Posts tagged "Сase Studies"

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: 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: DA-Studio Animation

2015/03/12 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 9 thoughts on “Case Study: DA-Studio Animation”

Let us begin with EXCLUSIVE teaser premiere of «Sergiy Radonezhsky. The Legend of Miracle Worker» and continue further interview with Maxim Alaev, head of compositing department at DA-Studio

«Sergiy Radonezhsky. The Legend of Miracle Worker» teaser

Maxim, we have known each other for a long time – about 14 years, I think. So let’s start with a brief story about you. How did you get into the industry? What are you doing now and what were you doing earlier?

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– I got into the industry through animation. It was my lifelong dream to draw cartoons. I began, slowly but surely, after graduating from the theater and art school. By some miracle, I managed to get a job at MBL Animation Studio where I, step by step, began to master phasing draftsmanship and animation.

Somehow, after classical animation I found myself at Classic Studio, where Volodya Manevich asked me if I knew where “any key” is located on the PC. I said that I knew and that was the start of my work with digital animation. Everything started at the Classic Studio, where I began to master 2D computer graphics and then 3D graphics and eventually I became a person I am now. Today, I work at Da-Studio as the head of the Compositing Team.

– Let’s talk about Da-Studio. When did you arrive there? Tell us a little about it. What does this company do? When it was established and how many people work there?

– Da-Studio was founded in 2009, I came here three years ago, so it was October 2012. The Studio was created specifically for the project titled Sergiy Radonezhsky. The Legend of Miracle Worker (it is a full name for the project).

We have been searching for any kinds of information for a long time for historical, architectural facts, facts about Sergiy himself, how he became a living legend and our Russian Saint. A colossal amount of work was done.

We were searching for not only historical background, but also for an unusual artistic component, a visualization, from which our cartoon is made – as we call it – “an animated painting”. When the background is a painting that has come to life (for example, those of Isaac Levitan) and the painted world comes alive in this painting expanded by depth, in which a 2D hero is drawn. When I came here, they had just begun this work, that is to say that the management understood what they wanted, but didn’t completely comprehend how to make everything as beautiful as they wanted. We began to search for a way to make everything “take off” and how to render and compose it with the famous Ilya Radovilskiy.

We slowly started to compose a color picture from gray material, and we succeeded in getting what we have now. That became our pipeline, something we stand upon. We are proud of it. That is to say, that it is our picture and although I don’t know what everyone outside of the studio might think of it, but our team really loves it!

– Yes, it has an original style. How many people are working in the Studio now?

– The growth is a funny thing. When I had just joined the Studio, it occupied the 1st floor and half of the 4th floor. Accordingly, when the Studio grew we began to occupy the 1st, the 3rd and the 4th floors, and now we already occupy the 4th, and part of the 2nd, the 3rd, the 1st and the entire 3rd floor in another wing of the building.

Off course, we have the biggest and the best mockup pavilion in Russia. When our entire studio team gathers to watch the material, in the past a viewing room on the 1st floor was big enough for us, and now we can hardly fit in our mockup room.

When I joined the Studio, nearly 20–25 persons were working there. That included everybody and administration as well. Today, our team is comprised of almost 160 employees, considering only those who are involved in production and are in our office. We also have remote freelancers, accountants and administration.

DA_Studio

Yes, I see. Not bad! Do you currently have other projects and if so, what is their status? Can you tell us a little about it?

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– Yes, I can tell you a about it. We have already started a project called Suvorov. Since the animated painting technology we developed is so complicated, we are going to develop and enhance it further. We have designed a product cycle in this style. The first movie is Sergiy Radonezhsky. The Legend of the Miracle Worker, we have already started working on the second film. It is already at the stage where there is intensive modeling and setup taking place and characters are being prepared. Some tests are done with motion capturing technology, and, correspondingly, concept art is drawn, investigation of historic detail is conducted, sceneries are made specifically for Suvorov, i.e. it has been completely launched.

– Yes, I see.

– The next one is called Pushkin. We are trying to tell about Pushkin’s fantasy stories when he was writing his fairy tales and how it all took place. I think that this is also a pretty interesting topic

We aim to speak to our children (specifically the generation of my and your children, who like to watch cartoons) and to give them a Russian hero they can look up to, who is interesting to watch, like Spiderman, the Hulk etc. We want to develop a Russian hero that our children can be proud to imitate: “I am Sergiy Radonezhsky!”, “I am Suvorov!”. Our goal is to give Russian culture a bit of a boost, as well as relaunch interesting stories and personalities.

Truly good intentions! What are you doing on this project? What are your daily tasks?

– I am a full-fledged combat unit as a compositor as Vlad Akhtyrsky says. In the former Soviet republics, we used to call ourselves “composers”, but when Vlad visits us, he says “comrade compositors”. Now, I do not know how to pronounce it correctly.

I am a full-fledged compositor. I produce at the level of our entire team, and I also am responsible for tasks in Cerebro. I form a plan and allocate tasks for the team.

The material comes from the Art Department who works with us. It is made up of art directors – women and young girls. It is a workshop, where beautiful girls do their work. They create concept arts and color explication of episodes. When they are done with it, they transfer it to me and I distribute the episode block by block to Cerebro, for specific assignments.

In general, I oversee quality control, but mostly from a technical aspect now. When I arrived, I was also involved in the artistic aspect (i.e. I monitored the sky color, tracked light warmness, shadow coldness and vice versa).

Now, I mostly control technical quality, so that the layout of layers is correct. Sometimes something still needs pre-tracking. Even though we have 3D, for parallax to be correct everywhere this work must be supervised and there is also a lot of manual labor.

We continue inventing technologies and I try to follow the trends and to take part in this since it is interesting and I think it is the future.

Images from the show

– Since we have already mentioned our software product, tell me, how long have you been using Cerebro? Did you face any difficulties in the beginning?

– You know when I came to the Studio we used Shotgun as a project management system. It was a pretty rudimentary application for us. Everyone seemed to understand that we needed some sort of project manager, but they didn’t understand the purpose of it or how to use it. Only managers used it and they didn’t really understand why.

As you know, I have been adept at using Cerebro for rather long time and I suggested using it on a project it to my supervisor as an alternative that was more cost effective and convenient to use. In addition, I was familiar enough with it that I could teach it. There also was support in Russian and it was possible to call a technical specialist into our the office if needed.

As you remember, we made this decision rather swiftly and implemented it. We initially faced quite a few problems because when we started using Cerebro three years ago, it was customized for VFX and video commercials that directly communicated with the client, so it was best suited for quick response to corrections and modifications and it lacked some tools to work with animation.

I can tell you that I have huge respect for the advancements that were made. I visited you and we just sat down and seriously debated whether all these statuses and other functions are needed. Thank you very much that in these 3 years you have always made improvements and greatly enhanced your product.

I see. We will do our best to go forward! How long did it take for Cerebro to be accepted by the team?

– You know, I don’t even remember how long. It blended in naturally. It has the advantage that many people have already worked with it. So, I was mostly teaching managers, explaining to them where the Grantt chart is located, how to get statistics, where to look for report amount per employee.

For example, statistics are very convenient. Our girls in accounting conclude how many shots per month is made by each person and decide how to award bonuses.

Cerebro was integrated very quickly and everyone got used to it fast. Now we can’t imagine our work without it. We are even joke: “Write me in Cerebro”.

All production is based on assets. We have our own development. I see that you will ask me later if a built in asset-manger is needed in Cerebro, but we have already written our own, and implemented it successfully. People simply take tasks, they report to Cerebro automatically via script, and upload their dailies. Our asset-browser operates with Cerebro. Everything needed is being written continuously, upgraded constantly, and Cerebro is directly connected to our pipeline.

– We also are trying to do our best. We made a decision to actively develop API, which allows us to do tasks such as Assets. We recently released a new version with a new API based on the Cerebro interface, which will allow it to change completely, by subtracting or adding any of the keys (i.e. not only menu items like now). While we are still developing our built-in Assets, we must still remember the needs of current users and, so, the answer is yes. This API, allows Cerebro to be expanded and integrated with its developments. Good. Now, this question… What do you use as a manager? Maybe you draw over the shots, i.e. audiovisual review?

– Making notes and outlines is everything for us. Yes, I am making notes constantly, we even solve lighting problems, i.e. we arrange the lighting directly in Cerebro, draw the scheme, where the backlighting is from certain side, red is from the other side, blue where it gonna be keyed, etc.

