

We have twenty-five full-time employees and over a hundred outsourced staff members. We only have strong CG specialists in-house. They are mainly the leads for each CG field where we work.

How do you manage to keep the team tight-knit and solve problems?

To maintain team spirit, we arrange teambuilding events with team games, where everyone can express themselves and learn how to interact more effectively with one another. Since our personnel pool is not big, we work arm in arm every day, so one can safely call our team tight-knit. If any problem arises, we solve it quickly and routinely.

How do you select freelance workers and what do you focus on when hiring them?

We look into the CVs and portfolios of applicants. A professional portfolio is mandatory. After the CVs and portfolios are reviewed, we send a test task and when it is completed, we can consider further cooperation. For example, for animators, the rate per second of the animation is determined in accordance with the test results. When we test artists, we estimate whether the applicant fits our style or not. If the test is successful, we execute a contract.

Do technical problems arise in production? How do you solve them?

If there are technical difficulties, they are quickly solved by teamwork. The studio employs a supervisor, a technical director, a senior programmer, and a system administrator, who quickly solve technical problems. We also hold R&D meetings, where employees suggest the use of new techniques, new software that could accelerate production as well as improve the quality of animation. If we decide that new software will help us improve production, we purchase a license and start to implement it.

Please tell us about your experience with Cerebro. Did the team get accustomed to it quickly? What difficulties did you have while implementing?

Igor Kazantsev: The team started using Cerebro before I joined the project when only a few people were employed here. Overall, as far as I know, we did not experience any specific problems with the integration. We can safely say it is rather easy and convenient to use, since we only require the training now because we have hired a new programmer (Sergey Titov) and he needed to swiftly master Cerebro. We are now starting the automation of internal processes and want to do this as quickly as possible.

What do you like about the product?

First of all, it is quite convenient and has an open API, which is very useful for us in the current automation tasks. We are already getting there, as well as adjusting the interaction of Cerebro with other software that we use on the project. We would like to automate as much work as possible. This will help us accelerate the overall production, make it more efficient, reduce financial costs and cut the time required to make episodes, as well as reduce the human factor-related errors.

Are there any favorite features that help you the most? What functions do you use on a daily basis?

I do not have any favourite features. Cerebro is a working tool, so we primarily expect usability and enhanced functionality. We use almost the entire set of tools, but I would like to use literally everything. There are also some features that we do not use at all.

Let us talk about what actually pains you in Cerebro then.

Agreed. There is a number of functions that we do not use, simply because they require fine tuning or have flaws. For example, the feature called Configuring notifications for users of the universe allows you to selectively send notifications to a particular user without sending them everywhere, but if you are upgrading the pipeline, system reconfiguration is rendered inconvenient and new settings require testing so that you do not cause a crash on the current project.

Besides, task tracking is not completely informative and has bugs. The Gantt chart is a good tool, but very heavy, slow, not flexible. It does not allow you to plan the process in full. The new version is less convenient than the previous one visuals-wise. It is now difficult to navigate the tasks, complex links are hard to read.

Overall, there are a lot of useful features in Cerebro, but some things need improvement.

Thank you for the valuable feedback. We are constantly working on product development. Now we are working on additional connectors for integration with third-party software.

The issue of integration is very relevant and if implemented properly, it could, in a way, raise Cerebro to a new level. Besides, going back to the automation: I know that other studios have been engaged in it as well, with your support. If you could offer such developments as ready-made packages with solutions, it would be very convenient.

The companies we work with are different, so their requests are different, too. We hope that we will be able to offer something in the near future. We will also work on improving Cerebro and fulfilling your requests.

2018.09.10 — New Release: Cerebro “De Cerca”

2018/09/07 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “2018.09.10 — New Release: Cerebro “De Cerca””

We have been preparing for this release since the beginning of this year, and the result is pretty darn awesome 🙂

To be closer to you, we have rolled out cloud-based data centres in several regions at once. Specifically, they are in San Francisco in North America, Nuremberg in Europe, and Singapore and Beijing in Asia. Up next: Toronto and Bangalore.

You can choose your region when you register on the Cerebro demo page.

This will considerably speed up applications’ interactions with the database for the Demo, Team, and Studio pricing plans. Send us a note and we will transfer your projects to the server nearest you.

Server components need to be updated in order to work with the Factory plan mobile client. We apologize for having taken so long to do this. Linux and Windows servers will now start using the Docker technology. Please get in touch, and we will help you complete all the necessary updates.

A Mobile Version

Surprise! The long-awaited mobile app with a cutting-edge look and feel.

This is a full-featured app that includes an inbox, task list, and a project navigator; it supports searching for any element, favorites, comments and reports, file and photo uploading and downloading, and viewing images and video proxy files.

The mobile app is available on Android and iOS with identical functionality.

Localization and Technical Support

The website and the user account dashboard are now available in English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Russian.

The support portal is now available 24/7 via any channel: phone, LiveChat, or email. Over the phone, we speak English and Russian, and we can chat and respond to email in English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

A built-in translator module by Microsoft has been added to Cerebro and Mirada desktop clients; the module is functional in any country, including China. We will integrate it with the mobile app in a future release.

For our users in China: your account dashboard now lets you use Alipay to pay for your subscription; soon, WeChat will be supported, too.

Connectors

Please meet Cerebro — within the applications you use.

Tentaculo lets you work with versions of files directly from your apps, so there is no need to use Explorer or Finder. You no longer have to worry about locating files or remembering file names.

Connectors are available for the following software products:

— Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, Revit, and Autocad
— Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Indesign, Illustrator, and Animate
— Foundry Nuke, and Katana
— Blender, SideFX Houdini, MAXON Cinema 4D, and Toon Boom.

All plugins support the following features:

— Choosing tasks from the to-do list or the project browser
— Opening a specific file version
— Submitting a report; publishing a new file version

An additional feature for Autodesk Maya:

— Linking and embedding files

You can learn more about connectors here

For Developers

Everything is free

Coincidentally, we have decided to give away free licenses for developers.

Send us your GitHub link and/or a description of your project, and we will issue you a couple of Cerebro licenses good for one year.

Plugin examples

We have published all known plugin examples on GitHub. Enjoy! We are looking forward to seeing your forks 🙂

Python plugins

We have upgraded to Python 3.5.5. There is a new server API module named pycerebro, which replaces py_cerebro and py_cerebro2. It has the same interface (except for the import function), but it uses a new protocol to connect to Cerebro and supports Python versions 2.7 to 3.x

Click here to see important changes and learn more.

CASE STUDY: SOUZMULT STUDIO

2018/08/15 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: SOUZMULT STUDIO”
Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. We have talked to the CEO Boris Mashkovtsev and the HR director Daria Strekalova of the legendary Soyuzmultfilm animation studio about implementing new technologies, development plans, and hiring practices.

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You are known as the head of the Aeroplane Productions studio and the CEO of Soyuzmultfilm. Tell us, where did your great career in animation begin. Did you start working on the Fixies immediately after graduation?

Boris Mashkovtsev: It is a long story. I was graduating from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) and intended to work in live-action industry. However, it was the early 2000s and it was quite a challenge for me, as I liked escapist genres, which the Russian cinema could not afford at the time. I got into a company running Russian films in cinema theatres and it was a very rewarding experience. I was lucky to see the reverse side of the coin; not only how the film is made, but also what happens to it afterwards. Many people filmed for no one at all; most films were made irrationally, the director did not create a dialogue with the viewer, as if filmmakers and viewers lived in different universes. At the same time, the niche for children’s films was completely empty, and I wanted to understand why. I met Georgy Vasilyev, who was co-producing the Gora Samotsvetov show (literally ‘The Mountain of Gems’, an animated series of folk fairy tales); one day we were discussing animation and went so far that I decided to do it. Georgy was just about to launch the Fixies and I started working in this film project from the first months of its existence. From that moment till I showed up at Soyuzmultfilm, my career was gravitating around Aeroplane Productions.

What were you majoring in at the film school?

I have graduated from the Economics Department. Now it is called the Chair of Production. When I was a student, producers were already around in the country, but academic studies could not keep up with the times. Our department is one of the oldest in VGIK, it has been around from the middle of the 20th century. It did not prepare narrow specialists; the graduates became production managers, that is, universal specialists in film management. Now the department has themed workshops. There is a multimedia production workshop, where Alexander Gerasimov and I teach students.

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In January, Rossiyskaya Gazeta announced that Soyuzmultfilm plans to produce 2D or claymation series and films, like the Tsiferki series. Will you have a long-awaited 3D?

Yes, we will have 3D too. In Soyuzmultfilm, different animation styles, different techniques, and even concepts for different audiences have always coexisted. We are trying to continue this tradition; we have launched quite a package of various projects. Soyuzmultfilm has two arms: production groups and the technology arm. Now they are a bit clashing; when we came to the studio a year ago as a whole new team, there were next to no technical facilities, and the production group was scattered. Soyuzmultfilm could only produce short films, which it has been doing for years now. Our task was to turn the studio into a full-fledged player in the modern animation market .

Since we need to rebuild the chain, I decided to focus on 2D for our first year, because you cannot seize the unseizable. However, fate had different plans: in our first month of work we got a 3D series on our hands. Now it is called Naslednichki (Heirs), and its producer Elena Malyonkina has gathered a group for 3D production. In addition, we have inherited the Suvorov 3D full-length animation movie with motion capture, for which we have equipped a Mocap pavilion. We are producing it jointly with the Gorky studio and KinoAtis, because we cannot manage such a giant project on time alone.

Inside the studio, we can boast the development of a line of hand-drawn animation for serial production, which is basically unprecedented. We are also planning a thirty-part sequel series about Prostokvashino. It is a hand-drawn series made in Toon Boom, so it’s a drawing, but done on the computer. We will also have several projects with computer- animated cut-outs. We have moved the puppet shop here and equipped the pavilion for classical puppet animation. This year we are only doing short films, but we are also thinking about commercial pictures using puppets. We also have analogue animation with live-shot cut-outs, for example, a claymation project with Sergei Merinov, the creative producer of Tsiferki.

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The very first episode of new «Prostokvashino» has been realesed on VK.com in the beggining of April. Where else will it broadcast, will we be able to see it on YouTube?

It will definitely be available for free on YouTube, as we perfectly understand that at least half of our audience is there. There will be broadcasts on television; we are currently negotiating with TV channels, but most likely, Prostokvashino will come out in the web first, because we can upload episodes one by one, while TV channels will require the whole package at once, when we finish the production.

Many animation studios launch themed merchandise for their projects. Puma has announced a capsule sneaker collection in collaboration with Soyuzmultfilm.

For us, this is an amazing event, because Puma has no such experience in Russia. It seemed symbolic. We are just beginning to develop licensing activities. Soyuzmultfilm has a golden collection of popular existing projects, plus new projects. All this is more than suitable for licensing, this commercial pattern works, so, naturally, we use it.

Will you yourself wear such sneakers?

Yes, I really hope I’ll get them too (laughing).

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Do you have plans for the development of computer games, mobile applications, VR and AR technology-based projects?

Of course, we are going to use all channels to communicate with viewers and are now researching AR. We are building a brand, and it includes not only the production of consumer goods, but also cross-platform features. We will inevitably develop graphic art with our characters and universes, as well as everything related to content.

The duties of the CEO include the protection of copyright. The Aeroplane Productions studio has some 250 arbitration lawsuits per year. You have 15. Are you planning to get down to this business more closely?

We have a lot of legal proceedings. Those that more actively use licensing have more problems with piracy. Soyuzmultfilm still has many issues even with organization we have contracts with. Characters of new projects are usually more or less seen as someone else’s property, but when it comes to older projects, Soyuzmultfilm is considered a historical heritage and national property. Like Russian folk tales, it does not seem to belong to anyone, and everyone can use it and commercialize it. Such issues may not even reach arbitration courts. It is more often solved during pre-trial via correspondence. In any case, it is a large part of our activities, because it is important to keep our rights and relations with contractors in order.

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What specialists does Soyuzmultfilm need now?

I’d say we need everyone related to production. Now the studio is in a state of chain reaction. It is growing, and we have spent the first six months on management. Now we have just got down to internal production and some of it will be outsourced, because it is impossible to do all the tasks at once in the same house. At the same time, we want to build a full-fledged chain production with a variety of techniques, all computerized, and suitable for a large number of shows we have planned. This is why we need in 3D and 2D technology specialists.

I want to apply to Soyuzmultfilm. Where should I send my CV? Your website is down for some reason.

