SWISS switches to ftrack Studio for improved service and streamlined collaboration
SWISS switches to ftrack Studio for improved service and streamlined collaboration
SWISS launched in 2002 with two core aims: to create groundbreaking visual effects, but just as importantly, to do so with a personal connection to clients.
SWISS didn’t want to focus solely on constant expansion—they wanted to create a family feel where creativity and collaboration, rather than finances, stand as the bottom line. And the approach has set the studio in good stead.
Almost from the start of the studio’s journey, SWISS has worked on well-known projects. Early on, SWISS produced the music video for Moby’s “In This World” and delivered Volvo’s now-famous “Epic Split”, featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. From there, SWISS evolved quickly—the studio built its team, pipeline, and values and evolved into the form it takes today: a boutique, personalized visual effects studio focused on delivering high-quality visual effects alongside high-quality service. Today, SWISS employs 30 talented staff and ten freelance artists who join projects as and when required.
Today, SWISS’s output straddles various project types, from music videos and short films to advertising and promotional work. Automotive clients often return to the SWISS team time and again, with names like Volkswagen, Mercedes, and Audi frequently popping up on the SWISS roster. Such names appear alongside global brands like Amazon Prime, Sony, Nike, and Nothing, for whom SWISS created stripped-down, playful renders of the Nothing Earbuds.
“Working with Nothing was a fantastic experience,” begins Andreas Weidman, VFX Supervisor at SWISS. “In collaboration with Nothing and Teenage Engineering, we were able to extend the product’s beautiful design language into the campaign videos, utilizing slow-motion and shallow depth of field techniques to make everything look super appealing. We’re super happy we got to share the project with the world in such a great launch.”
Two recent SWISS projects involved creating complex CG animals—for Norwegian supermarket chain Coop Prix this meant creating a dancing Sloth, while Swedish musician Håkan Hellström’s music video necessitated a percussionist proboscis monkey.
“We love these kinds of projects and the world of motion capture and creature creation they involve,” says Andreas. “The process is so rewarding, from spending late nights watching animal reference videos and finding all the small subtleties that make a creature come alive and feel real to the shoot itself,” he says. “Collaborating on creature projects is a big team effort, involving mocap actors, groom specialists, sculptors, lighters, and animators—everyone must come together like a fine-tuned machine.”
And like any fine-tuned machine, schematics are vital to ensuring all mechanisms work as they should and in the most efficient way. At SWISS, ftrack Studio acts as the schematic and ensures the effective and concerted running of what can sometimes be a very complex creative mechanism.
Working with ftrack imparts a very personal family feel, where we’re not just a number in a sales sheet but a valued contributor and collaborator.
About a year ago, SWISS decided to overhaul its entire pipeline. The ultimate goal was to move all artists to SideFX Houdini and Solaris while at the same time taking advantage of the benefits USD workflows have introduced to CG pipelines.
“The challenge was considerable and involved a lot of new tech,” explains Andreas. “We decided the best approach was to completely rewrite our pipeline to make it as efficient and streamlined as possible. As part of this process, we also decided to switch our production tracking platform.”
SWISS shopped around for solutions but ultimately landed on one close to home. “We were using Shotgrid at the time. Unfortunately, there was little focus on the Nordic region and we struggled with performance; the cost estimates to fix our issues were unrealistic,” says Andreas. “With ftrack originating as a fellow native Swedish company, ftrack Studio was always at the back of our minds as an alternative project management solution, so we decided to give it a go. We are happy we did.
“Switching to ftrack Studio empowered us to completely rethink the way our pipeline connects to the database and how we approach storage across the studio. We now publish all of our shots and assets to ftrack Studio and perform all project planning and crewing in the platform.”
Getting underway with ftrack
Today, SWISS typically runs four projects concurrently, each with its own supervisor and producer, and tends to have two bids or pitches running alongside the day-to-day work. In addition, team leads must manage multiple creatives and freelancers across each project to ensure all work is completed on time and to the highest standard. Add the new challenges of remote post-production introduced by COVID-19, and you have a recipe for difficult times. Thankfully, ftrack Studio helped SWISS navigate tricky waters.
“Security-wise, we felt we were in safe hands,” explains Andreas. “ftrack Studio follows TPN and MPA guidelines, and we have experienced no security issues—this is crucial when delivering work for the caliber of clients we serve at SWISS.
When projects get underway, ftrack Studio sits at the center of the complex production web, ensuring all ongoing tasks are connected and interdependencies are tracked and managed. “Things are super slick with ftrack Studio,” he continues. “Switching to ftrack Studio and a cloud-based production tracking instance means we can activate monthly licenses for our freelancers, so they can jump into projects as and when required. As a result, we can work in a super flexible way.
“From that point on, we can stay fully connected throughout a project. We use Slack for a lot of our daily communication at SWISS, but we also use ftrack Studio task and asset comments for artist feedback and annotating screenshots. Everything is connected; it’s easy to see what needs doing on an asset or shot.
“Integrated client review sessions have also become our go-to for sending materials to clients to view. We find it’s helpful when keeping track of send-offs and client feedback as all communication is available in one place. Again, referring to a session to see what needs doing for the next iteration is super easy.”
SWISS also uses Actions in ftrack Studio to customize and automate certain functions in its ftrack instance. “Actions are a great way to tailor ftrack Studio toward the unique ways we like to work at SWISS,” explains Andreas. “At SWISS, we were able to create workflows that help our remote artists in several ways. For instance, using Action plugins we can give artists the ability to clear caches and troubleshoot their remote machines. We can also automate deliveries for producers, such as collecting all .exr files for send-off or turning a playlist into an offline edit with sound attached. Doing so makes the production process much simpler and keeps us focused on creativity over admin. When using ftrack Actions, the sky is the limit. We’ve only just started scratching the surface of what we can do.”
Andreas and his team at SWISS have big plans for further implementation of ftrack Studio, with more Actions and deeper implementation of the platform into their pipeline being just the tip of the iceberg. Yet it’s not just ftrack’s technology that’s kept the team happy—SWISS also feels it’s working with a kindred spirit, as ftrack’s family feel mirrors SWISS’s own efforts to emphasize direct and honest working relationships.
“A personal connection to clients is essential to us at SWISS, and we want that relationship with our software providers too,” says Andreas. “We feel working with both ftrack and SideFX imparts a very personal family feel, where we’re not just a number in a sales sheet but a valued contributor and collaborator. I think that kind of relationship is very rare, so we’re lucky to have it with the team at ftrack.”
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