I see. So, the next question: Do you have any suggestions on how to improve our product? What is a “pain”, pardon me?

– What is a pain? A lot of small issues. For example, “Active Task” cannot be removed from the interface. I have my own GUI setup for Cerebro and I am not able to fit it to the window at the background so it’s not on top of everything yet also always in the interface.

Also, I cannot delete a hash tag. We employ visual artists and scriptwriters… Well, about hash tags… You know, zog-zog, work-work, right? Etc. 🙂

Oh, I see. I see. It is about our release which supported hash tags. People started to use them but we definitely need a tool for, let’s call it, hash tag management 🙂

– Yes!

– To find all these hash tags and to delete some of them. Then, I guess that’s all Maxim! Thank you very much for the interview!

Case Study: Render.ru Education Center

2015/03/04 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “Case Study: Render.ru Education Center”

лого-render.ru

We continue the tradition and today we will talks with Tatiana Toropova, head of the RENDER.RU Center of Distance Learning

 

— Tatiana, could you tell us about the Render.ru training center? For example, about its history and when it was established?

— Most of Runet computer graphics enthusiasts have long known about our site Render.ru. It was founded by Stanislav Svarichevsky in the early 2000s. In fact, it was one of the first sites to cover this topic, and is still popular today. Ten-fifteen years ago, everyone interested in computer graphics, got their information from English-speaking sites. There were no lessons in Russian, almost, everyone was self-educated, and people shared information in the forum on our website. Most didn’t have any systematized knowledge, and so we decided to start some training courses.
The courses began in 2006. First, we contacted Autodesk to receive permission to conduct some courses in 3D graphics, and in 2007, we became an authorized training center for the company.

Gradually, we introduced courses in 2D graphics, because we felt there was a need for training on this topic, as well. In fact, until 2012 we only offered a few full-time courses, because they were long enough, and there weren’t many professional instructors. In general, these were basic courses for beginners and professional who wished to improve their knowledge. At that time, we developed “the methodology of simulating the production process”. During the course, students not only studied the capabilities of a program, but worked on a small project and learned the whole process of its implementation.

Our training center is located in St. Petersburg, and most of our students are from the area. Of course, there are students from other cities, but these are limited by economic circumstances. Given the large size of our country, such a trip is not cheap. Over time, though, with the development of the Internet and other technologies, those outside Moscow and St. Petersburg have been given the opportunity to obtain knowledge from professionals. We understood that distance learning was more critical. More people had the opportunity to learn remotely, so in 2012 we switched to completely distance learning and have been continuing this training for the last three years.

— What courses do you provide? What do you consider to be your specialty?

— Our specialization is still computer graphics – 2D and 3D graphics, both basic and advanced level training. We offer more than 20 courses. These focus primarily on Autodesk products, such as 3dsMax and Maya, but there are courses on less popular programs. There are also classes for 2D artists working with Photoshop and the creation of interactive applications and compositing. In general, we try to cover the programs and trends that are currently most popular.

— How do you differ from schools that offer full-time education? Specifically, how different is distance learning and your school from full-time education?

— Of course, distance learning has its advantages and disadvantages. Before anyone starts training with us, we explain “pitfalls” they may face. Everyone, though, has to decide if it will work for them.
Our country is very large, and working as a graphic designer allows people living in remote areas to become freelancers and work via the Internet. These courses allow someone living somewhere far away, for example, in Sakhalin, to gain knowledge from professionals, instead of just picking up scattered knowledge from individual lessons.

Our instructors are very skilled professionals who have been working in the industry for over 10 years. By creating remote training courses, we continue to use our very effective “method of simulating a production process.” The feedback from those who have already have received our training speaks for itself.
There is also one more thing to note: online communication during the training (editors’ note: Webinar), is a very big advantage. However, not all people living in remote areas have the opportunity to do so. The Internet is not fast everywhere and there are large time differences, so the current system is not perfect, but, nevertheless, it has suited most of our students, so far. Our lessons are not live, but are recorded video lessons. Currently, each student can download these lessons and watch them anytime as many times as they wish. Thus, they are not only able to quickly view a lesson and do something, but if the student forgets how it has been done, he or she can review the material for clarification and ask the instructor to learn the correct answer. Instructors reply quickly to everyone.

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— If we talk about the basic stages of the lesson — you first load a video and then there is communication with the instructor, followed by homework — correct?

— Yes, the student completes homework using video tutorials and uploads it, then the instructor comments on each assignment and gives some advice. In particular, we have 2D-graphics courses, such as Adobe Photoshop for Artists: Computer Art School. How does one learn to draw pictures remotely? We can debate this topic of course, but, nevertheless, the number of our students has continued to grow, rather than decrease — and we can teach this remotely.

— I understand that payments can be made easily? How do you accept payments?

— We have a store on the site that provides everyone with convenient payment options.

— When did you realize that you need some kind of platform, I mean for education, to deliver video and provide communication? And when did you understand that you could try Cerebro?

— We learned about Cerebro when we decided to switch to remote education. It already had been used in the industry for some time and there was nothing else like it, so it worked well for our Computer Graphics Program.

— I see.

— We decided to test it a bit, and have been using it for the past three years.

 

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— Great! It looks like you realized pretty quickly that Cerebro was going to work out. Did you have test groups?

— The fact is that the launch of remote training was…well, let’s say, not so fast. We started with one or two courses and a small group of people. Once we realized that everything was working well, we started increasing the number of courses. Now, I repeat myself, we have more than 20. Everything is working really well. Today, we simultaneously teach more than 50 people a month.

— So within a month you realized that this technology was going to work for you or did it take some time?

— Actually it didn’t take much time. Our course lasts one month. Once the first group completed their training, we realized that, in principle, we can recruit other groups and also communicate with them without any problems. We surveyed the students and asked if it was difficult for them to adapt to the program. Most of students said that everything was simple and logical, and they immediately began to use the program without additional training. We give students two days to adapt to the program, but usually that much time is not required.
Of course, we recorded a short video for the students to help them quickly understand, what to do, where to go, how and where to upload completed assignments, and how to communicate with the instructor.

— So, as I understand, you first email them study materials and then give them a lesson on using the Cerebro platform, so that it is easy for them to adapt to the teaching system. Correct?

— Yes.

— I have a question: Exactly which Cerebro functions are used? You see, Cerebro is used by companies that create computer graphics for a wider range of tasks, and …

— Absolutely. Of course, we probably only use about 10 percent of the program’s functionality.

— That’s not bad. In other words, globally, that’s your task. I mean, what kind of functionality? Do you use audiovisual commenting?

— Of course, we use the basic features of the program – the ability to create a large number of different projects (courses), administer them, and use the forum to communicate with instructors and students, which includes audio-visual commenting. We don’t use most of the functions, though. They are not needed in the learning process, but we cannot disable them. They distract the students who look at them and ask “What is this?” and “what is that for?”. Unfortunately, we cannot disable these features, so we have to explain that we use only what is needed for teaching…

— Tatiana, you know what? I have some good news! We are planning for the future. Yours and ours. So, I will continue asking about your plans, but I would like to let you know that we will be using the API make it possible to disable, literally, all keys in the next release.

— Wonderful.

— Yes, and we can preconfigure files to allow you to disable unneeded keys. So they can have reduced functionality for students, will still be fully functional for teachers.

— Yes, that would be nice, because we have different audiences. Many are technically savvy, but there are also those who are not very experienced. I want to mention your technical support. They always respond very promptly and are quick to provide support. We really don’t have any problems here.

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

— We plan to increase the number of courses we offer and provide a wider selection to accommodate the requests of our students. Right now, there is a new interesting topic – virtual reality. I cannot even imagine what sort of course this might be, but we have an instructor, who has already been working in this field professionally. So, we hope to make the course available this year. We also will be establishing new courses in gaming and animated films.

— Yes, that’s wonderful, because gaming is actively developing and the number of specialists only grows from year to year. I mean the needs of the industry is such, that it should continue to grow, as will, perhaps, to a lesser extent, the animation industry. Unfortunately, the demand for visual effects specialists, is somehow decreasing in our country.

— Still, though, there is TV, which very actively recruits specialists. You can see a list of openings on our website. Infographic specialists are in demand, as are visual effects specialists for television. They are needed for advertising and news. There is always a high demand for these high paying jobs. Young people, of course, are often more interested in working with animated films, but there are not a large number of jobs, especially because of the crisis. Let’s hope that everything will work out okay.