Send it at info@souzmult.ru. All mail goes to different departments from there. If you send a CV, we recommend to attach your portfolio as well. It goes to the HR, and if your specialty is immediately clear, then it gets to our creative producers, looking for talents. The Soyuzmultfilm website is down at the time, because it has to be remade from scratch. We will launch it again soon.

Where do your employees look for professionals when they need them?

As usual, by the word of mouth. Valuable specialists are handed over from one company to another. We have a strong team of creative and executive producers, as well as project producers. Igor Kovalev is our general producer. Our project producers are Elena Chernova, Alena Oyatyeva, Mikhail Aldashin, and Tatiana Ilyina. We use their contacts, but we also involve traditional recruiting resources.

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How big is your staff involved in production, like animation artists, designers, computer graphics specialists, modellers?

Approximately seventy people. With so many projects, this isn’t much; we need more. We actually plan to have 250 people employed, including managers.

Do you participate in recruiting?

I trust our producers. They do have an eye for good employees, and they are much more professional at that than I am.

What else do you have in the plans?

We have planned a lot. Over the past year, we started all activities we had planned, and this is actually surprising. First, one of the most important tasks has been done: we have moved to a new building. Before that, everything was too slow; we could do nothing about the production. Soyuzmultfilm was packed and ready to go, with no idea if the construction would ever end, whether the building in the Dolgorukovskaya street would still belong to us. Last summer we began to move; everything was finished by autumn. A lot of time was spent on the redeployment of the puppet shop, as we had to transport all the equipment and a huge amount of scenery that remained after the filming of the full-length Gofmaniada.

After that, life began to improve. We started licensing, marketing activities, and PR of the studio from scratch, because Soyuzmultfilm was already a brand. It does not happen too often that the studio name is so well-known. This should be done to ensure that Soyuzmultfilm as a brand continues to exist and does not dissolve in the media space.

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We also do research and development, because we need to compartmentalize the 80-year history, continue to study it. We are also engaged in exhibitions; we made an exhibition of Khitruk last year, this year we have three more themed exhibitions. One of them is devoted to the anniversary of the puppetry shop: Soyuzmultfilm started puppet animation 65 years ago.

We also do training, because some people need to develop their skills, and we have to get new blood. It is hard to find such numbers of perfect specialists, so we arrange refresher courses, teach people how to work with the specific software needed for our projects. Fortunately, the studio can now afford long-term planning for several years ahead, so we have some idea of what specialists we will need in the future.

Production groups can make something for third-party studios, and producer groups can produce projects that cannot be implemented in Soyuzmultfilm. We have started co-production with Wizart, Rocket Fox, and KinoAtis. We do welcome this line of work. It would also be nice to try co-production with foreign studios in the future.

We have two more new activities for Soyuzmultfilm, for which we had to fight within the Animation Film Association. We are now trying to establish cooperation with Skolkovo. We have the status of their resident. We want to start developing animation technologies at their territory. This year they are laucnhing a technology park. There will be an incubator for other studios, where they could come for cheap, by Moscow standards, and launch their animation project using the technologies of Soyuzmultfilm. We knew that Moscow provides a special economic status for technology parks, designed for science-intensive production. Animation fits there perfectly, except for the scale of the industry. It is so small that the government of Moscow will have to specifically tailor the standards to our needs, because they like the idea of having such a place in the city. This park could be used by any animation studio with a live project that needs pushing and cutting economic risks of its launch.

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Tell us please, why have you chosen Cerebro for project management.

We have had some experience with Cerebro in the Airplane Productions, so we already knew what the system was capable of. It was obvious that we could not do without it. There are a lot of projects, we have to multitask all the time. The probability of data loss is, of course, very high. That is why we have been using the system since summer or autumn, and it will be implemented into our pool of projects.

How does the implementation go? In which departments do you currently use it?

Cerebro is running the current series; the design dept is to switch to it soon, because their tasks are arranged similarly to those of the film crew. It creates a single information space, where nothing is lost. For example, I have no time to go into the details of all tasks, but it is important for me that opening Cerebro, I can immediately understand whether the projects are progressing, whether any issues arise. So first of all, I track it when something slows down.

I have recently heard that you plan to restore old cartoons. How will this happen? Will you outsource them, or will you work in-house?

We will learn to do this in-house, because fortunately, Soyuzmultfilm already has some experience with such things. We have purchased film scanning equipment, because the studio’s own archive consists of thousands of boxes with 35-meter film. In 80 years, the studio has made 1,500 different animations. Many of them are in the archives, and no one has even tried to digitize them, everyone has forgotten they exist, they are not shown anywhere. Moreover, they are on the shelf simply because no one had bothered taking them out, not because they are so outdated. But there are a lot of interesting things among them. At least professionals must be excited.

Some time ago, Georgy Borodin organized a wonderful and useful lecture dedicated to Dezhkin. It traced the evolution of a person on Soyuzmultfilm, his establishment as a legendary animation artist. We want to gradually digitize and restore our entire collection, because some materials are lost, and the film has degraded in some places. Of course, this will take more than a year.

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At the very least, we need to solve the problem with the jittering frame, also deal with abrasions, cracks, and scratches. The most global problem is when the original color is gone. This happens, for example, if the source master is lost and only copies with different color are left. There are only a few specialists in the country who have been doing such projects and can manage them. They find installation sheets, check all copies, look for differences. Then the material is digitized, made consistent, people search the archives for original sketches, tracing papers, celluloids, and with the help of all this we can restore the film. This is a huge process, very tiresome and slow. First of all, we will work with the more recent projects, then move to the past. For example, now we want to develop special software to restore full features, because they can be re-released in the cinemas. Distributors are somewhat interested, because it is at least beautiful.

What does a restored cartoon look like? Is it color corrected, noises removed?

We remove everything that is considered technical drawbacks; do color correction, restore the soundtrack. I cannot even say which is more difficult to restore, because the source images are usually saved, but the sound source may be lost forever. In this case, you have to add new sounds or re-voice the whole thing. We have just started, so we do not yet understand the scale of what is ahead of us. In any case, our main task is to restore the films as they were, not to remake them.

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Why should people come work for you?

Daria Strekalova: There are several reasons. First, we are a strong brand. The Soyuzmultfilm brand is simply nice to belong to. Second, although the studio has a long history, we are practically a startup now. At the same time, we are in a much more favorable situation than most startups, because we enjoy the support of the brand, the state, businesses, and a large number of experts. The support is so strong that any our project has very high chances of success. And why is it good to be in a startup? Because there is a lot going on around, and if you want to develop as a specialist and do interesting tasks, this is the place for you. Besides, when everything is just starting, you can participate in the establishment, building the processes the way they should look from your point of view.

Now you have a lot of completely different projects. How do you find specialists in computer graphics, design, animation, and artists? Do they come to you by themselves?

People know that Soyuzmultfilm is reviving, and we have a large stream of incoming CVs for different specialties. Many specialists want to participate in the studio’s development. We use all profile groups in social media. For some reason, there are more animation artists on VKontakte than on Facebook. We use job search websites as well, but we look for animation artists elsewhere. They usually come specifically to work with some heads of production groups. Our projects are managed by well-known producers, so the chance to work with them does sound attractive. Young specialists come too; for example, when a producer of a series gathers a group of students, trains them, chooses the best ones, and invites them to their team. Our project managers also teach in different colleges and institutions, where they can find talented and diligent young people.

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Have you ever had emergencies when you could not find a specialist?

This has not happened yet. Planned recruitment seems a nice way out of this situation. Then, if we assume it will be hard to find a person for a job, we can find someone with a lower qualification, but with suitable personal qualities and skills in advance and train them to the required level of competence. We are currently developing a training system at the studio, which will allow us to fill the positions not only with outside specialists, but with our own trained employees as well.

Tell us, what are your requirements to job seekers? Surely they are high. For example, if an artist wants to work for you, what do you require of them?

The artist has to send us their portfolio. After that we give them a test task. If we like the portfolio, and if the task is done well, then it makes sense to meet the person.

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Will the selection have several stages? Several meetings?

Apart from meeting the direct supervisor, the person must communicate with our department, because even those who come for temporary projects have a chance to get permanent employment. We have a pool of permanent workers, who perform different projects depending on the production schedule. We always meet with people before long-term cooperation, because if a person stays with us for a long time, no matter how we document our relations, they have to fit in. It is important that people are on the same wavelength. Now, as far as I can see, the team has already clicked together. We are working on it, and I hope we will succeed.

2018.04.03: TENTACULO — NEW CEREBRO CONNECTOR

2018/04/06 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “2018.04.03: TENTACULO — NEW CEREBRO CONNECTOR”

Tentaculo — The Cerebro Сonnector Embedded in Your Creativity Apps

Autodesk Maya and 3DS Max, SideFX Houdini, Foundry Nuke 

Cerebro Tentaculo links your network projects with Cerebro projects.

This connector allows you to work with files and different versions directly from the apps, so there is no need to use the Explorer or Finder. You no longer have to bother searching for a files or remember their names.

Now you can bypass the Cerebro app (at least in a number of cases), working with tasks/materials and making reports directly within your work apps.

Features:
— Selecting tasks from the to-do list or a web browser
— Opening file versions
— Submitting reports, publishing new file versions

Also in Autodesk Maya:
— Linking and adding files

Installation:
— Supports software versions from 2015 to 2018
— Win / Mac OS X / Linux
— Plugins will soon be available on cerebrohq.com
— For now, you can download an archive of plugins here.

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Adobe – Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, After Effects

Cerebro Tentaculo allows you to share work files via the Cerebro storage. This enables remote access.

You can work with files from your apps without FTP or file sharing services. Now you can easily share materials or send the results to your co-workers.

Now you can bypass the Cerebro app (at least in a number of cases), working with tasks/materials and making reports directly within your work apps.

Features:
— Selecting tasks from the to-do list or a web browser
— Downloading and opening files
— Submitting reports and publishing files

Installation:
— Supports СС from 2017 to 2018, Win / Mac
— The plugin’s approval is currently pending at https://www.adobeexchange.com The plugin is available here. To install the *.zxp plugin, you can use Anastasiy’s Extension Manager (Win / Mac)

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Content provided by Polden Studio

feat

Documents

User and installation manuals

Roadmap

Product support:
— Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, Blender, Premier
— Autodesk Civil and Revit
— All Microsoft Office products
— Tracking links in files and displaying them in Cerebro

Programmable pre- and post processors for all operations

Interconnection of features for working both at the office with a server and for remote access

CASE STUDY: OKTA STUDIO

2018/03/13 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: OKTA STUDIO”

Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. There is our new interview with Vitalijus Zukas from OKTA studio.

— How did you get into the industry, where have you studied?

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— I got there directly from my university, where I majored in geology. What can possibly be closer than that? In fact, for a long time I was a producer of music video projects. At the time, there was the famous Vilks studio, where we were shooting music videos for MTV Russia and working with such famous [Russian] musicians as Zemfira, Mumiy Troll, and Bi-2. Besides, we were making ads. All the same, everything comes to post-production, so while working on projects, I had to deal with VFX, and this was how I first got acquainted with the industry. I’ve always found the world of VFX very exciting. Moreover, I had friends who have now become one of the best VFX artists in Latvia. They were self-taught, like the majority of our generation, and they showed me their work. I was so interested that I started edging closer and closer to the VFX, until I gradually turned to this side of good and evil.

— So you studied and created the OKTA studio on your own? Please tell us more about it.

— Of my friends and acquaintances, I cannot recall anyone who would have studied at the VFX school. We are from Lithuania, and unlike Moscow, we do not have good online schools. When we first started, there were only few materials available on the Internet. It was like Wild West in VFX, where everyone was on their own. OKTA was created by such self-taught people, who liked their work. Initially, many were very surprised that this hobby could eventually turn into a business.

— Tell us about the latest interesting projects.

— The world is changing a lot, and the same goes to the world of VFX. The market for TV advertising and television itself are becoming secondary. The product formats are changing—the ads themselves, requirements to them, and prices are now completely different. Cinematography is now experiencing tough competition with video games. Along with the new opportunities, there are new interesting areas of work. Now we are engaged in both new things and older things. We are having interesting VR and AR projects and at the same time, we are engaged in large-scale traditional projects: we are working on a TV show similar to the Game of Thrones in the Japanese market. The project has received an Emmy nomination, which is a major achievement for a Japanese TV show. Their market is quite secluded, and they do not have many world-famous TV projects at the moment.

As for virtual reality, we are working on my favourite project, an interactive animated feature. More precisely, it is a meditative VR journey into the world created by the famous Lithuanian painter M.K. Čiurlionis. It is going to be really great and beautiful, and we are very pleased to work on it. We also make projects with our French partners. I used to work with one of the International Red Cross organization’s project as a producer for NEDD agency. And the project received international coverage.

