Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001

Voyager Pictures Keeps ’COSMOS’ VFX on Schedule with Shotgun

Voyager Pictures, producer of ‘COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey’, has been using the Shotgun platform for production management and review to keep the series’ demanding visual effects deliverables on schedule.

Addie Manis, VFX Producer at Voyager Pictures, said that although Shotgun is normally used by visual effects vendors, people like himself who have moved from visual effects into production are already familiar with it. He convinced the company that it would be an extremely useful tool to help to deliver the ambitious 1500 shots they had to produce in under 10 months.


’COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey’ debuted in early March, more than 30 years after the debut of Carl Sagan’s original science documentary series, ‘COSMOS: A Personal Voyage’. The production started using Shotgun on ‘COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey’ in December of 2012 during pre-production. To start the project, previz notes were entered into Shotgun while the episodes were being shaped as they often influenced story and editing notes as well, making Shotgun a consistent tool to track the development of the show itself.

“We liked the fact that Shotgun is web-based and not dependent on business hours in a given time zone, or on anyone’s server going down,” said Natasha Francis, also a VFX Producer on COSMOS. “Shotgun was the central location where information was tracked on the show and gave us the confidence that we could monitor the latest status of any shot in production. From Shotgun we could push different levels of shot information and tasks out, tracked and organized by vendor, whenever we needed to.”


There was no in-house development team, TD or pipeline supervisor on staff, so all of the tools the production used were off-the-shelf. While more than 240 artists from 16 different VFX studios were working on ‘COSMOS’, the primary touch points into Shotgun were by the production team, which included VFX Supervisor Rainer Gombos, VFX Producers Addie Manis and Natasha Francis, along with a small number of in-house production staff, artist and coordinators.

Effects across the series were complex, involving CG dinosaurs, fire, ancient environments, asteroids and water. “Shotgun’s Notes App was a major part of the process. We couldn’t have tracked this much volume in any other way,” Addie said. Trina Renee, Digital Production Manager, set up a system in which they could categorize every asset by vendor and run the notes process using the Shotgun Notes App.


This was an important process because shots often changed hands across four or five vendors from previz to final polish. Status reports were built in Shotgun and exported out to Excel, and vendors would then submit Excel spreadsheets filled with data feeding straight into the corresponding Shotgun playlist. Shots were uploaded to the production FTP using Joust to manage the transfer, and review sessions were done on Avid and in cineSync.