— No, Tatiana, I disagree. Thankfully, I don’t think that things are so bad with the animation industry in our country. Unfortunately, our visual effects in advertising and movies are perfect and the demand is decreasing, but thankfully, progress has been made in animation and that is improving. Well, that is my two cents worth.
Thank you very much. That’s all!

 

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Fast Case Study: Prasad Group

2014/08/14 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 6 thoughts on “Fast Case Study: Prasad Group”

Today we spoke with Himakumar Kilari, VP Post Production at Prasad Group

Let’s begin with a brief history of your company. What is your profile? What do you do?PrasadGroup

Prasad Group was established in 1956 by the legendary filmmaker L.V.Prasad. Now Prasad Group has major production facilities and offices in India (Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Bhuvaneswar, Kolkatta), USA, Germany and UK. Prasad Corporation Ltd (EFX), a leader in digital post production in India, offers the entire range of digital services including VFX, Digital Intermediate, Digital Film Restoration, Archiving, Digital Asset Management, Stereoscopic Conversion, Complete 3D Movie Making Solutions, Blu-Ray Compression & Authoring and Digital Cinema Services. Our staff have more than 800 professionals.

Who are your clients?

Our clients include Dharma Productions, Yashraj Productions, UTV, Madras Talkies, Filmkraft and etc. We cannot reveal overseas clients names since we are committed to NDAs.

What kind of projects are you involved in now? Or is that secret information?
We are involved in creating visual effects for multiple feature films, both from India and across the world, at the moment. As already mentioned, we maintain good relations with our clients, with whom we enter into long-term NDAs, and hence this information is top secret :).

At least tell me about one of the projects: How many people and/or companies? Number of shots? What scenes caused the biggest problems? Any funny stories from shooting?

A recent project we delivered involved 45 artists working from different locations and time zones. The projects comprised of 200+ shots (3D and 2D). We had to do research and search for references for understanding animal anatomy for a particular portion of the film.

Do you use outsource to companies? If so, explain who is involved in the process – from both sides.

We rarely outsource our work to other companies, since we are very well equipped with professionals and infrastructure. Our experience and scalable infrastructure, make us an ideal destination for global studios outsourcing.

Tell us how things got started, when did major projects start to roll in and you realised that you needed specialised software to manage them?

One of our projects required services of artists from across different locations and time zones, and we wanted to ensure that the submissions and feedback were well tracked, hence we wanted to utilise a specialised software to manage the project.

When did you understand that Cerebro got accustomed in your team?

It is happened very fast, the software enabled us to track the work and made it a lot easier!

Several units

How did your employees, freelancers and clients react to Cerebro? How long did it take them to get used to it? What problems were there?

As Cerebro is very user friendly, the team got accustomed to the interface within a week.

Do you use the drawing, text and audio-commenting functions?

Yes, we use the drawing, text and audio-commenting functions while providing feedback for the shots.

Which Cerebro function do you use every day?

Shot submissions, feedbacks and shot status.

Maybe there are some improvement recommendations?

We are still experimenting with Cerebro, and it currently meets our requirements. We will return some suggestions and recommendations, if any, in the future.

EFX Making off showreel 

Case Study – “Petersburg”

2013/08/02 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 0 thoughts on “Case Study – “Petersburg””

logo_engWe are proud to present a new cycle of interviews on how Cerebro is used in companies.
This month we interviewed  Elena Chugunova and Anastasia Pashenkova, project managers at “Petersburg” animation studio.

Please tell us about the history of your company.

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The “Petersburg” studio was created in March 2003. Our studio is the only one in Russia where the whole production process is in digital format, using the latest computer technologies.

Our creative team incudes over 100 specialists working on powerful graphical stations for 2D and 3D animation. This is why “Petersburg” ensures fast production rates for animation series, corresponding with european standards. In order to support young talents and to help develop love for the arts the studio also features a school for animators, storyboarders and directors, and also courses for animation film script writers, that are open for everyone.

We try to fully realize all of our knowledge and experience in our work. And the work of our team was acknowledged at various festivals: Grand Prize of the China International Cartoon and Digital Art Festival (China, Guangzhou, 2005), People’s Choice Awards at the International Festival of TV cartoons Cartoons on the Bay (Italy, 2005), nominated for National cinematography prize “Golden Eagle” in 2008 and 2009 in “Best animated movie” category, etc.

sm2_On what projects are you using the program?

At the moment we are working on creating a full-length cartoon. This is a movie about the new adventures of the popular Smeshariki characters, that find themselves in a big city. We are using the latest technologies on the project, including 3D format. We are using the Cerebro program on the production of this full-length cartoon for 2 years now.

How efficient is using Cerebro for your business?

The Cerebro program allows us to effectively distribute human and time resources, plan the production process, track task fulfillment and keep up with the whole project production process. Cerebro has a flexible structure that allows, if necessary, us to add new task types and change old ones. You can easliy see the productivity of each separate employee, using the User Stats option.  The Project Stats function allows you to evaluate the level of project completion. A major plus of the program is the opportunity of working with remote users and the opportunity of working out of the office.

What difficulties do you experience during the process of organizing work on a project? What versions of Cerebro do you use Mac / Win / Linux, Web or, perhaps, IPhone?

During the process of work on a project you sometimes need to edit or change work that has already been done and correct mistakes, and Cerebro allows us to quickly react to such alterations. We use 2 operational systems on the project (Windows and Linux) and Cerebro works well in both systems.

How fast did your team get used to the program?

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As our team consists of creative people, the first stage of implementation caused a negative reaction, but after the first week of work in Cerebro our employees were able to appreciate all the advantages of the program: convenient task setting options, task list, tracking of time necessary to fulfill a specific task, payroll control options (for contract workers).

Do you often use the audiovisual reviewing tool?

Screenshots allow quick evaluation of work, but we do not actually use the function itself, as the key employees all work on the studio.

Do you have any recommendations to make the program more convenient?

A very important function is work with animation files only through Cerebro, by-passing all browsers, and also control of all work file versions.

sm1_

Is the program interface user-friendly and convenient from your point of view?
The program interface is very convenient and user-friendly.

 

Case Study: Scream School

2012/07/30 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 4 thoughts on “Case Study: Scream School”

«We are no different from any real studio: the student who successfully passes our  test, is no different from the expert who is handling  over real work»

cherkes_zade_smToday Konstantin Kharitonov  talks with Ekaterina Cherkes-Zade, the director of Scream School, a computer graphics school and the Moscow film school.

– Ekaterina, Please tell us in brief about your school;  specialization, history, plans for the future.

– ScreamSchool, computer graphics school, it is the largest  educational center that trains computer graphics in Russia. At present we have 7 long-term educational faculties. Such faculties are about post production- «Visual Effects», «Compositing» , «Animation», game development faculties- «Game Graphics» and «Game Design», «Architectural visualization» and «Motion Design» faculty. As Well we have an online education course,  on the general  software packages. In general, our school works in a regime that  forms  the actual experts for the industry, that is why it is very important for us, that our educational process  will be as close as possible to the industry realities. That is why we are using all the possible technologies in the industry, and we always update them.

Also not far from us there is another project- «Moscow Film School», where I am  in charge as well.  From 1st of October we are starting with two faculties- «Script mastering» and «Producing», during the next year we will open all  the main specializations of Film Production, and also distribution, that means, except two named-above, there will be also: “Direction”, «Operator art», «Art statement», “Installation”, “Film distribution”,  plus, certainly we plan to integrate ScreamSchool’s  animation and computer graphics faculties into the «Moscow Film School» grid.

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– Actually, You have already partially answered my next question, but I still will ask it. How ScreamSchool differs from other Computer Graphics schools ?

– At our school , Teachers practitioners work only: if a person does not work in the industry, he will not be able to work in ScreamSchool  nor  in the «Moscow Film School». This is first, Secondly,  our resource base is being very actively updated. Further- learning process is developed on the British academic standards and quality base, that means, it is aimed at practical results and on portfolio formation. And last, a student integration and communication into the professional society.

– And How does the academic load is distributed: what percent of educational tasks is carried out «in a class» and how much is carried at «home», as homework ?

50/50. Students take classes three times a week (two times on weekdays and one day on the Weekends).

– And this one as well, that differs you from other schools, you have large amounts of homework’s?