— Now that’s intriguing. How many studios participate in your projects? How many people overall?

— We have changed our modus operandi, so we act mainly as a production company. We work with new studios a lot. Our projects engage a large number of people; we have different approaches to the selection of teams. We have a coworking space in the studio in Vilnius, where we try to gather the best VFX specialists in the region. For example, to work on the Japanese show, we gathered people from Vilnius, Moscow, Kiev, and Riga. We have customers all over the world, but our employees mainly live in eastern Europe. Now this is the basic approach of our studio, although the cycle of development already calls for another permanent team on the spot. However, this does not mean that we are going to suspend outsourcing activities.

— How do you choose studios?

— We take the example from the Japanese; I work with them for a long time and I like their approach to business. The work system in Japan is very different from Western countries, for example, the U.S. The Americans tend to have a project-based approach: do the job, get the money, go on. As for the Japanese, every new project is meant to create a relationship between partners. We try to work less with new studios, and even though it is always good to expand the circle, we emphasize the development of relations with old partners. At the same time, we limit their number, so that we have enough time to know each other. If we work on several projects with one studio, then our mutual understanding improves, we hone the basics to find some common ground, and the result becomes better every time.

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— You mentioned the augmented reality; do you have any fulfilled projects that have already impressed the audience? Also, could you tell us about the effects that look very simple, but are hard to implement?

— Many people know that Apple has released the ARKit. It tracks the environment very effectively, bringing lots of interesting opportunities. We use these opportunities on our new project and implement them in an unusual way. The hardest task is the effects, which are not intended to be seen. You have probably heard film viewers say, “This looks okay, but I still know it’s 3D.” “How do you know?” “No idea, but I just see it.” Our brain is intended to process visual information, and deceiving it is a real challenge. So we are very pleased when critics write reviews on movies we had been working on for long months and say, “There’s next to no special effects.”

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— Please, tell us about films that you love. I know it’s difficult to single out but a few.

— Sometimes you ask a person about their favourite music, and they tell you they like different and good music. So you start thinking: maybe you just do not understand music at all and listen to everything? And you never know whether they have the same opinion of what ‘good music’ is. Therefore, saying that you like different and good films is the same as saying nothing. I have favourite directors and films. I adore the Cohens, David Lynch, Danny Boyle. Among the Soviet directors, I really love Tarkovsky and Mark Zakharov. They are all completely different, but each of them interests me in their own way. Recently, I have been watching more TV shows than films; it’s the sign of the times. Now we have options; we don’t have to fit everything in one and a half or two hours, but really develop the ideas and the fictional world. I’ve always felt the lack of this in movies.

Despite the fact that we did a lot of animation, I myself d not like it anymore. Projects of major American companies have merged into one big animated feature in my head, and each subsequent film is of no interest for me at all. It is much like changing a theme on your phone; the phone stays the same, but the colours are different. In these projects, huge money is invested, so they are afraid to step away from the adopted formula. Step to the left, step to the right are like an attempt to escape, a jump in place is a provocation. Thanks to my son, I have discovered a huge world of Japanese animation, it was a breath of fresh air. People make animation relatively cheap, but they are not afraid that it will be too difficult to perceive. Viewing such stories often brings a great intellectual pleasure.

— Which TV shows have you last watched?

— The latest show I have watched with great interest was Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. They are really not afraid to seem weird and go beyond the templates, but at the same time, they manage to keep your attention on what is happening.

— Tell us about your discoveries when working on projects. What surprises you and inspires you when you solve problems?

— Each project gives some interesting vibes. It is not always pleasant, but sometimes it is. When working on a project, I am inspired by the sense of globalization and the opportunity to work with people regardless of their location. You choose not the person who is available next to you, but the person with whom or for whom you really want to work. I really like globalization in this respect. I find it really inspiring to feel like a global citizen, it’s like only sky is the limit for you. This is so cool.

— With so many people in different parts of the globe, what problems have arisen in the projects and how have you solved them?

— When you work online, you really need a good tool that allows a lot of people in different parts of the world and time zones to work together. This is the downside of globalization—you never have an established working day. The work begins when you get up and ends when you go to sleep. Somebody is always working in any given moment, and there are issues that need to be addressed urgently. Cerebro is one of the solutions to these problems. Such tools help solve problems, provide answers to questions, because people, especially in the Eastern countries, are completely different.

When we started working with a Japanese linear producer, he answered at any time of the day. I, as a normal person, thought, if I send an email at night (so as not to forget about it later), the other person will wake up and answer in the morning. So I would send a letter or a Skype message and then immediately get the answer. I would ask, “Wait, I thought you were sleeping?” They would answer, “I was, but my iPad is next to me with the sound turned on. If something happens, I can quickly respond and go back to sleep.”
When dealing with different cultures and time zones, it is really important that there is a hub to gather all the information, where everyone can get it at a convenient time.

Earlier, we partially used Cerebro in our daily work, but since the situation in the studio has changed, we have to start anew. Using Cerebro should bring our interaction to a new level. This will add to our comfort and improve teamwork.

— What Cerebro features do you most often use at the moment?

— Now we are discussing how to use the classic functions of the system for project management. Working with versions, comments, a single space with constantly updated information is what we need.
Of course, this is much more convenient than Google Docs, which we used before. At the moment, we plan to improve our work using Cerebro.

— How quickly did the team get accustomed to it?

— Everything is relative. Before that, we used TACTIC. As compared with an open-source product, there is a huge contrast. Cerebro is a commercial tool and our main task is to study and configure functions, and not create them from scratch. On the other hand, throwing everything away and switching to another software after having put in this so much effort was hard. However, the upsides did outweigh the downsides, and the overall impression was good.

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— What new features would you like to see in the improved version of Cerebro?

— Considering our specifics (many participants in one process), some ways for various accounts to interact in Cerebro would be useful. As of now, we have one account, our partner has another one, and we cannot communicate with each other; we have to switch to one common account. It’s very inconvenient. We had projects when we worked with several studios at the same time, using Cerebro; in one case we were a customer, in the other we were an ordering party. So we needed to have two clients and switch between them, which was not so easy. It created a lot of difficulties. If there were some ways for two partners to efficiently work in a joint account, I would be happy.

2018.02.28 – ADDING IMAGES TO MESSAGES, STEREO VIEW, AND OTHER FEATURES

2018/02/27 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “2018.02.28 – ADDING IMAGES TO MESSAGES, STEREO VIEW, AND OTHER FEATURES”

Mirada

Commenting

Click on the comment tag to view the comment. Sidebar hiding enabled.

Drag and Drop

New ways to add files to Mirada:
– adding to a playlist;
– adding to current file for comparison

drop

Loopback by default

If you add a file, it loops by default.

Color Correction

Ability to set gamut, exposure and bias added.
color
Settings Alt + G, On / Off – G

Stereo Mode

Ability to view in the stereo mode by using anaglyph and glasses.

stereo

Full Screen Mode

We have returned the usual F hotkey to enter the full-screen mode.
If you do not click, the cursor disappears.

Timeline

Timeline panel is more compact now. New ability to hide and show thumbnails of files.

timeline

Older Versions Compatibility

We’ve added the Attach PDF checkbox, so that users of previous versions of Cerebro are able to view comments in Mirada. If you are aware that some of your colleagues use an older version, please check this box.

Cerebro

Inserting images and links into the message body

Now you can insert image into the message, directly from the buffer or a file.

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The message body will display a thumbnail with an attached original image, which can be opened by double clicking.

An added ability to insert and edit links in the message body.


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insertlink2

Opening files in Mirada

You now have several ways to open files in Mirada:

– Double clicking or clicking the Mirada button opens file in a new Mirada window
– Pressing Shift while clicking on the file enables adding the file to a playlist opened in Mirada;
– Pressing Ctrl (Cmd in MacOs) while clicking on the file enables adding a file to another file currently open in Mirada.

2018.02.05 – 360° VIDEO AND IMAGES SUPPORT AND OTHER FEATURES

2018/02/02 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “2018.02.05 – 360° VIDEO AND IMAGES SUPPORT AND OTHER FEATURES”

Mirada

– We’ve added Undo/Redo buttons in the comment mode.

– The Onion Skin mode is now available as a separate comment mode.

It enables quick sketches on video file frames to simplify commenting on animation.

onion1

onion2

onion3

– A new feature allows you to add files for comparison directly to the timeline.

Now you can select a file from the timeline.

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add_timeline2

– Support of 360° panoramic videos and images.

panarama1

panarama2

Fixed bugs

– Crash of several video types fixed.

– Incorrect display of some video files fixed.

Cerebro

– We’ve added an ability to view the number of frames and fps in the attachment properties.

attach

CASE STUDY: POLDEN STUDIO

2018/01/26 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: POLDEN STUDIO”

Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. There is our new interview with Dmitry Ostroglyadov from The Polden studio.

The Polden studio, led by the General Producer Dmitry Ostroglyadov, creates a special advanced interactive technology ecosystem around itself.

High technology and impeccable taste helped the studio’s projects land on top of the ads and exhibitions market among major industrial and high-tech companies in Russia and around the world.

For 10 years, the team of Polden has been working on special effects in feature films, creating memorable advertising and image content, designing and implemented TV studios, developing design and arrangement solutions for museums, and, of course, implementing large-scale multimedia installations.

The recent high-profile projects of the Polden studio even include self-developed technologies, such as the Polden binocular, which presents a new way to interact with the virtual reality.

Дмитрий Остроглядов   Офис студии Полдень
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— Tell us about yourself. How did you get into the industry, where did it all begin?

— Since my childhood, I have been interested in weird stuff like astronomy and relativistic physics. In the sixth grade, I took an interest in programming and by the ninth grade, I was already working as a programmer at the Aviation Equipment Research Institute. As a first-year student, I became a motion designer for the NTV channel.

By the way, I was the first person to employ Konstantin Kharitonov. We worked on some awful movie together. Then there were lots of movies, and in-between them, I was working on Khrun and Stepan TV show at the Pilot TV studio.

Later, my friends and I established our own studio in my native town of Zhukovsky. Now we do quite a range of stuff: architecture, multimedia installations using robotics, and promotion of major industrial companies, but it all began with just film effects.

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When it comes to cinema, we managed to work with both Bekmambetov and Bondarchuk. Fyodor Bondarchuk engaged us in the image part; the corporate style of his Art Pictures studio. We even branded clothes for the movie crew of Stalingrad.

Our main competitive power is that we burrow ourselves into some non-technical, technically complex gaps of the industry. We search for free niches and create something absolutely amazing.

Our claims are supported by special effects to a huge number of feature films, over fifty. We also did architectural design for the Moscow 24 channel and worked with many museums: Russian Museum, the Museum of Moscow, and the Archeology Museum. Now we cooperate with industry giants, such as Russian Helicopters, KRET, the Kalashnikov consortium, Rostec, Lukoil, and many others.

— I know that your company has a motto. Would you tell us about it?

— Our motto is “We do what we want.” This looks provocative, but the meaning is positive. This is because we are doing what we love and not just making money.

To develop my professional skills, I have always tried to do something I’d never done before, giving away sleep and days off. It is the same now; we undertake very risky projects, and this risk hardly pays off with satisfaction from breakthrough projects.

We always try to invent something new, best suited to the customer’s needs. In this case, we have to quickly upgrade our skills to the required level. This is the main difficulty here, but we still get to do what we want and implement crazy things.

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— Do you have any advice on working with customers? Do you ever need to convince them in something?

— We try to demonstrate our experience and make the customer believe in our vision, otherwise we fail. People pay for our competence, and we have to make all decisions. Our work is built on trust, so we sometimes balance on the verge of being rude when dictate what we think is right. We always insist on our vision, otherwise, it would be impossible to do anything cool.

— Now tell us about your latest projects, please.

— There was an excellent case to illustrate our approach. I mean the video for KRET (KRET is the Concern for Radioelectronic Technologies; the most powerful in Russia). We were making an unusual image-building clip, where we never showed the aircraft — neither airplanes, nor helicopters, nothing at all.

We focused on the very functions of those and represented them with huge marine inhabitants flying in the air: whales for locators, cuttlefish with an ink spot for radio interference.

A flock of fish was representing the friend-or-foe recognition system. Dolphins are very sensitive, so they worked as sensors, and so on. Such poetic comparisons help us brilliantly reflect the properties of industrial equipment. We also made a whole series of commercials for Russian Helicopters. They are a commercially successful company, selling all over the world. In Russia, few can boast something like this. So we were thinking, how can one promote helicopters around the world.

