The List of VFX Project Tools

Over at the PixelCorps, we are working on a bunch of visual effects shots for an independent film. It is a massively distributed project with the director, producers, VFX supervisors and artists located all over. I’m part of the production management team and the task of coordinating 50+ people located all around the world is — complex. Communication is the key thing.

A project like this really needs a system that people can collaborate around, something that would help coordinate a far-flung post-production team: posting the shot breakdowns, shot assignments, task progress, submission and review cycles, client approvals, tracking the progress of the overall pipeline, moving assets and work outputs.

Being a database guy, my first thought is: “Aha! I need a database.” My next thought was: “Surely, someone has already built one.” However, so far, I’ve found nothing that really fits the bill. I started using a spreadsheet but quickly found that I could not keep up with all the activity.

It seems that the big houses have elaborate home-grown systems for managing the shots, and assets, and budgeting and all that — but what do small/independant VFX producers use for project management to keep everything organized? So I started doing research for my own home-grown VFX project database. I’ve come across the following resources which I’m posting here for reference.

UPDATE (7/18/08): I added Shotgun and Flowsmith to the list.

UPDATE (10/24/08): I’ve move the list to its own page.

10 thoughts on “The List of VFX Project Tools”

  1. Hey Cemeron,
    Congratulations on coordinating the film project for PXC. I also saw your tutorial on Interesting software. Something you set up as well?

    Nick S

  2. Hey Nick,

    The software I’m building in conjunction with the PXC project is ShotRunner. It is at I’d be interested in getting your feedback and can set you up with an account. Check out the forums on that site also.

    P.S. ShowRunner is a filemaker solution also for tracking VFX. Similar name, different approach.

  3. Project Overlord looks interesting depending on your focus. It seems to be primarily tracking files and assets in a LAN environment, maybe trying to be closer to something like AlienBrain than VFX ShowRunner. Hard to tell from a few screenshots. They do have a free trial so it is something you could check out. It appears to be Windows-only vs. being a web application.

    The thing I’m building assumes a very distributed team, is a web application, and tries to build communication first instead of a lot of really complex shot/asset information.

  4. Andrey, how would you classify the Microsoft offering? I read through their evaluators guide, and it seems that they have: media management including metadata tagging, task tracking (through outlook/exchange), a video review/annotation module, workflow, and have built some links to video transcoding partners. Seems like a direct competitor to Final Cut Server and possibly AlienBrain. They don’t seem to offer any VFX functionality like shot breakdowns, budgeting, film/telecine management, etc. Have you used this product? Is this a fair summary?

  5. I haven’t used it I’ve only read their releases and blog posts. The point is that IMM just expands SharePoint portal capabilities towards video assets management. I don’t think it’s made specifically for VFX management it’s rather general media production management tool. By now I would compare it to FCS but with more powerful development and integration capabilities.

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