– Well fairly yes, this is because Computer Graphics is an area where  it is necessary to sit and work, sit and learn constantly. And at home too, in this case it is necessary.

-When and why you decided that you need to use Cerebro in educational process ?

As soon as our cinema post-production faculties were opened, we understood at once, that we need Cerebro. Because, first, all the major Russian studios were using this software, plus our  teachers  were using this software as participants of the CG industry. So we got together and decided that it is necessary to integrate work of our students in Cerebro-  after leaving school  our graduates  would not need to have an additional training course,  in order to work with Cerebro software  that many Russian companies are using now. And second,  Cerebro is very friendly to use, very convenient for maintaining student’s projects – course, degree, vacations. As the computer graphics for cinema are not made by a single person, the educational project is not one man’s job either, it is the whole group that must be involved in the process. For example, student groups like, «Visual effects» and “Composing”. That means they must cooperate with each other, not only in class, but also at home, because some parts of their work  must be done at home.

Respectively, when they work at home, it is much more convenient to manage their projects while using Cerebro;  put materials in one place, to know what each project-member is currently  doing, plus it is very convenient for teachers especially- because they can  access the system at any time and to know, what  students  are doing and to evaluate and comment their working progress. Thus, for teachers-practitioners, educational projects do not differ from the real ones.

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– And, probably, part of teachers uses audiovisual tools for commenting?

Yes indeed,  majority of them, in fact. At first, they give intermediate audiovisual comments, students start them to carry them out, and only after goes the “official” written part of commenting.

Also, Cerebro is a program on which all our online courses are based. Because online group training are away from the teacher; and naturally, in this case it is very convenient to upload a lesson into the system, that students could hear or read it.

Besides, after the lecture is finished, students are given homework from their lecture . This homework could be heard several times, rewind and etc. Further, within a week, the teacher checks the homework performance,  evaluates it, carries out consultations  on mistakes.

-What faculties are using Cerebro now  and what faculties aren’t.

– Cerebro is being used at both post production faculties-  «Visual effects» and “Compositing “.«Architectural visualization» uses Cerebro too. But «Game graphics», “Game design” and “Motion-Design” are not using it yet. That is, like in the industry.

– In general, industry of  motion design uses Cerebro, but it is not about it. I want to ask a tricky question: Whether you considered any alternatives to Cerebro ? After all there is a whole  class of software programs that were made specifically for education and remote education.

– On average, once in a month somebody calls us  in order to offer some new service product.  Now I even have a whole list of competitors of yours. However we do understand that  there is no worthily alternative to Cerebro at present, because of our specifics. For us it is important that every shot  in the project (and our in class training and online training courses are based completely on the real projects, that means we use real material, that was given to us by a certain movie company under the confidentiality agreement) would be most protected.  And here Cerebro gives us more security guarantees, than any other software, that are made just for information logistics.

– But after all, let’s be honest, our software is designed, first of all for the needs of real production, as  for educational specifics we didn’t sharpen it. But what functions, from the educational purposes point of view, Cerebro doesn’t have ? for example,  there is no system of  putting marks for the students work. No, it is possible, of course, to comment, to put evaluation mark as comments, but it is not like what you need ?

Well, let’s note that at our post-production , there are no marks in simple understandings of the marking system. Our marking and evaluation concept is: “is accepted” or it “is not accepted”. That means  in this way we do not differ at all from the real studio:  the students who passes their test, differs nothing from the industry expert who handles  over their real work: «Shot it is accepted», «it is accepted with comments» or «isn’t accepted» – that’s all. «Architectural visualization» is the  same: we have «handed-over project» and «not handed over project».

-And what’s about students tricks, like: points, estimates – «who has more, he’s the best»?

– Perhaps, I repeat, but nevertheless: we use Cerebro, first of all, for students project management.

Cerebro is used for term projects, so that it would be easily and quickly to collect all these works that our students made, for example, throughout the year. But if students study, say, «Classical animation» either “Drawing”, or “Photo”, Cerebro  is used. That is, we have no specific “educational” tasks, our educational process is closest to conditions of the “real” work.

And when all students and all teachers work in one system, consider it the main working tool for sharing their work, it is more than convenient, the reasons that I have already mentioned.

-And what  versions of Cerebro do you use, Windows, MacOS, Linux maybe? Or maybe, mobile version for iPhone and iPad (recently we  ave launched a new official version ).

– As for graphics, generally we teach on PC, and our main version is Windows. 90%, approximately. But at home students, that have Mac, they use MacOS Cerebro version.

-Ekaterina, thank you for your time with us today !

It was no Trouble at all, come again ! 🙂

Case Study: Trigraph

2012/06/29 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 2 thoughts on “Case Study: Trigraph”

TriLogo

Today Konstantin Kharitonov talks with the heads of Moscow VFX-studio Trigraph – Arkady Dubinyn (Supervisor) and Olga Nikulina (Producer).

Let’s begin with a brief history of your company, what is your profile, what do you do?

Arkady Dubinyn: The Trigraph company was created at the end of 2004, it was established by three co-founders: Vladimir Sokolov, Sergey Zaporozhcev and myself. The first project that we had was TV series based on Michail Bulgakov’s novel “Master and Margarita”. The amount of work that we had was large enough, connected with serious three dimensional graphics: Motion Control based shootings and character animation. Later we had 2 films from “Central Partnership” (a leading film and TV series production and distribution company in Russia. Trans.), “Piranha Hunt” and “Countdown”. In total we worked on more than 40 films.

arkadi olga

Konstantin Kharitonov:  What kind of projects are you involved in now?

Arkady Dubinyn: Generally we work on feature films, sometimes on TV series. Till the end of the last year, we haven’t done any advertising videos, but in December 2011, we had decided that advertising and music videos are quite interesting business for us, so we made a couple of advertisement videos for VTB bank, with the help of DTVMA Production Company, plus we made a music video for one Russian pop-group.

In the crisis year of 2008 we had switched to a service specialization that means we did just workflow things, for example:  cleanup, product placement and so on. But in the last 2 years, starting from “Generation P” (a film based on a Viktor Pelevin’s book. Trans.). Since then we had returned to the complicated high-tech effects, brought back our 3D-animation department, and in new projects we are having high-grade character animation with complicated effects.

And in what projects, in particular?

Arkady Dubinyn: For example, now we took an interesting TV-series from our old friends, a director on this project is Evgeny Bedyrev, with whom we had worked on “Tariff Novogodny”(New Year’s Tariff. Trans.) film.

This TV-Series name is “While the Fern Blossoms”- this is a 12 series film for teenagers, with some mystical elements, for this project  we already have some work on characters, monsters and a large number of “magic” effects.

Great! And now again to your history: how long and on what project did you start to use Cerebro?

Olga Nikulina: We adopted Cerebro about a year ago, on a TV series project called “Hokkaido police” (UMP company). There were 12 series and 121 shot – a pretty big project, and it had to be done fast. That’s why we purchased Cerebro at that moment – we needed to boost up things and secure all possible management issues.

How much time did it take for that project?

Olga Nikulina: Two months, from scans till the final project delivery.

When did you understand that Cerebro got accustomed in your team?

Olga Nikulina: Right away. At once things became clear. Everything became so instant and more convenient.

Arkady Dubinyn: Actually the story is quite simple: during that time in our studio we had a large amount of graduates from ScreamSchool (a branch of the British High School of Design. Trans.), 10 people in total. All ScreamSchool students in our company were using Cerebro, because of that and also what Cerebro had to offer to us potentially, the rest of the office had to agree and to switch to Cerebro too. J

Which Cerebro function do you use every day and which one more rarely?

Olga Nikulina: Well, every day we use task forums for various communications, often we use commenting system – for texting and drawing in Mirada Player. The thing that we use rarer is statistics, once a month we use it to collect statistics on users.

But how often do you use Voice commenting function in Cerebro ?

Olga Nikulina: Quite rarely actually, but in general it is rather convenient.

Arkady Dubinyn: We tried to use it. When working with outsourcing, probably it is more convenient, but for now 95% of our employees are present at the studio, therefore it is not necessary to give them any voice comments, the supervisor or the artist can simply approach any performer.

Well there is such dependence: when people are more away from each other, then they are more willing to use Voice commenting in Cerebro…. But What Cerebro OS versions do you use -MAC, WINDOWS, LINUX, WEB, IPhone and IPad ?