We’ve decided that it is best to use a universal language of cinema, so we are creating a series of superhero videos dedicated to helicopters. We made a clip about extinguishing fires. A fiery monster attacks the city, and helicopters fight it. Now we are starting clips on rescue, reconnaissance, and so on. This is an interesting approach when film cliches are used as an international language to create high-quality advertising.

— How many people do you have on the team and how are the responsibilities divided?

— We have a small team of 25 people, but it is not easy to manage. As in many companies, the main burden falls on four to five people, and all the others are sort of running errands. Yours truly, in addition to being a CEO, also sells to key accounts and creates content.

— How does the team communicate? Do problems arise and how do you solve them?

— Of course, they do arise. In Zhukovsky, our team was all friends and mutual understanding. Now we have grown as professionals and become more rational. When we start a project, we chip in all our competences and build an entirely new structure, so the conveyor principle wouldn’t work here. Every time we make up absolutely different groups of people, depending on the technology we are using. We use various management methods, and Cerebro is the only thing that helps us keep everything under control.

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— How long have you been working with Cerebro?

— We were the first company that purchased Cerebro and put its trust in it. Back then, Cerebro was not even being licensed, just sold.

In the 2000s, I took the main Cerebro players to the Pilot studio, where we were working on a high-tech TV tech calculation system. When I started my own business, I followed very closely what was happening to Konstantin and Co. For me, he has always been an authority when it comes to technology.

— What you find the most useful in Cerebro?

— Structuring ability of this product, automated alignment of all business processes. You can plan your expenses, tasks, track the working time. To understand where goes the money, we always use Cerebro. For those engaged in production, Cerebro is convenient because it may be tailored for a great variety of applications.

We are engaged in both technology and creative projects, and this is well reflected in the ideology of Cerebro.

— Tell us about your company’s plans, please.

— I would very much like to take an example from Konstantin Kharitonov and start a product of my own. As of now, many our developments take from one and a half to six months, but this isn’t much at all. I think it is cool when you can do something for several years, polishing it to the perfect state.

We patented a binocular, i.e. a virtual reality device. Now we are going to make software, a repository that stores large volumes of multimedia data and tells entire stories about them.

We are also interested in expanding to neighbouring markets and developing new lines of business. This is why we are currently negotiating with the Polytechnic Museum, the X-5 Retail Group, and several museum funds engaged in the preservation of the historical heritage. I would like to develop my products and sell them all over the world.

2017.12.25 – NEW MIRADA, SEPARATE COMMENTS, UNITED TIMELINE AND OTHERS

2017/12/22 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “2017.12.25 – NEW MIRADA, SEPARATE COMMENTS, UNITED TIMELINE AND OTHERS”

Mirada

– New interface

mainMirada

– Distinct comments

The new version of Mirada creates specific comments, and every comment’s author is displayed. Comments are viewed consecutively, and they may contain text, tag, sketch, duration or an audiovisual track.
Comments may be replied to Mirada directly.

– Possibility to set task status from Mirada

– Unified timeline

All playlist files are displayed in one scalable timeline.

– Export comments in PDF

Possibility to export comments in PDF in order to send elsewhere.

pdfMirada

– Possibility to compare videos, images and PDF-files in three variants

Media files can be compared using three variants: horizontal, vertical, “wipe”.

compareMirada

In Cerebro, select the files you want to compare in the attachments panel or search and click the “Compare selected files” button.

compareCerebro

Furthermore, there is a possibility to compare different shots from the same video using comparison marker, in three variants as well. Quick switch between the marker and the current shot is provided.

compareMarker

– Possibility to enable cache on video.

cashe

– Possibility to put on a loop either a video fragment or several playlist files.

tailsMirada

– Tails

Some shots at the beginning or at the end of a video file can be disabled. In this case they will be skipped during playback. Trailers may be set either on the whole playlist or on specific files.

– Setting your own hot keys.

shotcuts
– Some other different cool and useful features. Let’s watch some tutorials.

Cerebro

– Possibility to view forum on subtasks

subtasksCerebro

There is a possibility to view threads immediately, without entering each task separately.

– Possibility to view forums related to the current task

– Copying multiple http-links to files at once

CASE STUDY: KINOATIS

2017/11/07 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: KINOATIS”

Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. Our new interview features Vadim Sotskov, CEO of the KinoAtis studio.

_MG_0203(2) — Vadim, we would like to talk about your company. How was it developing and what are you doing now?

— The company was founded quite a long time ago; it’s been about 12 years, I think. At first it was called CNF-Anima, and in 2011, we renamed it as KinoAtis. The studio had been small until we started Belka and Strelka. The project was huge; most of the work was done right at the studio, so the company’s staff increased to some 130 people. Three years ago we launched a branch office in Sarov. Now we are working on two feature films and two series. As we speak, we have finished four feature films. Three have already been released, and the fourth is in post-production; it’ll be on in November to March. I cannot say the exact date of the release yet.

— Are you talking about Hurvinek?

— Yeah. We’ve also made four TV shows, although two of them were mini-series. One of them is called Micropolis, the other was The Unusual Adventures of Karik and Valya. Those are pretty old, we have long since finished them. Each consists of 7 episodes. However, both these series are still in demand on TV.

— And where did you get the idea for Belka and Strelka?

— The concept of a film about Belka and Strelka was hidden in plain eyesight. I wonder why no one had done it before we did. They were already heroes. The movie turned out quite successful, not only in Russia. It was localized in 45 languages and screened in 160 countries, almost globally. Besides, we have two seasons of a series about them, 104 episodes in total.

— Which one of your projects is your favourite?

— I think the best project we’ve had was The Unusual Journey of Serafima. Obviously, it is no match to Belka and Strelka it terms of box office revenue or coverage, but the film has something raw and true in it.

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— Why exactly do you like it the most?

— You know, love is beyond logic.

Hurvinek is a collaboration project with Belgium and the Czech Republic. How do you work with them?

— Everything is weird. At our studio, we solve all issues right off the bat; it takes ten minutes at most. Now we have to deal with everything via the Czechs, because they are the main mediator. For example, if we have a question to the guys from Belgium, it can take a week instead of 30 minutes. Thus, the work is slower than usual. Approval and receiving of materials from partners take a long time.

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— How did you divide the work?

— We deal with directing and animation. The Czechs have initiated the project; they are responsible for the creative part. Belgium takes over rendering and final picture.

— Why did you leave rendering to Belgium?

— The Belgian studio is focused on rendering and compositing; they are very experienced in such projects.

— Does it mean that Hurvinek will be in all three languages?

— I really hope it will be in multiple languages. The film was launched in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on August 29. I still have little clue as to what comes next.

— How many people are involved in your projects? You referred to 130.

— Now we have fewer than that. The studio employs some 100 people in Moscow and the Sarov branch. Our policy is that we do not try to do everything in-house and delegate part of the work.

— Do you use outsourcing or freelance vendors?

— We do not work with freelance vendors, but we cooperate with other studios in different countries. For instance, we have a fruitful cooperation with India. They have a vast human resource pool, so the substitute bench is pretty extensive. Thus, if we are risking to miss a deadline, we can delegate our work to the Hinduses, and they will do everything alright. We were choosing from several companies, and now we work with the one that has a really good Lead Animator. However, we are reducing our work with India these days, since the USD exchange rate makes it far less interesting.

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— What specialists are the majority? Those who manage the whole process?

— At the studio, we do the basic and the creative part ourselves, delegating the standard routine jobs. Take the animation: we do the layout, and the animation itself may go to third-party vendors. The better and cleaner is our layout, the better is the material we get from freelancers or India. It’s the same with rendering. In Moscow, we carefully set the master lighting, deal with models, make up the image, and only then we can delegate part of the job to a different studio.

— Given the conditions, how do you meet the deadlines? Do you often have them?

— Of course, we do have deadlines, but we’ve never failed to meet them at major projects. Sometimes it gets pretty scary, when you take the subway and see the ads of the movie there, knowing that a large part of it is not ready yet. There’s just three weeks before the release, and there’s still a lot of work.

— What helps you manage this and get the job done on time?

— Hard work and possibly luck. I like to think that the experience we’ve gained will help us avoid crunch time in the future. However, the pressure of deadlines and rushed production just before the release is not a thing we’ve invented. Hollywood works the same way. For example, we are voicing our movie and see a foreign animated feature voiced at the same time, even though its release is also in a month. And they are not voicing the final version, but only draft material. The Czechs had also done Hurvinek and the Magic Museum just a few days before the premiere.

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— What software do you use to manage the quality and track the performance?

— We use Cerebro. It’s convenient that we can later see who had made a mistake. However, the transition was pretty hard. We were used to Excel sheets and only got Cerebro for testing by the second half of the Belka and Strelka project. At the same time, you have to understand that no software will help you if you don’t have decent production assistants and managers. Because you can mark something as ready in a program, while it might not be ready at all.

— You mean there has to be a person to check and control everything?

— Indeed. Previously, the projects were printed on spreadsheets hanging on the wall, and the assistants were blacking out the cells. Now, as we have switched to Cerebro, there is nothing on the wall but one common spreadsheet. We have set up a digital process and it works.

— So you like that Cerebro lets you check everything?

— Yeah. For example, artists often do this thing when they approve something in the system and after a while are like: “I never accepted it or even saw it, I see it for the first time.” Then you can look it up in the program and say: “Look, you’ve put a flag against this picture, it means that you saw it and accepted it.” This helps organize the process.

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— Tell us how you are licensing your projects. Which software do you use to track them?

— It’s not like we are dealing with enormous volumes, so that we’d have to track this using some special software. I know that other companies manage several brands, including those that belong to other people. That’s when it really is hard to keep track of everything and remember, who owns what rights. In our case, the entire volume of licensing information is in the head of one person. If you ask our director for licenses, she will tell you everything, including licence expiration dates and extension periods. Now we actually have one major license, Belka and Strelka. The license for the new series called Planet Ai has been added. There is also Hurvinek; its licensing period will be short, because the cinema licence is valid for six months, but as a series, it works for decades. Sooner or later it’ll come to the point where we’ll have to track this digitally.

— How do you see your development in global markets? What are your plans?

— We are already in the global markets. In 2015, we entered the list of 25 best independent studios in the world according to the Animation Magazine. I mean, obviously, we are not Disney, nor are we Hollywood. But within ten years, we have turned into a large company in Russia. We are becoming visible in the world and will continue in the same spirit. The way Hurvinek will be received is crucial. This is the first serious project of this kind involving Russia. In the nearest future, we plan to complete two features. By the end of this year, we’ll see what’s in the package for the next few years. We also have several projects underway. I can say for sure that we’ll continue two of our series. We’ve started the third season of Belka and Strelka; it will be called Belka and Strelka: Space Secrets, so we’ll go a little deeper into science and into space. We will definitely continue Planet Ai. If Hurvinek goes well, we’ll keep collaborating with the Czechs. They already want to make a sequel.

CASE STUDY: Bahubali VFX, part 2

2017/09/15 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: Bahubali VFX, part 2”

Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. Our new interview features Alexander Oplanchuk from ‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’ VFX Team.

— What was your start in the industry, where did you study, and how did you take part in movie-making?

— Good afternoon. I started 3D graphics as a hobby around the year 1994, when people still used 3D Studio and PC386, but ¾ I was not looking to become a professional back then. After that I started my studies. I entered the Tomsk State University, transferred to St. Petersburg a year later, and remembered about 3D graphics only on my third year of the military department, when they asked me to use 3D animation to demonstrate the S300 surface-to-air missile system: how missiles launch and so on. Perhaps, when I handed this project over and got the credit with no tests, I decided for myself that it would be nice to do this for a living.