Arkady Dubinyn: We use MAC and WINDOWS, sometimes IPhone.

Konstantin Kharitonov: Do your Clients use Cerebro in order to cooperate with you?

Arkady Dubinyn: Yes, for example on that TV series (Hokkaido Police), where we are working right now with them.

From a functional point of view, who are these people?

Arkady Dubinyn: Often it is either a producer or a director, sometimes – an external VFX supervisor.

Olga Nikulina: For example, Post-Production Producers from “Kino Direction” know Cerebro well, when needed they can log in and comment some shot straight away.

Is it difficult for new users to get used to work in Cerebro?

Olga Nikulina: Not at all, but at the same time we are lucky, all the people mentioned were quite familiar with Cerebro functions and also they had some experience using it when they came here.

From your point of view, how comfortable is the Cerebro interface to use?

Arkady Dubinyn: It depends on a task. In general, Forum is very convenient and fairly common to use, because everyone knows Facebook – therefore by analogy everything is simple and clear. But regarding the administrative functions, it is slightly more difficult….

Maybe there are some improvement recommendations?

Olga Nikulina: Well for me it is data input in the navigator fields, i.e. so that there will be no need to go into the “Task Properties”, for example to set a tag for or to change any other parameter of a task.

Arkady Dubinyn: In other words it would be nice to have an inline editing in the “Navigator”.

Maybe something more?

Arkady Dubinyn: I miss a certain initial form for creating a task, with standard fields for the entire project. At least some sort of a form editor. The same forms editor would be useful for reporting- that reports for producer would be uploaded at once in the form of a beautiful PDF file. And again, very important thing, that the first definition in a forum branch could be fixed, as the top line in Excel, for example; not to lose a task essence in the long branch of comments in the forum.

Olga Nikulina: And regarding the access rights, there are some wishes too. It would be nice that the users could have access to a specific objective, which is displayed in a separate column of a “Navigator” – similar to how the appointed performers in the assigned column are displayed now.

And in the “Task Properties”, the access rights would be displayed at once, without pressing any buttons.

Also that there will be a task color coding, connected to a tag: you choose a tag – the task is recolored in any color.

Thank you we will try to consider it for the future! And the last question:
Is there any side software that you think it would be useful to integrate Cerebro with?

Arkady Dubinyn: Useful programs-software might be: Frame Cycler or PDPlayer, also programs for Render-management and asset management.

Yes we can do that, I think. At First we will integrate Cerebro with our own render management DUMA.

Arkady Dubinyn: Thank you.

Thank you for your interview ! 🙂.

 

Trigraph breakdown reel 2005-2011

RA “Mandarin” – Case Study

2011/09/20 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 2 thoughts on “RA “Mandarin” – Case Study”

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This month, Konstantin Kharitonov talks to Dmitrii Filippov of Mandarin Ad Agency.

Konstantin Kharitonov: Hi!

Dmitrii Filippov: Hi to you too! (smiles). Is everything ok? Any trouble with the armed men?

K.Kh.: No, not this time, everything is fine! But let’s be honest, things are pretty strict around here… Maybe a little too strict…

D.F.: Well, we aren’t selling pastry around here. TV is serious business.

K.Kh.: Maybe we should start on that subject? Tell me a little about your company. What do you specialise in? Who are your clients? Or is that a state secret? (Smiles)

D.F.: First and foremost, we are an advertising agency, although lately we have been branching out. Lately, I myself have taken on a large number of various projects that have nothing to do with advertising. There are jobs that have to do with the production of video clips and all kinds of 3D stuff for advertising. These days I mostly work with the movie industry, animation, 3D, and everything to do with mass-media entertainment. Our clients are primarily the kind of people who are interested in projects that are ‘out of this world’, original and unusual. These people want to change TV-viewers for the best, to make them go ‘Wow!’ at the key moments, when in fact they are sitting on a couch eating popcorn. We are interested in the viewer, the clients are interested in the viewer, and it is in the viewer’s interest to say ‘Wow!’ more often. That’s how we live: it’s all in the name of the viewer.

K.Kh.: How very humanitarian of you! What kind of projects are you working on right now?

D.F.: At the moment, all our ‘Chinese armies’ are toiling away on animation for the ‘Big Race’ project on Channel One. The channel has recently bought new equipment that allows them to air unusual ads and previews at the bottom of the frame. Basically, if we say that a single shot is the frame, we can stick an image at the bottom of the frame – this can be something in 3D, it can be a video-clip – some kind of interactive on-screen graphic that tells you that in, say, 5 minutes you can enjoy the latest movie ‘Boom!’. And other stuff like that. It sounds like a pretty straightforward way to do this, but I haven’t seen anything like that yet. Or, rather, I’ve seen some, but they are not quite right… we need something new! So we’re want to suggest something crazy, unusual, flashy! I won’t talk about future projects, though, I don’t want to jinx it.

K.Kh.: And that’s alright, no need to do that yet. We’ll see for ourselves when the time comes. Meanwhile, tell us how things got started, when did major projects start to roll in and you decided you needed specialised software to manage them?

D.F.: Truth be told, it all began a long time ago, way before I got involved with production. I had only just joined the TV-center. Back then, we wanted to fully automate the production of TV-programmes. Cerebro didn’t exist yet, but there were a few major project management apps. To work with them, you had to have a room-full of weird servers running Oracle. It cost an arm and a leg and you really needed an advanced degree in rocket science to use them. Before pressing the ‘Power’ button, you had to read through a million-page-long manual under close supervision from specially trained engineers… After a year or two, we began to produce 3D and video. We became a full-service agency and I saw this great word on the Internet – ‘Cerebro’. I logged on to the web-site, watched a video, it was very clear and easy to understand. I was really glad to find it, because at that moment I really needed something like that – I had staff working all over the country and the world, and it was a lot more convenient to have everything in one app, without FTP and other concoctions from the previous century. We were working on some TV advert then, so we gathered everyone and started to communicate through Cerebro.

K.Kh.: What criteria did Cerebro fit for you?

 D.F.: Well, I may be wrong, but right now I don’t know about any other software that can work with every kind of media. I mean, yes, there are some bugs in iOS, which I’ve mentioned before (on the Cerebro Facebook Page – ed.), but to be honest that’s not a problem. I always have my wonderful Mac with me, and I can always open any video people send to me. Basically, if you have Cerebro, you have a live link-up with everyone who works with you. But we understand that you can’t set a link-up unless there is a TV on each end. In this case the ‘TV’ is your laptop, and everything depends on how much effort you have put into it. The more advanced it is, the better Cerebro works. If your laptop supports all sizes of video, all possible formats, and so on, if you have thousands of codecs installed, than there will never be a problem, and everything is really simple. Although I still don’t get why .RAR files are opened with the VLC player, but that’s not the point…

K.Kh.: We are currently working on a new codec, AVC, which is used by VLC. That way, we will finally be able to provide full support for every kind of AVI and all Windows Media files. But still, why did you choose Cerebro in the end?

D.F.: The main reason I chose Cerebro is that I have a Mac myself and it’s very difficult to find software that works well on a Mac. But here I found a fully competitive product that I am very happy with. And the best thing is that it works on Macs, iPhones, and iPads.

K.Kh.: How did your employees, freelancers, and clients react to Cerebro? How long did it take them to get used to it? What problems were there?

D.F.: It’s a well known fact that we live in a country of contrasts, and no innovation can be introduced without problems. There will always be some generation that will say: ‘We don’t need this, we’d rather keep working the old way, on paper, with pencils’… You just need to come up with an explanation that makes people feel personally invested in the change. You can’t just tell someone that in the name of corporate morale and team spirit they need to get to grips with the basics of this software called Cerebro. No. You need to make them understand that this really is simple and useful, that it will significantly speed up not only the production process, which is something that no-one but the manager needs, but also the employee’s personal work process and their connection to the outside world. You don’t need to use e-mails, upload files to FTP, come up with dozens of passwords, and so on. Of course, at the moment the Internet connection can be a little slow, but I think this is just a matter of time: the Internet is growing like crazy, and soon enough gigabytes will download to your laptop in the blink of an eye. And Cerebro is an important part of this process.

K.Kh.: Do you use the drawing function, text and audio commenting?