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I started to study LightWave—it was not popular at the time, still isn’t, although many people like it—and got a job in the Videosfera studio, where I made some phone models, basic animation, and simple commercials. I think the real kick-start of the whole story was the year 2004, when I started working at the Begemot studio under Lenfilm. At the time, they did postproduction of various series and advertisements, and I happened to gain invaluable experience there, while working on the Master and Margarita series. I learned a lot and possibly got a new qualification there as a 3D generalist: I learned what compositing and MatchMove were, as well as Shake, After Effect, and Maya.
Around 2007, Begemot, unfortunately, fell apart, and the V-Jet studio separated from it. Everything there was the same: fairly simple and unpretentious commercials (advertising for the LEK company, for example). And then the Moscow-based Dago studio, which was doing postproduction for the Admiral movie back then, hired our studio to process 16 underwater shots. I worked on them alone, from beginning to end; it was a turnkey project, so to speak. It involved texturing, modelling, rendering, animation, VFX, and compositing. When I handed these 16 shots over, Sergey Savenkov, supervisor of the Admiral project, invited me to a party in Moscow on the occasion of the opening night, and offered me a job. So I worked for the Dago studio from 2008 to 2013, where I was learning something new and honing my existing skills.
In March 2013, Kamal (R.C. Kamalakannan), who had already worked with me, a freelancer, on the Indian movie Eega, invited me to Chennai to work for the EFX Prasad studio as a CG supervisor of one project. Two months later, I realized that first, leaving your family is hard, and second, teleworking is a thing. So I suggested that we use Cerebro, because I had used it before, while working on the Smeshariki project in St. Petersburg. I thought, why not? They reviewed the proposal and found that it could be done. Everything was set up by June, so I went back to Petersburg to manage the project remotely.
In April 2014, Kamal offered me the next project, Puli, also Indian, quite interesting; and again, we did the entire postproduction cycle in Cerebro. We made some 2,000 shots within a year or so. The project turned out pretty decent VFX-wise, but the script had its flaws, and unfortunately, the movie failed. Finally, in November 2015, Kamal, already the supervisor of the Baahubali: The Conclusion project back then, invited me to work on the second part of the film. This was how I ended up there.

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 — Please tell us more about the tasks that the VFX team faced during this project?

— The Baahubali project is in many ways unique, at least for India. First of all, it had perhaps the highest budget in India; secondly, a large part of this money (some 20%) was allocated to VFX. Plus the scale — huge scenery with massive battle scenes, lots of characters, elephants, boars, and a lot more. The script was very extensive. The director of the project, Rajamouli, is an incredibly creative person; he knows how to make everything very colourful. Of course, it was quite difficult to implement all these ideas. During the year and a half when I was working on the project, the main task of the VFX team was to implement all ideas from the script and fantasies of the director in a fairly short period of time, which eventually resulted in over two thousand shots.

— Indeed, a very difficult task. How many studios participated in such a large-scale project? How were they selected, and how were the tasks distributed?

— By the end of the project, some 36 studios participated in it, if we just take those in Cerebro; I don’t think anyone knows the actual number, because vendors just hired different small studios that helped them implement the project, but the main ones numbered some 36. Supervisor Kamal directly engaged in the selection; he has a lot of relevant experience. I think he chose exactly those who could come in handy. Global tasks were distributed to studios based on their qualification in different VFX areas. The main difference from the Puli project is the number of studios; we had 36 instead of 15. Perhaps, the main difference was the way tasks were distributed; they were not broken down shot-by-shot, but rather task-by-task. I mean, studios were sometimes not given the whole shot, but a specific task—for example, one place had to matchmove one shot, another one did models with textures, the third one did animation, the fourth one did lighting and rendering, while the fifth one made the final composition. Thus, we were able to make the most of the strongest points of each studio. On the other hand, interaction between studios could cause extra difficulties, but in this case Cerebro allowed us to minimize them.

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— Tell us, please, about the approach that director Rajamuli used when working with the VFX team.

— Working with Rajamuli is a pleasure. He is a unique person and director. His main distinguishing quality is that he completely immerses himself in all new issues and difficulties together with the VFX team to look for the best ways to solve them along with others. Many directors avoid getting involved in the process to that extent, especially in VFX, because people usually think this is strictly for IT experts, and no one cares how they get it done. Rajamouli, however, was with us through the whole cycle, at every stage, making an effort to ensure that this project is brought to life.
It is also worth mentioning that during the edit, when he reviewed final shots, he always recorded a video feedback to help supervisors and all people involved in post-production understand what exactly was the problem and make the changes he needed. Moreover, you could always call him directly and quickly solve some issues. Working with him was very comfortable, and if he ever suggested that we did something together again, I would happily embark on this opportunity.

— What was the most difficult part of the project?

— There were overall a lot of difficulties, and if I try and list everything now, it will take a lot of time. Probably, the hardest part was the last month on the project, when we had some 1,000 shots left out of 2,200. This was the most difficult, because the deadline was too close for so many shots and tasks that had been given a year and a half before, if we count preproduction. We had very little time, even though 36 studios and some 1,000 digital artists were working on this together.

— Please tell us about the effects. Are there some that look simple enough, but are very difficult to implement?

— Yes, I’ll just give an example. The very first sequence, the one with the elephant. It has two shots; we had to make a large dummy stuffed with straw, and the main character was to shoot it with an arrow to set fire. These two shots, that take 5 seconds on screen, took our Houdini freelancer almost a year to finish. You see, that person had to spend a year over a task (of course, he had other tasks as well), which will literally last an instant in the film.

— What part was the most interesting for you personally?

— I find it difficult to single out one thing. Working on each sequence was different and interesting, the tasks varied greatly. This is what makes our work of VFX artists exciting: each time you come across something new and unknown. I believe that many people choose this profession precisely because there is no humdrum, no feeling that you live the same groundhog day all the time. Every single day is absolutely unlike the other: first you work on a wild boar, then over an elephant, then over a flying ship in the sky. The director is an incredibly imaginative person, and all the tasks were quite complex and interesting, and this was the most important thing for me. Therefore, I cannot think of anything special.

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— Tell us about your favourite movies.

— My taste in movies is quite versatile: a high-budget blockbuster, stuffed with visual effects, or an animated movie, or a movie with no effects, but some deep philosophy. So the list is pretty random. However, I have a personal quirk that stands in the way: if I am watching a movie with visual effects, I cannot watch it like a normal person, I can’t help evaluating it from a professional point of view and wondering how it was done, why it was done, and there is no end to it.

— Was there something you discovered for yourself while working on this film?

— It was probably not quite a discovery, but still—when working on a film, we always face the same problem: no matter how thorough was your planning, you always end up with too many tasks and too little time. You have but a month before the delivery, the deadline, and you still have a huge number of shots to process. Personally, I really want to believe that this experience will help me reduce, if not completely eliminate, the amount of raw material by the end of my next project. For me, this is the main problem, since technical issues can be solved, but initial planning is, of course, a much more sensitive thing,

Please tell us about the planning. How did you use Cerebro? How quickly did the team get accustomed to it?

— It took the studios that were given the Cerebro account an average of one week to get used to the features, to audiovisual comments, to the structure, and the interface. There were no real issues; everything was smooth. When people knew we were switching from Excel to Cerebro, where everything is structured, everything is visible, the assets are stored, so everything can be downloaded from there, they realized it was really convenient and minimized the postproduction time. I think everyone was happy; it actually helped us finish this project on time. I would even say, if it were not for Cerebro, we would not have delivered it on time at all.

— Could you name the hottest features that you used every day, and also those that you used less often?

— Yes, of course. One of the most basic and hottest functions for me as a CG supervisor was audiovisual commenting in Mirada: I used it up to a hundred times per day. Of course, I did also plan some tasks, but less often; this was mainly done by our Cerebro project managers. The most important feature for me was, specifically, audiovisual commenting and the ability to track overdue critical tasks; that is, understanding what exactly needs the greatest attention at the moment. All these things that are difficult to cover at once, when you have 2,200 shots and 1,000 employees. The ability to work with them comfortably day-to-day helped us make this project.

— Perhaps, you have some suggestions as to how we could improve our product?

— Yes, I actually have something to say. There was one thing that was not so much annoying as inconvenient. I mean, not everyone has a fast Internet connection. Since the server (Cerebro file server) was in Germany, and people worked in India, in the U.S., and everywhere in the world, the file upload was taking quite some time. Sometimes it was 1, 2, 3 hours, other times—5 to 10. However, Cerebro always puts the identification bulb symbol above the list, so I click it once to be redirected to this task. But the file is still uploading! I mark it as unseen. After a while, the symbol appears above the list, again. I click it and get to the same place. These situations had me manually scroll through the bulbs to see exactly what I needed. I think it would be better if such tasks were moved to the beginning or the end of the list according to their priority. That is, the bulb should not appear above, but rather below.
Do you know what else I would improve? When working on the project, we generate a fairly large amount of statistical data. For example, how much time this particular task has taken. Like, we have a MatchMove task here. It contains 120 frames, for instance, and processing took 9 hours. If we analyze such statistical data for all tasks, Cerebro could greatly contribute to planning in the future. Having all the statistics on tasks, a database of previous projects, the system could tell how long the task would take, so that people would not have to think about it at all. I must clarify: statistics from all studios taken together would be misleading, but data within the same studio would be useful. This would cut the performance time and brought about some kind of an AI.

— Indeed a very interesting suggestion. We will definitely see about it. Thank you very much for the conversation. We wish you creative success!

— Thank you very much for the interview. And I wish you success with your product as well. It really helps.

— We are thrilled to hear this!

Asia Road Trip

2017/09/01 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “Asia Road Trip”

Безымянное оформление

Here it comes! A Cerebro Road Trip to the countries of Asia. During the whole month of September we are going to visit some of most important countries of Asia, and with their help we will be able to find some new agents for our services.

We have products:
– Cerebro https://cerebrohq.com/ the environment for teamwork and learning in the Media & Entertainment industry.
– Staya http://staya.vc/en/ recruiting IT-platform like “adwords” but for Jobs.

The whole month is packed with meetings.

Our plans are:

  • September 4-10 – Beijing, China
  • September 11-13 – Shanghai, China
  • September 14-19 – Mumbai, India
  • September 20-22 – Bangalore, India
  • September 23-29 – Seoul, Korea
  • October 1-6 – Tokyo, Japan

During this days, we will show our services, personally to our agents, which can sale or support our products.

If you want to become your agent, please write to Victoria vanyushkina@cerebrohq.com for scheduling a meeting!

USER CASE: PIK Group

2017/08/31 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “USER CASE: PIK Group”

Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. There is our new interview with Alexey Duk from PIK Group.

We have known each other for quite a bit. You were studying architecture, am I right?

— Yes.

So why did you start computer graphics?

— I am no longer involved in computer graphics, but I was once upon a time. The explanation is very simple: I graduated from the university as an architect in 1996, while computer technologies and three-dimensional computer graphics were just starting to gain popularity. They were already available to mere mortals, not hidden somewhere in secret labs of Pixar. You could buy some i386, install 3D Studio for DOS and, well, be able to sort of make stuff in 3D.

Architects tend to dig such things, because you study perspective and shadow projections for years and draw everything manually, and then you suddenly can make a computer do it in your stead and get an efficient image of your future house without any struggle. That was what got at me in the first place. I took an interest in it, and it turned out to be in high demand. My first ten years as an architect actually involved me being some kind of a visualizing architect, meaning that I was mostly engaged in computer graphics.

Дук Алексей   Офис ГК ПИК

What about now? As far as I know, you are more of a manager now, right?

— Yeah, I am an elderly guy after all. Ordering people around is pretty much the only thing I am capable of these days.

How did this happen?

— Oh, this is a natural process. I believe most professions work like that: you start with doing stuff by yourself, then you have too much on your hands and they get someone to help you, etc. Then you find yourself having a whole team to manage, then you realize that you barely perform tasks anymore, because you are mostly managing. After that you know you can deal with any number of people and start managing full-time. And if you have grown in the very same industry, you are not just a manager of whatever; you are a manager in a certain field of activity. So it went.

Let us move on to the current events. Before we talk about your company, tell me please about your sales office.

— Sales office is our headquarters, where you can buy an apartment in any our project building. We can call it an apartment store. We also have branches, usually at certain construction sites, where you can buy an apartment in the corresponding project. The sales office is where you can buy any apartment.

— So it is like a common showroom.

— Yeah, a common showroom, but also a selling one. To put it bluntly, people come here to buy a dwelling. And we have everything to accommodate them.

Офис ГК ПИК

Okay, so let us talk about your company in general. What is the PIK Group and what does it do?

– The PIK Group is what is called a vertically integrated structure that deals with housing development, mostly in Moscow, but also in the regions, St. Petersburg, and so on. What do we mean by vertically integrated? This means that the whole life cycle of our facilities is under our control, starting with the site, the purchase of land, further development of the project, construction, sales and maintenance, up to its dismantling sometime in the distant future.

It is all done by one company. Naturally, some stages do involve third-party contractors, but overall, the product in its entirety belongs to the PIK Group. In terms of housing volumes, we are Russia’s top developer.

What is the company planning for the future? You are already number one in Russia, do you plan to enter Western markets or something?

— It would be precocious to talk about other markets, but we are currently expanding in the regions. We entered St. Petersburg this year.

— What do you do in the company, exactly? Which department do you manage, what are your duties?