D.F.: To be honest, I began my career as a copywriter, creating advertising concepts, working out original synergies in ads, all kinds of things to do with words. It’s easier for me to explain something in writing than by talking to people. In any case, when you use audio commenting, people don’t see you. You can’t point your finger to this or that details. But I do use the drawing function sometimes. When we worked on the ‘Big Race’, we had very tight deadlines and really didn’t have enough time to get to know all the functions, but I’ve gotten the hang of it, more or less, – the Gant diagrams and all the other stuff, even though I didn’t really have time for all this administrative work. Ideally, I think, there should be a special person who would oversee this and who would know the app from top to bottom. Then I could just come to them and say, ‘Peter, we launched a project today, we have so-and-so many employees, so-and-so many subtasks, the budget for each employee is this, etc.’ And he would then get everything in order and let me know the figures.

K.Kh.: Well, we’ve found that people like that are usually ‘Mary’ rather than ‘Peter’. People that create and assign tasks, who are called project coordinators, they are usually female. I don’t know why, but this is the case in any large company.

D.F.: I’ll keep that in mind.

K.Kh.: Tell us, have any of your clients switched to Cerebro?

D.F.: Yes, why wouldn’t they? For example, we had this situation with the Russia State Lottery. The staff there are all very active, the sales manager and the brand manager, they all got the hang of Cerebro in a hurry, as they say. We uploaded the project and began talking through Cerebro straight away, they commented on our work. This really speeds up the process, because you see comments and responses live and not when it’s too late, there’s no turning back, and the project is an ‘epic fail’. If you don’t have Cerebro, you try to avoid sending materials as much as possible, so, basically, you get some frame of reference, then you send the mid-way result, and then the composited result, and that’s it. The client doesn’t see anything else. Here, you have subcategories: you have modellers, you have artists, compositors, animators… One way or another, they all depend on each other, and they send each other materials, and the client can see all of this and comment on the production process. There is, however, one giant drawback – as a rule, the client has no understanding whatsoever of the creative process. So, if they see a piece of animation that hasn’t been composited yet, they can have a fit, thinking we’re ‘useless’.

K.Kh.: Well… Generally, it would be better to only give clients limited access, not the same as for employees. Then the client will only see those messages that have been set as ‘Client Visible’. Of course, this can only be set by the project manager, not just any employee, and the manager can decide, what they want to show to the client. Speaking of this, what do you think we need to work on? What do we need to improve?

D.F.: I am a huge fan of Apple, and I’m used to seeing my desktop and my computer as a whole as something interactive. If I move my mouse to the left edge, there’s a light on the left, if I move it to the right – there’s a light on the right, everything is so interactive and user friendly. The whole thing is there to make people love it and enjoy it. Your entire work is like a game, like a quest. Really, though, I’m completely satisfied with Cerebro as it is. I think that Cerebro is really cool. I don’t really see the need to add feature after feature. So, ok, I may need a MOV file without compression using the Pro-res422 codec, but it’s just as likely no-one else needs it. So why add it to Cerebro?

K.Kh.: I see. By the way, we will release a SDK soon and people will be able to add whatever they need. So, for example, if you attach a Pro-res to a message, Cerebro will automatically create a MOV and put it there, so that people who don’t have Pro-res can see it.

D.F.: Well, I don’t really see the point of tinkering like that, because I have a Mac. Macs are very intuitive, they don’t really force you into anything. To open a Word document, you don’t need to do a million pointless things, you always have this large W button at the bottom of the screen. You just click it, and that’s it. I think it should be the same way here – if someone needs something, they can install it separately. We are not playing Tetris here, we are making important decisions and solving difficult problems – you can just help us and not overload us with a hundred more features that only give me a headache. You know, one guy I really respect once told me: ‘Dima, your generation is a generation of trade experts: no-one knows the innovations of the digital market like you do! And you can’t really think of anything new. But you can come up with original things! Then, maybe, you don’t need to be so obsessed with innovation? Maybe you just need to do things that attract attention?’

K.Kh.: That’s pretty good! There’s also this saying: ‘The key to success is simplicity’. Let’s always remember these wise words!

“Smeshariki” get a 3D-volume with NVIDIA

2011/07/18 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 3 thoughts on ““Smeshariki” get a 3D-volume with NVIDIA”

Case Study – Advance Digital

2011/04/06 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 2 thoughts on “Case Study – Advance Digital”

KozhevnikovaThis month we’re interviewing Yulia Kozhevnikova from the Advance Digital advertising agency.

Please tell us a little about your company.

We are one of the leading web-advertising companies in Russia; when you look at the advertising volume of our clients on the web, we are in the top three. In the past two years, we have been actively developing the creative department – more specifically, ‘digital creative’: from banners to more unusual things such as projection, 3D, and so on.

What in particular do you do? Do you specialize in any particular media, like the web or the print? Could you maybe tell us about some of your clients? How long have you been using Cerebro, and what kind of projects do you use it for?

We’ve been using Cerebro for the past 6 months. We only work with the web, and my particular division is devoted to creative work for the web. As far as I know, out colleagues from the media department have also begun using Cerebro for their needs.

At the moment, for example, we are developing a number of web-sites for one very large client, and we’re also working on a number of web-pages for a well-known perfume brand. These are the kinds of projects we use Cerebro for. We’re also always have a few smaller things happening: banners for ongoing advertising campaigns, things like that.

Why did you decide to look for a project management system?

Thanks to a client.

It’s kind of a long story. Out holding (Gruppa ADV, http://www.advgroup.ru – ed.) has its own management system, which is, unfortunately, ill-suited to the kind of work we do, although it can be useful to some for accounting purposes – time-tracking, etc. There’s no access for clients or freelancers. At first, out software engineers tried to systematize the work we do, but their approach is kind of different, and it was hard to explain their ideas to accounts.

Then we won a bid for a contract with a large client, and one of the conditions was that we use a project management system. We chose Cerebro.

I wish more of our clients had clients like that! 🙂

What do you do first when you open Cerbero? How do use it in your work, how do your employees use it?

Personally, I never close it at all. One of out past sales directors taught us to never shut down the computer – so we never close our e-mail clients and never shut down computers. To this mantra I’ve added ‘never close Cerebro’. If I need to do something, I just switch over to its window and do it. We do everything in Cerebro – assign tasks to employees, pass files over to the client, discuss details with them, use it as an IM, and so on. Some clients even refuse to discuss anything unless it’s by phone or in Cerebro. And since you can’t always spend half an hour talking on the phone, it’s easier to just message them with what we’ve done and how. We send them mockups, JPG and PSD files, documents — everything.

We are not using the statistics system, and haven’t got a good grasp on budgeting, but we don’t really need them at this stage.

When did you realize that all employees are using Cerebro, and how hard was transition?

Designers switched to Cerebro straight away, it’s very convenient for them, so they use it, and the software engineers are exactly the kind of people who would love it.

Some people never made the switch, and I don’t they ever will. It’s the kind of creative people who aren’t necessarily good with new tech.

For example, copyrighters are used to writing copy, so it’s hard for them that they need to open some app, send some kind of ‘Review’ or ‘Report’… In the end, we realized they don’t really need it and stopped trying to force it on them, since their work is different. Especially given that they never talk to the client.

How long did it take to integrate the system into your workflow?

I think it took us about a week to get comfortable. The client spent, maybe, a month asking questions, worrying that they deleted something they should not have or that they couldn’t do something they wanted to. Also, at first I used to give them administrator status and then take it away all the time, and they couldn’t understand why yesterday they could assign tasks, and now they can’t. But we got the hang of it quickly, that the business we’re in – you have to be quick on the uptake, or you get left behind.

If you had to choose a project management system for an advertising agency that had never used one before, what criteria would you look at?

We focused on usability, how easy it is to work with the system. Everyone uses it, so, as I’ve mentioned, people in accounts have to understand how the system works, too – after all, we are not software engineers, we are simple users.

We also tested the system on the client, whether it suits them or not. Plus, we had to consider whether we could introduce the system from a technical point of view – so the first people to ask were IT-administrators and programmers, since it’s an important issue.

And what about the specific features – if you worked with media other than the web, would Cerebro fit your needs?

I think that it’s a very convenient system for an advertising agency (especially once you get the hang of reports…). And it’s very convenient that you can open it to freelancers. It’s a great system for all kinds of graphic design and Client Service, as well. So, I think, it would work great for video-production and print design, too, not just the web.

What size of files do you usually upload to Cerebro?

It varies. I once had to upload something like 800 MB… But mostly they are under 200 MB or so.

Do you use the drawing function or audio comments?