— The company has this establishment called Design Department. This is an unusual thing, because I do not know of any other development company to have something like that, let alone something this big: it employs over a hundred people. We have it because our senior managers believe design to be crucial, and lots of US and Europe-based companies are what is called design-driven. Like, you know, Apple. The design of its products and services is essential, this is why Jonathan Ive is basically the second person in the company, since what he does is so important. We have a similar approach. We think that the appearance of us and our product has to look like the same concept in any communications.

— So you are trying to put everything under a single concept?

— That’s right, everything. Ads, marketing materials, website, facades, interiors, landscaping, framed models—those are all our doing. Also videos, souvenirs…

— I did see the magnets, yeah.

— Some exhibitions, too… Everything, one way or another, passes through our department. We have a separate unit called PIK-Projekt that directly deals with architectural design; it employs 700 architects and engineers. This is a story of its own. In the design department, I am the deputy head, responsible for administrative management. The head of the unit is mostly responsible for the beauty, while I ensure that everything happens on time and works like it should.

Can you name your most difficult or, for example, favourite project? You probably have more of them now, especially after the acquisition of Morton.

— I do not think it is quite right to put the question like this. We, unlike some architectural bureaus or developers that build unique elite housing, deal with mass market. What is good in our product—it allows us to make affordable housing using methods that can be called industrial. This is why all architectural solutions we use are always made in the context of repeatability, typification, and so on. The more arranged and technologically similar is the product, the easier it is for us to replicate.

At the same time, we, naturally, have to struggle and make the outward appearance of various projects different, so that we do not return to what was before the transformation two and a half years ago. Everything has changed quite drastically, because the company used to build almost exact copies of its houses for 20 years, i.e. we had two series of houses, each of which contained a huge number of projects. Now we try to make houses with similar insides, but varying outward appearances.

Yeah, so it is not quite right to single out a particular project.

— No, it is understandable to have some favourites. For example, 141 Varshavskoe Shosse was our first project under the new concept. It is already close to completion. Naturally, I call it my favourite because we learned a lot from it. It is almost ready; people will move in the last towers in autumn. It will actually be our first project in full accordance with the concept that we consider correct. All the other are still underway to some extent.

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Okay, I see. Let us talk about your work now. What kind of people, so to say, fit in your team the best? What kind of people are you most comfortable with?

— It is important for me that a person is a professional and, well, in control of themselves. I have no other requirements. Overall, I am looking for motivated people who want to work. Like I said, no other expectations.

— Then, to sum this up, the simplest question: how do people get in your company? Suppose, if we are talking about the design department.

— We publish job openings when we have them. Of course, we often find people via networking, since the field of design has a certain specificity: there are few decent professionals and you know them all. Here, too, the market is not very big, so we start with familiar faces. If it does not work, then we publish job openings.

Many people apply via Staya.vc. It is such a hassle to interview all of them. I have never had so many applicants, honestly.

— You have been using our software for a long time, and I remember you were saying, “I live in it.” How did Cerebro implementation go?

— The introduction was no problem. I think the entire launching process took less than a week. Training takes an average of a couple of hours. This is what made it appealing in the first place.

Our customers are mostly animation studios and such. But your company is different. Why did you choose our software for managing such a complex department, and even more than one?

— It originally happened, because I used to manage a computer graphics division in another company, where we successfully used Cerebro. When we started to consider a project management system for the design department here, in the PIK Group, I did not see any problem in using Cerebro to manage not only tasks or projects related to video content production etc. Overall, it has all features for other units as well.

At the moment, for example, Cerebro is very actively used by our product department, where media content as such is virtually nonexistent.

How exactly do you manage your daily work in Cerebro?

— Everything is quite simple. We have a customer inside the company. This is the advertising unit that sends us orders by setting tasks in Cerebro. Then our coordinator looks through these tasks and assigns vendors. In addition, we have a large schedule of our work for a year and according to this schedule, the same coordinator simply starts some tasks that need to be started under the schedule. So he starts them and also assigns vendors. This is how it happens.

In terms of quality assurance, we have several options. People who perform a certain type of tasks already know that after completion they must leave the results of their work for a certain person to approve. This person reviews the task and then passes it either further along the chain for another approval, or decides that the task is completed. Sometimes we need to further approve the task with some project managers and so on.

When the task is completed, it is sent to production. For example, if it is about printed materials, the production team takes the approved task and then marks it in Cerebro when the printed copies are ready, like, guys, we already have them printed, they are at our warehouse. This is how it goes.

— So as a rule, you have template structures, so that you can very quickly launch them into work?

— Overall, yes. The structure of the projects is approximately the same. What we are developing for each project is called an advertising and marketing package. It is a set of deliverables: website materials, booklets, advertisements, and so on. The set is roughly the same all the time. When the time comes, we need about a month to develop this package. We start the whole block of these tasks, which is already there and is, in fact, a template.

— I remember you had a very global rebranding process.

— We have already dealt with it; the rebranding is almost over. We always have some work of this kind. It was a really serious task, because a huge amount of everything needed to be done from scratch. It took almost a year, from creating a logo to developing templates of all documents, business cards, etc.

— Well, the last question. What could you recommend, as a user, to improve Cerebro?

— Having both a web version and a mobile version is basically the standard of today’s life. It is clear that without this moving forward is hardly possible. We are glad that work on this issue is already underway. The second thing concerns the overall UI. Cerebro’s interface is a bit out of this millennium, but the fact that you constantly improve its features and appearance is wonderful. We see what is happening and where this is going, and we like it.

— Thank you for your time and advice!

CASE STUDY: Bahubali VFX

2017/08/08 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: Bahubali VFX”

Cerebro continues publishing interviews with customers. We talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. Our new interview features RC Kamalakannan from ‘Baahubali 2: The Conclusion’ VFX Team.

—How did you get into industry and what were you doing before that?

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— I have been engaged in computer graphics since 1989. Earlier, I was doing subtitling and simple 2D animation using Commodore Systems. Then I gradually started making commercials in India, especially in Southern India, for advertising agencies based in Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. From there, slowly, I moved on to doing titles for South Indian feature films.
My first titles for films were made in 1995. We shot the titles off the Monitor screen, as we did not have access to a film recorder then. I was supposed to acquire Silicon Graphics 4D-35, but applications for Macintosh and PCs started coming in. My first PC application for 3D was Topaz. Many people would not remember it now.
Topaz had been released before 3D-Studio by Autodesk. Slowly, I learned compositing with the Digital Fusion application and started expanding the man-power base in my company, Indian Artists. Then I became a VFX Supervisor / Producer and was a VFX Supervisor for Baahubali 2. It was a long process with more than 20 years in this field.

— How did you get into the Baahubali Project?

— Baahubali 2 is my sixth project with Director S.S. Rajamouli. Earlier, I won the National Award for VFX, which is equal to Oscar in this part of the world, for his film Magadheera, which also had lots of computer graphics and visual effects.
Actually Magadheera was my entry into visual effects-based projects. Earlier, my projects were not totally based on visual effects; just one or two scenes. Magadheera was fully based on visual effects. Another film called Eega was my next visual effects-based project with S.S. Rajamouli.
Then there was a small pause before I joined him again for Bahubali 2 as a visual effects supervisor.

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—How many studios were involved in creating visual effects for this project?

— More than 35 studios were involved in Baahubali worldwide, including St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent, Shanghai, London, Tehran, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and several studios in India. Almost all visual effects studios in India worked for Baahubali 2.

—How did you choose those studios?

— Well, I had already worked with some studios in previous projects. Other studios I found online, based on their specialization, got their show-reels, then discussed storyboards and previs with them. Normally, I do not give one scene/shot to one studio; I split the scene/shot into various tasks and select the studios depending on the task.

— Could you tell us more about your approach in work with your VFX team? How were you assigning tasks among them?

— Yes, normally, we start planning on-set production from the previs stage. During the shooting, our on-set supervisor logs in Cerebro and uploads the HDRI directly from the shooting location. A Lidar scan of the film’s sets and terrain, shooting data with the log sheet, and reference images will all be in Cerebro.
Cerebro is our project management software, which is very user-friendly. It takes just a couple of hours for a new studio to get used to Cerebro, and the support is excellent.
We had our data center in Germany, so all our assets were saved there and linked with Cerebro. The entire pipeline was neatly integrated with Cerebro as the hub.
The first task was asset building. 3D modelling and texturing of characters and props of the entire project are broken down to parts for several studios and individual vendors. At the same time, we start R&D on FX and crowd. Asset building and R&D processes are all in Cerebro, on day-to-day basis, from the WIP stage. Once the edit is done, Input Arri or DPX files are sent to matchmove. The matchmove studio uploads solved cameras and my QC approves it. The studios are assigned new tasks, which can be FX, crowd, digital-extension, comp, character animation, etc. They have access to MM data based on their allocation. If the studio finds any error in MM, it red-flags it to QC, so the task goes back to the MM studio for correction. The main tasks are further broken down to sub-tasks like rigging, rotoscoping, object-track, etc. All goes like clockwork.
Then the main studios send postvis material, which is normally gray-scale quicktime movies with rough animated characters, but with perfectly matchmoved shots. The director watches the postvis line-up in edit again and does final edit and trimming. Upon approval, the studios send the result for final rendering. I have used Werender in China and Forrender in Ukraine as Baahubali -2 renderfarms.
After that rough comp QTs in HD are sent with a few final comp sample shots to my Comp supervisors. And then they arrive to our DI facility.
All the above tasks are saved in Cerebro, and as it’s admin, I am able to get them 24/7.

— What was the biggest challenge for you creating visual effects for this project?

— At one point, we had 2,550 shots. It is a huge number of shots, and we had to make assets for all of them, so the studios had to work tirelessly to meet the deadline. From start to finish, we had only fourteen and a half months. It was a tiresome project to finish on time. Without Cerebro, it would not have been possible at all.

— Which visual effects are very hard to create, but look very simple on screen?

— In the climax, there is a bison pulling a chariot, and the hero is trying to destroy the chariot. He jumps and lands on the horns of the bison, and there were some 12 FX shots. That was very challenging.

— What was your favorite part of this project?

— The swan ship song. It is my favorite scene in the entire project. We had shot it only by January, and the studio had only three months to finish it. That was my favorite part of the film. I think we did a good job on that.

— What films do you prefer?
— Of course, a movie without visual effects. A simple comedy or a thriller.

— Do you have any suggestions on how to improve Cerebro?
— Well, I know that Cerebro can handle the Russian language, Chinese Mandarin, and English at once, but I do not know if it can translate between these automatically. Whether it is possible for an artist to type in native Mandarin, but for me as a Cerebro admin to see it in English.
I would also like a chat window, so if I want to speak with an artist from another part of the world online in Cerebro, I could drop them a few lines.
Besides, a personal URL Reminder, where we could come back to some tasks later, would be nice.

— Those are very good suggestions! We will work on them.

CASE STUDY: United 3D Labs

2017/07/03 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: United 3D Labs”

— Please, tell us a bit about yourself. What was your start in the industry, where you studied, and what are your duties in the company?
photo_vatulin
— I have graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Department of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia. Long ago, in the year 1994, my friends and I created a design studio, mostly focused on printing. Step by step, it became a basis for an advertising agency, and our range of services increased. We did printing, made souvenirs, and arranged corporate events. It was like any other small advertising agency in Russia. At some point, the need arose for 3D, 3D Max models, and stuff like that. So we hired people who deal with it and over time, a whole department was created. The United 3D Labs independent laboratory for computer graphics later separated from this department. In 2008, I left the agency and transferred to this company. Since then we have been doing this.

— What projects is the company currently managing and how many people are involved in them?

— We have a team of 20 people working on the projects. Those are widely different projects, which is quite a rare thing for the Russian computer graphics market. We do both works based on the traditional pre-rendered works, such as commercials and presentation videos, and modern interactive projects with real-time rendering: mappings, installations, and museum expositions. This is our area of activity. We think we deal with almost everything except traditional TV and cinema. We focus on content, its playback and presentation, so we try not to tamper with the hardware too much. However, we will tinker and fasten anything if we need to. First of all, it has to look good, be catchy and unconventional. Our company is one of the few, if not the only one, to actually have pipeline with images over 10K resolution. We do not just make relatively simple motion graphics. We can do photorealistic graphics and animation with a resolution like that Few companies can do that.

— How did you manage this pipeline?

— It’s just one of our focus areas. One of our customers required such high-resolution images. A major Russian industrial enterprise has a showroom, where they need to display real-time graphics. They use Ventuz for that; the process is controlled by a computer cluster. A huge wall of 80 full HD displays is constantly screening clips about the products and capabilities of the enterprise. Those clips were the reason why we needed the pipeline to work with this resolution. There is a GPU render farm; our entire local network uses InfiniBand with 56 Gb/s of speed instead of common Ethernet; 512 GB RAM workstations. Of course, anything can render these resolutions, it’s not a problem. The problem is that we have to do a project in a month, not in 10 years. This is our unique area of activity, and the company’s main advantage is that we deal with really complicated high-tech tasks, while making them nice to look at. You know, some people like unconventional solutions—using tracking or something—that have no beauty to them. We are trying to consider the aesthetics as well. Lately, we have been largely engaged in virtual and augmented reality projects.

— Since we are talking about beauty, tell us about your most impressive projects for customers, viewers. What methods can be used to achieve it?

— It’s not easy to please everyone. Different people like different things. It is like the old story about the Black Square by Malevich, when some people say it is garbage, and others think it is a great masterpiece of art. We work for the sake of our viewers, so we avoid obscure abstraction which only our colleagues can appreciate. Perhaps it is worth mentioning one of our latest works, completed in Kazan in January. It was a city panorama, a four-storey museum full of installations (a total of 17). There were things to suit any taste; we tried to satisfy everyone. We started thinking of what will be there during the concept development phase—it is very rare for developers to get involved at such an early stage. Many thanks to the customer, who gave us the opportunity to implement this project. We were developing all the components together with scholars from the Institute of Archeology under the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. They were telling us what installations should be demonstrating from a scientific point of view, while we were trying to make it work. The museum is a city panorama, it tells people about Kazan, its past and present. It is a conventional museum of city history, but it is also very modern: it focuses both on education and entertainment. We tried to make the entertaining part interesting for everyone: augmented and virtual reality, children’s games, traditional presentations, a historical timeline. Everything that makes getting acquainted with the city history as exciting as possible. We wanted to please everyone—that is, if someone dislikes one thing, they should like another. Considering the reviews, we have succeeded. Kazan actually has few such museums; even Moscow cannot boast many of them. So our project made quite a splash, partially because it wasn’t just one unique and beautiful solution, but several various solutions, hitting the same goal.

— What projects made you the most confident, as in “there is nothing to change, everything hits the right spot”?

— I don’t really think such projects exist, because now, as some time have passed, we would make a lot of changes even in the Kazan city panorama we’ve just mentioned. All installations have a common control system, and we can see in real time, which of them are popular or not, and whether some concepts are implemented at the exhibitions or not. We see how people interact with all of this. And we would definitely refashion some parts completely. So there are no projects where you don’t want to change anything. However, sometimes you only want minor changes. Rock opera Crime and Punishment, staged at the Moscow Musical Theatre and directed by Konchalovsky, is one of such projects. All its visualization was made by us; it was the first time when projection mapping was done on moving scenery in a Russian theatre. There is a tracking system, all the scenery has markers, cameras are working, and projection devices display images in real time. It’s not exactly easy to work with Andrei Konchalovsky. Many things were confusing at first, but the play has been on for a year now, and we understand that the master was right. This is the case when you first want to fix something, but then you look again and realize that leaving everything intact was a good idea. But in general, any work wants improvement to some extent.

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— As for corrections, have you faced any problems in projects and how did you solve them?

— If it’s not a plain video made at the office, checked ten times, reviewed in the demo room, and then handed to the customer, but a complex installation for museum or exhibition, then of course, we face a lot of problems. First of all, this is due to the fact that there is never enough time for testing. Everyone trashes Microsoft for constant bug-fixing, but we need to understand what an intense job it is and how much time it takes for the tester. Microsoft can afford it, but we rarely have such an opportunity; everything is done basically on the fly. Something is corrected on the ground, something is done at the office, then we send it again.
I have to point out that we, like many other companies in the industry, use a wide range of software and hardware, which, in fact, is absolutely not designed for our activities. Game engines like Unity and Unreal are used for complex exhibitions simply because we do not have anything more suitable. Or, for example, Ventuz, which is used as a plain video display system because all the other ways to do it are even more difficult and cost considerable money. Anyway, we somehow adapt everything to our needs. Naturally, problems do arise at times. We try to solve them quickly, sometimes with a hammer. Common videos and pre-rendered works rarely present any difficulty, and in most cases they can be changed, fixed later and cut again. Museum exhibitions are basically the same. But when a museum installation is on, then Putin, Medvedev, and others come the next day—that’s where all the fun begins. Sometimes we do all-nighters and fix everything, but we generally try to avoid it, unlike many colleagues. We are of a strong opinion that programmers should not code at night. A code written at night needs to be completely re-written the next morning. We try to stick to this principle.

— You mean, you do have deadlines, but you also try to support employees?

— We do have very tight deadlines. For example, our activities partially overlap with game development. No one will even be surprised if a new game is released a month later; this is common for them. As for us, if the exhibition opens the next day and important people are expected to come, everything must work like a charm. On the other hand, we try to arrange the whole process so that we have as few failures as possible. Thus, the pace is comfortable: if you need it tomorrow, it will be ready tomorrow. No need to work until four in the morning to get it done.

— Excellent approach. Now tell us about your work with Cerebro. How long have you used it and how did it assimilate in the company?

— In fact, Cerebro helps us keep going with this approach. Take the Kazan panorama: there are 17 installations, each of them is divided into N tasks, a total of some two hundred. Obviously, you need a seamless system to manage and control these tasks; otherwise it will be very hard to stick to a comfortable schedule. Therefore, Cerebro has naturalized among us just fine, because we always try to work according to the plan. When you have one or two tasks—to make a show or an exhibition—then, of course, you can all get together, gang up on it and do everything really fast. But if you constantly live at this pace, it gets very rough. People start to leave, and you realize: you cannot live like this. In this respect, Cerebro is an indispensable tool that helps with the overload of small tasks. It is an absolutely brilliant thing.
We have come to Cerebro step by step. In our work, we have a methodical approach to everything: first we studied foreign systems, for example, Shotgun, which we used for a couple of months and thought it was inconvenient. Then we tried Russian control systems, say, Bitrix24, and came to the same conclusion. Thus, we started working with Cerebro and suddenly realized that it was convenient, even though the introduction process did not escape complications. Implementation of any control system in the team is a difficult task for everyone. After all, it is much easier for a designer to explain things in a conversation, or maybe in an email, but here you need to register and manage something, and they do not like it. Novelties are always painful, but we mastered it in some three months. We have been working with Cerebro for about two years, and it no longer raises any questions; everything is calm. New employees quickly master its basics. Once it is installed for the first time, it is easier to keep working. Cerebro is an extremely useful and convenient tool to simultaneously manage a large number of orders, broken down into small subtasks. This is largely due to the fact that the program was written by people who understand our industry. It is especially striking in the details. As for the other systems… We have tested them and realized that they do not suit us. Strangely enough, even the globally known Shotgun. I, as someone who has tried both systems, can objectively admit that this solution is less convenient than Cerebro.

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— Thank you for your honest answer. Could you tell us which features of Cerebro you use regularly and which ones you do not use at all?

— In fact, we barely use one-third of all features that Cerebro provides. If we talk about what is constantly used for work, then, first of all, it is the list of tasks with the entire tree of subtasks and a forum for messages on each task. And, of course, a brilliant invention of Mirada. Everything else is used to a lesser extent. In my opinion, Cerebro has a somewhat overwhelming interface. It is as if the developers tried to fit everything in, so the UI we see now is quite complex. On the other hand, this is a trifling thing, you can just ignore it. Since we do not have piecework and do not involve freelance vendors, we don’t get to use the time-tracking functions and all the Gantt chart-related features. Again, our company is not very big. I understand that time tracking and control is needed for piecework or a large organization. But at this stage, we have other problems at hand. But as for order management, the opportunity to see all previews at once and leave comments is very convenient. With our systematic approach, we are happy that everything is in one place. You know the common routine: email, corporate chat, personal communication… As a result, no one understands who said what and to whom, as well as when and what to do. Especially if the manager said one thing and the art director said another. Now that this is all strictly within Cerebro, even if there are issues, they are promptly solved, we just have to view the task history. It helps a lot with our work.

— What else besides the interface you dislike in our product? What would you like us to improve?

— I wouldn’t say I find the existing interface unacceptable. Yes, I do think it is somewhat overloaded, but it’s the matter of taste. Someone likes to drive a BMW, someone prefers Toyota. In fact, everything works very well.

Annecy Mifa + Updates

2017/06/07 Posted by Cerebro 1 thought on “Annecy Mifa + Updates”

Attending MIFA in Annecy? Be sure to visit us at booth 4C.19 on June 13-16! Discover new features, ask questions and and get demos. We love to communicate and will be happy to see you.

Brand new Mirada design coming soon! Now even more functional. You will be able to make a comparison via curtain.

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Don’t miss your chance to get an extra discount. To book a meeting, contact us at: vanyushkina@cerebrohq.com

Stay tuned, there’s more coming!

CASE STUDY: SILA SVETA

2017/03/07 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: SILA SVETA”

Cerebro resumes publishing interviews with representatives of corporate customers.
We will talk with producers, project managers, and other industry professionals. Another interview features Vadim Vinogorov from the Sila Sveta interactive media studio.

— Vadim, tell us how you got into the industry, where you studied, and what are your duties in the company now?
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— I was a going to get a technical degree at the Bonch-Bruevich University of St. Petersburg, but I did not graduate, because I started my own business. I launched a small advertising agency, mainly focused on branding and website development. Three or four years later I realized that the work was too monotonous. So I went to ASCREEN, a major system integrator, where we were developing various interactive installations and projection mapping projects as well. Basically, we were dealing with museum projects. Those were installations of various scales, from applications for interactive tables to major mapping projects. After working as a producer, I became a production director in three or four months and got down to key projects, distributing tasks for all the other producers. Four years later I got a job proposal from CEO Denis Astakhov to fill a similar position in Sila Sveta. It was promising, since Sila Sveta was already pretty famous at the time. So I moved and now I work here.


— And how was Sila Sveta established?

— Alexey Rozov and Alexandr Us founded the company in 2008. They were doing slide projects; it was them who did projection mapping on the buildings of St. Petersburg Exchange and the Ostankino tower. Everything was, well, quick and dirty: they were the first in this market back then. Then commercial orders started to flow in. So the guys managed to break away from garage production and hire people to create increasingly complex pictures and images. The company has grown and now employs more than 50 people. Almost all of them are designers who make all our content. We have two branches; one is in Red October, Moscow, and the other one is in Los Angeles. Now we are mostly promoting the US office, as the number of international projects is growing every year.

— How many people work in the US office now?

— About four people, mostly managers. All production is based in Russia, but sometimes we send people on business trips. Technicians and supervisors go and do everything needed done, then come back.

— What about your projects, which was the latest one?

— A presentation of Audi A5 was one of the most recent; it was a collab with a department agency and the guys from Interactive Lab. For us it was a challenge, an entirely new experience. The project was complicated and exciting, because we managed to use tracking for the first time. The presentation took place in a large hangar, there was this car equipped with sensors, and cameras stood on top. We were projecting on the floor and tracking the car as it was moving across the hangar. This video is coming soon. The project’s main challenge was to integrate our classic content, created and rendered using our standard pipeline, with the interactive part. We also had a motorized screen. All in all, there was a whole lot of interesting stuff, like lasers and lighting.



— And what are the main difficulties when making projects?

— As we are mostly working with event design, the main problem is tight deadlines. We only have 2-3 weeks to produce a world-class result. We always work fast, so we must hone our solutions or make them as visually accurate and eye-catching as possible.


— And how do employees cope with these difficulties and meet such deadlines?

— When the deadline comes, we spend the night in the studio, then hand over the project and rejoice (laughs). Overall, the schedule is really tight. Once a month, we hand something over, work overtime, and then let everyone take a breather. When people come to us, they understand that Sila Sveta has a lot of work, but they also know that we have a large pool of projects and a wide profile of tasks. This is what makes it interesting. You can work on a demanding project for two or three weeks, then take three days to manage a more balanced task. When you’ve had some rest and recovered, you can once again dive into a project, which will be a global reference in a couple of months. Just to create a sense of belonging to something big and beautiful.

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— Tell us about your main customers.

— Basically, we have three markets: Russia, US, and China. In China, all projects deal with presentations of cars and we work through various agencies. In the US, we have different contacts; we cooperate with creative agencies that outsource concert and artistic performance design projects. In Russia, there is a mixture of all; we work both with agencies and with direct customers. We have a wide range of activities, including state orders and museum exhibitions. Among the latest ones, we did a show for the Museum of War.