Yes, we do – both text and audio, if we can’t be bothered to draw and it’s easier to just talk. Not everyone, though, has a headset – although we’ve bought a few for this particular purpose, so that problem is no longer there. Drawing is convenient, too, of course, as some our clients used to do this in MS Power Point, which means we had to spend more time on it. Now they just ‘scribble’ in Cerebro. 🙂

What do you think is missing in terms of drawing?

I think everything is in place, I don’t see any weak spots.

How many clients have you managed to convince to switch to Cerebro?

For now, only the two largest ones: one for the media department and one for us. There’s also another client, whose tasks are managed in Cerebro, but who doesn’t have access to it. That is, we work on several projects there, but only two of the clients have access.

What would you improve, add, or change in Cerebro?

One small niggle is that you can’t have a text message notification when a comment is added.

As I see it, the system isn’t well suited to things like generating reports. I don’t mean accounting for internal needs, but rather things like invoicing where you can summarize costs, man-hours, and so on.

And in our industry, it would be ideal if you could not only transfer Flash files, but also comment on them, like with video. This is the kind of thing we need 🙂

And, finally, a major gap is user role customization. At the moment, some of our clients can see, for example, the time spent on their tasks, even though they don’t need that information. That’s because we have to give them the ‘Supervisor’ role, where they can assign tasks to us, instead of the ‘Client’ role.

 

Yes, we know about this and we are working on customizable access rights (with user presets), where the client can assign tasks in one part of the projects, but wouldn’t see some things like budgets and hours.

Yes, that would be great!

Thank you very much for your time.

Case Study – N3

2011/02/21 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 4 thoughts on “Case Study – N3”

penkov

This month we talk with Timofei Penkov production director of N3.

Timofei, could you tell me a little bit about the history of your company?

The company is more than 6 years old. At present, we are one of the leading post-production companies in Russia. We specialize in the production of graphic elements for TV channels and computer-generated imagery for advertising spots. We very rarely work with special effects for cinema, although this is always a possibility for us. When it comes to CGI, we prefer motion-design for TV and complex advertising projects the most.Andrei Golikov, who has worked at N3 since its foundation, is the head of the company.

What projects have you worked on lately, and what are you working on now?

Right now we are producing four elaborate advertising spots and one full-HD broadcast for NTV+’s stereo-channel. Before that, we made a few ads and on-air packages for such TV-channels as Rossiya-2, DTV, and REN, the design for TV-programmes on the Russian Channel 5, Rossiya, and a few others. Even before I joined it, and certainly after, the company was working with, I think, all the leading TV-channels in Russia.

When and on what kind of projects did you begin to use Cerebro?

We started using Cerebro about a year ago. It took a while to get used to it, but in the end I prevailed and now we use the software a lot. We switched to the local version, because we were too dependent on the Internet connection, its speed and so on, and when you are using something a lot, such limitations are difficult to live with. So, it’s been about a year since we’ve started putting all imaginable tasks that need to be done to complete a project in Cerebro.

What helped you get used to Cerebro?

For me, the moment you know that a piece of software has caught on is when everyone knows where to look for things. It’s been a while since anyone has asked: ‘Where’s this file or the other?’ It’s always in Cerebro, attached to your task.

As a manager, which functions of Cerebro do you use the most?

We don’t use budgeting in Cerebro, because the reality of the market is such that the budget is decided long before the project starts, and the final budget is confirmed basically during the bidding process. By the time the project begins to be fleshed out, all the budgets have been fixed upon and there are no financial discussions. But I’m absolutely sure that if a company, say, only works with freelance designers, this function could be extremely useful for the head of that company. They would probably have an hourly rate of some kind, and they could calculate and analyze the invoice for the whole project at once. We use Cerebro for the dailies and as a database. All comments, all dailies, and every time we send something off is recorded there, which can be very helpful during discussions with the client.

Do you use the Gant diagram? Or do you use something else for scheduling?

Yes, we use it. We used it a lot at first. However, because it doesn’t always stack up to reality, we tend to use it for larger projects now, which last more than three weeks. For us, the Gant diagram is a planning tool, when we need to see, where things overlap. But I would also like to be able to use colour-coded tags, as it would be easier for me to look at the colour and see whether the status is ‘I’ve sent off the materials, awaiting reply’ or ‘There has been a reply’.

Do you use the drawing function, text comments, audio comments?

We use text comments all the time, we’ve made it our standard policy. If something isn’t in Cerebro, it’s as if it never existed, especially in discussions with clients. For example, instructions over the phone may be heard, but not carries out. This is why we always have text comments. Everyone needs them – both the person who is told to do something, and the manager who tells them to do it. We haven’t really been using the drawing and audio functions, because we have an open-space office and don’t have any one working from home, so if something needs to be discussed, we can do it at the office. The art-director, when we are discussing a project, tells everyone how they see each task and the clip as a whole. Then, when people get actual instructions, they sit down together with the art-director, who explains exactly what he wants from them. Because we can have a lot of tasks, and most of them are quite small and short, we usually don’t need any further comments in terms of execution. This can happen with large cinema projects, but we don’t use it.

Are you getting more sleep now that you’re using Cerebro?

Well, I’ll never get enough sleep, but there’s no feeling of chaos now. This is what Cerebro is for, it helps to get rid of information overload. Now everyone knows, where everything is. Everyone knows, what they need to do, everyone knows where to look for information, everyone knows, where to put things. And this is about one-third of the task as a whole. Before we had Cerebro, there were these folders ‘In’, ‘Out’, ‘Mail’, ‘Complete’, ‘Complete 2’, no-one knew where to find anything. Now all the dailies and the complete clips are in Cerebro, and it’s a lot easier to work with information.

Which Cerebro client are you using? Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Web-based or maybe the iPhone app?

All the designers are using the Microsoft Windows version, and most of them don’t need anything else, they don’t even use Cerebro at home. There are a few guys who love to work so much that they’ve installed Cerebro on their computers at home. People come to the office in the morning and say: ‘Oh, hey, a comment, great!’ The pop-up notifications are working great for us. Personally, I use Cerebro all the time, I’ve installed it everywhere – on my iPad, on my iPhone, on my Macbook, on the computer at work… But I’ve customized everything, so that I can use PPM to comment something on the iPad or upload it, and so on. By the way, on the iPad the images look bolder and, let’s say, prettier. It would be great if you could write messages when you are offline, and then sync them with the database.

Yes, we are working on that at the moment. And we will add these functions to the main Cerebro version as well, so that you can edit, comment, and create items on your laptop without an Internet connection. What else would you like to see in Cerebro? Do you find the interface usable?

At first, everyone hated the interface, as we have a company-full of creative types, they all criticised it, said it was unusual and hard to use. Mostly people use the navigator with the lights, nothing else. I don’t have any real problems with it. There are a few little annoyances, for example, how you need to always enter numbers when you name tasks, so that they are sorted by name, which is quite inconvenient.

Yes, we are working on a sorting function with arrows up or down.

That would be useful.

Are there any other programs that you think should be integrated with Cerebro workflow?

You should just make it possible to improve Cerebro with a SDK and to export data to other applications.

Yes, we’ll release a SDK soon, which will make all of this possible.

Thank you for answering my questions.

Other works on – http://www.n3workshop.com

Case Study – Ulitka

2010/09/23 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 3 thoughts on “Case Study – Ulitka”

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This month we talk with Eugene Barulin director of “Ulitka Post”.

Tell us a little bit about the history of your company, please.
Ulitka started out as a small, low-profile company of three-four people, who did all kinds of not-so-large marketing projects. We emphasized our ‘boutique’-like quality (I hate that word, but it’s easier to explain things that way). We paid particular attention to technological developments, the administrative pipeline and so on. The company grew little by little, we expanded into the movie industry and had The Night Watch and The Day Watch as our clients. Then we began to take on larger projects such as Wanted. By volume, Ulitka was the largest contractor in Russia. We continue to actively work on computer graphics and animation for marketing companie and movies. So the company has a long and rich history.

What kind of projects do you use Cerebro for?
We have always aimed primarily at developing the technological division, so we have always paid a lot of attention to organizing the production process and to such complex things as reporting, planning, risk management and so on. So when we realized we needed specialized software, we started using Cerebro. This changed the way we do business quite a bit – now we have a new tool which can take care of much of the routine work. This helped us a lot in creating a simple and transparent system of business operations. Now all projects at Ulitka are done through Cerebro. Any project that is not in Cerebro does not count as a project and no one works on it. Even if it’s a small TV-ad, whipped up in three days, we use Cerebro for it.