— Are there any non-commercial projects you are just as excited to do?

— Yes, we do non-profit projects, too. Among the latest funny ones was Train Mapping, when we were projecting on trains passing by the Rodnya club, like pranksters. Now the project is widely used for reference. In summer, we made an original performance at America’s Got Talent, and it was our own initiative. As a result, we made it to the third round. Every year we participate in the Outline festival. Unfortunately, it was cancelled this summer. But next time we’ll come up with something cool.

— How did the Russian team manage to get aboard a US-based project?

— It was kind of a miracle (laughs). I think we were noticed because of our good visual component. We are gradually entering other markets. China was basically an accident. They saw our presentation of cars and used it as a reference, then offered us to work with them. We create a visually appealing picture and thus draw attention to ourselves. Because you don’t have to know the language to understand that Swan Lake is a beautiful story that can be told by images.

— How do your designers find inspiration for such a difficult task?

— We have strong creative staff and strong art direction. Alexandr Us as a creative director pulls everyone along. We have high internal quality standards. For all projects, the internal requirements of our art direction by far exceed the requirements of the customers themselves.

— How do you develop communication, how do you solve problems within the team and during the projects?

— The company has a project-oriented structure. There is a large pool of designers, who are chosen by supervisors and art directors for different teams. Each project gets its own team that performs certain tasks. Supervisor, manager, and art director are those who cover all internal and external communications and process management, including budgeting, shooting, and setup. Also, each of the three divisions has a design director, who is in charge of all art directors, there is a head of managers, who is in charge of all managers, and there is a production director, who is in charge of all supervisors—it’s me. If something happens, each of us takes part in the process.

— When it comes to concept visualization, how do you try to explain it clearly to the customer and your colleagues?

— Like I said, we have a strong preproduction process. It takes up about 20-30% of the time. We draw quite nice and detailed stills, make clear animatics, and present them to the customer, so they accept it with minimal editing. The more thorough is the work on the project before its launch, the smoother it goes when in production. No wonder that we spare a lot of time on briefing and initial control.
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— Tell us about some interesting projects related to musical performances.

— I’d love to tell you about our current project, but so far it’s a secret (laughs). I’ll talk about the performance of Halsey at the Coachella festival: this is also an American project. We have a special team for musical performances. When assigning an art director to the project, we believe they should hold up against the musical genre in which the artist performs. They must either understand it, or be a fan of it. After that, everything depends on the art director. Designers work on separate tracks, if the performance has tracks. If it’s all about loops, then we hand out dozens of loops to each designer and start the production. Then the supervisor comes in, collects all the materials and current versions, and checks the setups as well as everything else, before we hand the project over to someone else. The output of such a project usually consists of 80-100 files that are later used on the site.

— What do you do if it’s the other way round, and you need to use music for your projects?

— We have great contractors, we love them very much. They are the Monoleak studio, and we almost always work with them. We have other partner studios as well, but the guys from Monoleak are something else, they almost finish our sentences. We can give them a video as a reference of the sound or the music, say that we and the customer need something similar, and they nail it most of the time. They grasp customers’ expectations very well, so we value them.

— When people watch the show, what methods of mapping do they like most, in your practice?

— Our latest projection on the Moscow State University building, which set the world record for the area of exposure, part of the Circle of Light festival, featured some most spectacular scenes, making the viewers completely immerse in the atmosphere. Some elements interacted with the whole building. Imagine that we don’t see much of the building; we only see certain images appearing on its surface, but the building itself takes a back seat. And when some elements of the structure cave in and reappear, it looks stunning. There is a scene with figures, which is quite simple graphics-wise, but it works very well with the building. Everyone was impressed when the figures started to scatter and change from large to huge, from small to tiny, filling the whole surface.

— Please tell us about your experience with Cerebro, since you have started using it for your projects.

— Well, we first used Cerebro about six months ago. We went off with it, worked for some time, and decided that we need something more to manage our projects. We tried different software, but it didn’t work out, so we returned to Cerebro. By the way, designers were very happy, like, “Yay, our beloved Cerebro is back!” Because unlike all other software, it works very quickly, which is very important to us. We do projection mapping, and we sometimes have just huge OUT files of projects with a resolution of 20,000×12,000 pixels. Uploading such files to online resources is a problem. With Cerebro, however, you can put them on your local server and keep working. So we deployed Cerebro again, and now 90% of the entire team works with it. Technicians take part in this as well; they upload materials for our projects, which has not happened before. So we are trying to completely integrate, using all the possibilities, including planning, the Gantt chart, and time tracking. We used to do half of it manually.

— This is great! And what tools do you use the most?

— It differs depending on the role. I, for example, constantly monitor the time management of employees, because my main concern is where they spend their time and what we get as a result.

— Have you seen our new feature, likes and dislikes?

— Yeah, we haven’t tried it yet, but I think we will soon. It’s exciting, especially when artists upload some concerts, and everyone says, “Oh, this is a great concert!” Now we’ll see who gets all the likes.

— That is great! And how long did the integration take?

— It took us about a month to get used to Cerebro, because its interface is not really intuitive. But this was later compensated by the speed of work and visibility. You can immediately see, which task provides materials, or which one was updated. Other software did not support this, but here everything is visualized.

— We are glad to hear this, but we would still like to know if there are any areas we could improve.

— Well, I would like to cut the number of buttons, checkboxes, and submenus. The interface itself is too complex, not very intuitive. Even if you work with it for a while and want to use some feature you rarely need, it’s very hard to remember where it lives and how to find it. I mean, we’d like some features to be simpler, like mentioning a person in the task just by adding the @ symbol to their name. We are getting used to things like that because of messengers and other common solutions.

PDF Support, extra video codecs and more

2017/03/06 Posted by Cerebro 0 thoughts on “PDF Support, extra video codecs and more”

For everyone
New Cerebro Cerebro Serpens Client for Windows, Mac Os X and Linux Operation operating systems.

For Factory users:
Database structure updated

For Studio users:
Cargador component updated

Server Components Installation Guide
Download Cerebro client
Download server components

Mirada

Now we support a wide range of video compression codecs. We can quickly add new codecs by your request.

We’ve also added an ability to comment over PDF files and to work with the high-resolution images.
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The ability to work with high-resolution images.

Cerebro

We’ve added a new function, which allows to save all the files from the messages or forum in the selected folder.
save_all, save_as

We’ve also added a new list in the projects and users statistics to help you filter it easier.
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Gantt chart

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We’ve optimized user assignment feature to the multiple tasks. Now you can assign the user to any number of tasks without “the request has been rejected” issue.

CASE STUDY: Digitz Film

2017/03/03 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “CASE STUDY: Digitz Film”

-Can you introduce briefly yourself, your company, and the history of the company?

– My name is Felipe Morell. I am the executive producer and CEO of Digitz Film a production company in Columbia in South America. We have been a production company for five years, working in co-productions usually between Latin America, and the United States, and Europe. I should say for film, for feature film and TV Series.

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-How did you get into industry? What were you doing earlier?

– I got in the industry living in LA. I grew up in Los Angeles in California and went to design and film school in California. In a school called Art Center College of Design. From that, I started working at Warner Bros. for one of the studios in Hollywood and worked there for a while and from that, I moved to DreamWorks. I worked at DreamWorks on a couple of feature films that DreamWorks made. Then I went to Disney and worked at Disney. Then I moved to New York and I worked for Blue Sky a studio that does the Ice Age movies. I was born in Columbia. Five years ago, I came back to Columbia and started our production company which is Digitz Film and started working on our own projects.

-What was the biggest challenge for you when you decided to start Digitz Films?

– The biggest challenge was to be independent as far as like an independent film producer. Even though I think things in the world have opened up a lot for independent film. It is still independent film. It is still a challenge to find financing to get the productions done with smaller budgets compared to the big studios. The big studios they control most of the big financing and the big distribution and all that stuff. I would say that was the biggest challenge is to be independent in a world with big major studios. They have all control and all of power. But at the end it is really good like I said it is opening up all over the world. There are a lot more opportunities now for independent film and we are finding them.

-What is your inspiration working on films?

– As far as from the production, from the producer side I would say an inspiration would be Steven Spielberg. I worked with Steven Spielberg in the past. Even though he is a director and he is a very good director he is in many ways a producer. He is a huge producer as far as his production company and most of the films that he has done are his production in many ways. He is an inspiration as far as how much work he can produce in such a short period of time. Because he is not really that old yet.
From the directors’ standpoint, I worked with Brad Bird. He was the director of The Incredibles at Pixar. I worked with him in a movie called Iron Giant and he is an inspiration to me as a director. He is a very good director.

-What is your favorite film?

– My favorite film it is more a classic film. I love 2001 the Stanley Kubrick Film. I would say that since I was a little that has been my favorite film. When I saw it, I was young and I thought it was actually a much newer film, because all the science fiction effects and everything looked like it was a newer film. It did not look like it was a film from the ‘60s even at that time and because of not just the special effects but because of the story and the brilliance of the movie. In many respects that is my favorite film.

-That is nice. Let us talk more about Digitz films. Do you have any current projects and if so, what is their status?

– Yes, we are finishing a an animation movie at this moment which is going to be released in Spain in December and it will be released in the rest of the world at the end of next year at the end of 2017. We are also in production of 52 episode animation series that will go into production until the middle of 2017. That is for TV.
The movies are for theatrical release. And we have a live action science fiction feature film in pre-production that is scheduled to shoot in March next year of 2017. In development, we have several animation feature films and we are looking at two which will be co-productions with Canada. We are looking at another one that will be co-production with Spain. Another one we are looking at that will be a co-production with Argentina. And two more of our own projects that as of now are our own developments in-house of Digitz Films and still looking for how we’ll structure those ones with action producers from other countries.

-That is really so much. How many people are involved in all those projects?

– We have between 30 and 80 people involved in the last two projects that we have been working on: the feature film and the most recent series. Those are the people that we have involved in our studios in Colombia, which is two studios in Colombia right now. And additional to that we had close to a hundred people going through the two projects as well in the studios in Spain.

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– When did you realize that you need some kind of software for managing it? When did you understand that you could try Cerebo?

– We found it from our co-producer on this last feature film because they had been using it for a while. I understand that they had been using it not only for this movie but for a previous project or for previous projects. I do not know how many but that is how we found Cerebro. That is how we got connected to it because they were already working with it. We have liked it a lot.
It is very useful. It is very friendly to use. It works really well for everybody. You can visualize, you can follow the process. Everybody else or the supervisor can go in and follow the process and share information. It is very good.

-That is really nice to hear. What was your first project in Cerebro?

-This last feature film. The one we are finishing right now. That was the one that we are with the co-producer that was already using it and they are the ones who introduced us to it.

– How long did it take for Cerebro to be accepted by the team?

– I would say that it was accepted right away. I think it is very friendly to use. As soon as somebody signs in and starts looking through the information I think it is a matter of minutes probably or maybe a few hours for anybody to get familiarized with the program.
Whoever went in to use it accepted it right away. As far as us, as a production company to go in to use it. It came very well recommended already because, as I said our producer had been using it and they were very happy with it.
We had an initial meeting with our co-producer because they were very familiar with the program already. We had an initial meeting with one person at the co-producer’s company to look at it the first day. She explained it to us and how she uses it and it was very easy.

-What are your favorite Cerebro functions?

– (Laughs) Since I am the executive producer I did go in to look at the work and what was going on. People in the production are actually really using it every day and really working with it as a tool. Because I am the executive producer I am going in every day to look but I am not really the one really working with the tool so much.

-What do production team love in our system?

-For the production team, for the management team I think it is great to have a view of what’s going on in the production as far as like what somebody is doing or some end of the production is doing and how the other end is receiving it.
Not only with the internal communication in the project which it has the messages that they are writing to each other, but also with the actual piece of the movie that is uploading in the program as a video. For myself, I could go in and look and take a visual video of the work that they are exchanging between the parts and the communication that they are writing to each other. I could look at what they are doing and to me that was great. Without having to go through each part and ask them or have to call each one of them. I would have a view in real-time on what was going on between the parts.

– I am glad it saves your time. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve Cerebro?

– I have not thought of anything. At least for my part, for what I was using it I was very happy with it with what I was seeing there. The way the product was working for me and for us, the people we are managing.

– To conclude our interview, can you please tell me about your plans?

– Yes, plans for the movies and the series that we are going to fall from next year on. It is development of a few featured films and pre-production of one that we start shooting in March. And three other projects that are in pre-production now in the stage of finding financing and some of the concept work and things like that.