What difficulties arise in the process of project management, and how Cerebro helps you overcome them?
The usual difficulties are the same each time. Firstly, it’s the fact that the process is not transparent, especially where the project is complex. The classic problem in project management is tracking the project and managing it as a whole, rather than one thing at a time. Every business needs projects to be completed on time and with the best value for money, which can be very difficult, especially for complex projects – you need to track a huge amount of details and tweak the process to fit the deadline, the financial resources and so on. When you have software that helps to do it, things get a lot easier. Cerebro is one of the most transparent and easily customizable software products, which helps to create a fairly linear plan for the project which remains familiar to most managers. Cerebro does not have the far too technical mindset which some other applications have.

How long have you been using Cerebro?
We’ve been using the software for over a year now.

Do your clients use Cerebro?
Yes, of course. We have universal accounts for our regular clients, where clients can access Cerebro and look something up. But the thing about our company’s use of Cerebro is that Cerebro is not simply a way for clients to comment on our work, but a work tool used inside the company. We use it for intra-corporate communication: supervisors comment on the artists’ work on all levels, art directors comment on the supervisors’ actions, and so on.

Which Cerebro client are you using? Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Web-based or maybe the iPhone app?
We mostly use Windows. We only have one Mac in the office, in the editing studio, and Cerebro is installed there, too. Sometime I access Cerebro from my iPhone, but for me this has more to do with monitoring what happens at the office rather than with any particular project.

Do you use the audio-visual commentary feature often?
Generally, very few people make audio comments, since we are all sitting in one office and if anyone wants to say something, he can tell it in person. But because things that people say can get forgotten quickly, corporate work at Ulitka is based on written communication. When people write they often do it a lot in a much clearer and concise way than when they talk. And sometimes when you write something, you come up with the solution yourself, so you don’t need to say anything.

How often do you draw over the videos and images?
All the time. Drawing is a lot more important, because it’s harder to say: “In the top right corner three pixels above the eye”, than it is to draw an arrow. Moreover, drawing is sometimes used as a way to sketch something.

How long did it take your employees and clients to get used to working with Cerebro?
Implementation speed depends on the project timetable, and we implemented Cerebro very quickly because just then we were switching from one project to the next. So for a time, a very short time, we tried Cerebro out on some small semi-projects, and then implemented it for a large project straight away. The movie The Black Ligtning was the first major project which was done in Cerebro from start to finish. Since then all our project are done in Cerebro.

How convenient do you find the interface?
Any tool is just that – a tool, if you can use it, it becomes convenient for you at some stage. Of course, I was used to other types of interfaces, but now I think the Cerebro interface is quite convenient, I know where to look for things. Of course, were you to ask me about improvements, I’d have something to say, but right now the interface is fine by me.

Are you planning to work with stereo? Would you be interested in stereo-commentary as a feature?
Stereo  is an inescapable trend, it will become a part of our everyday life any day now. We will work with stereo in any case, but it depends on what kind of projects they will be and when they will come up. There are some projects which we are thinking about in terms of stereo, but they are not the kind of projects which we wouldn’t be able to do without the ability to work with stereo in Cerebro. But if Cerebro got a stereo interface, we would, of course, use it.

How often do you use Mikogo web-conferencing and Wacom tablets when working with Cerebro?
We tried web-conferencing, and it works. In our field it may not be particularly useful, because we mainly use Cerebro within the company. But having this ability is great. It would be great if you could integrate more applications and integrate with the iPhone and the iPad. And we use Wacom, of course.

Do you have any ideas on how to improve Cerebro?
I would be very happy if the iPhone and iPad app was more functional. I would like to be able to  make comments, look through the material and so on. The easier it is for me to see what is happening on my phone, the more comments I make, and the work gets done quicker.

Thank you for answering my questions.

PS: In the new issue Cinefex (Russian version) published an article Eugene Barulin “Nobody knows the full stereo power.”

You can read rull article in a magazine Cinefex or on the website edition (Russian).

Such an experimental platform – Stereolaboratoriyu – I, Alexander Gorokhov (head of the studio CG-factory) and Paul Perepelkin organize in September 2010 in the Scream School on the faculties of postproduction.

Case Study – Vedis

2010/09/02 Posted by Cerebro, User Case 2 thoughts on “Case Study – Vedis”

alex_sThis month we talk with Alex Duk director of visualization departament company Vedis.

Could you please tell me about the history of your company, about your department?

We are a part of a large residential construction corporation in Moscow. Our particular department specializes in computer graphics, architectural visualization, and advertising for Vedice Corp. The major part of our work is in architectural visualization but recently we have been working on commercials quite a lot.

Were there any projects that might be familiar to a wide audience?

Well, yes, there was a fairly large marketing campaign for Marfino and Nakhimovo residential developments – everyone who follows the market for inexpensive residential real estate would have heard of them.

Why did you decide to use Cerebro and what had you used before that?alekseevo0001

We had not used anything before we started using Cerebro. We did not have a dedicated project management system. We had a database, the supervisor just told people what to do, and he was the only one who had this information – we did not have a centralized system. Our department is quite small, so it usually didn’t cause any problems. But we still thought that we should fix it because from time to time things would go awry: someone would forget to do something or wouldn’t do it on time; sometimes a task would be set, but whoever was supposed to carry it out didn’t know about it… That was the first problem.

And the second thing was that as head of the department I used to spend days and nights in the office and so everything was under my control. But know the situation has changed somewhat, I have to spend a lot of time out of the office, but I still need to know what goes on there. For example, conflicts in schedule can mean that nothing gets done: when my employees come to the office in the morning, I am not yet there and cannot give them any tasks, but when I get to the office they have already left and, again, I cannot give them any tasks. Now, I do not have to meet someone in person to set a task, I can do it when it is convenient for me. Now I know who does what, what stage they are at… Functions like Dailies are very convenient, very useful: I can track what tasks my employees are working on right now.

Which Cerebro client are you using? Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Web-based or maybe the iPhone app?

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We use the Windows and 64-bit Mac OS clients, as well as the iPhone app.

Do you have any clients who work with Cerebro?

We do not have any clients like that at the moment, but our holding company does not share a building with us, and we some internal clients there. We still have not done it, but we are planning to implement a client account, so that customers can see what goes on inside our company.

How long did it take your employees to switch to the software?

Not long at all, literally abour three days. First, I created a template structure for all projects, and the next day we began to use. On the first day people had some questions, then we switched on the Dailies function, which also took a bit of time to get used to, but then everyone got to grips with it.

What about the audio-visual commentary? Do use this feature often?

Most of the time I use text and pictorial comments, that is, about 80 per cent of the time I work with comments in images and video, and I am not always comfortable with audio comments. I use voice and actions in maybe 20 per cent of my comments, so that is where audio-visual commentary comes in, and I do not use the text comments on the forum at all. I love how you can make a comment right on the image or in the video, I do not have to explain that the third guy from the left should have a larger nose. It is easier to just write: “Make the nose larger”, and draw an arrow to the nose.

How convenient do you find the interface?max_stripe0004

The interface is horrible, it really needs to be simplified. It is not intuitive, and thank God that most users do not have to work with it that deeply, so people usually get what they need to do quickly. But the interface is not intuitive. But I would not say it is really unbearable, once you get used to it, things get easier.

Do you have any wishes for future releases?

In general, the software does everything I need. But it would be more convenient if the computer client had the same function which the iPhone app has: the ability to work off-line. Sometime this is really necessary: when you do not have access to the Internet, and all the data is on your hard drive, but you have to go and search files out by hand just to use the software. This is probably the only things that is missing for me.

How often do you use Mikogo web-conferencing and Wacom tablets when working with Cerebro?

I have never used Mikogo, and as for the tablets… A few times, maybe, I usually draw with a mouse.

Are there any other programs that you think should be integrated with Cerebro workflow?

urlovo_0005.rev01We would be very interested in integration with Duma, since we use both programs a lot. It would be nice if task description or the final render could show up in one of them. For example, if you could start a render in Duma, tick a box and then see the result in a Cerebro task. I tend to use Cerebro as a file management system, too, I do not even know where project files are stored: I always ask people to attach their work to Cerebro, so that I do not have to sift through folders.

Thank you for answering my questions