Legend3D is the leading 2D-to-3D conversion studio in the industry. The company was founded in 2001 by Dr. Barry Sandrew, and has grown exponentially since they started to provide 2D-to-3D conversions in 2009. As its team and project load has grown, so too have the amount of digital assets that need to move through the conversion process and the inherent complexity of that process. To help manage the process, Legend3D turned to Southpaw Technology and their production asset management system, TACTIC.
This case study outlines Legend3D’s use of TACTIC and the results they are achieving by having a flexible production asset management system in place.
Legend3D – Leaders in Conversion
Legend3D began its work as a digital intermediary, focusing primarily on colorization. Five years ago, the company realized there was an opportunity to support the growing market for conversion of 2D films to 3D. It started providing conversion services to its studio clients and has quickly become a leader in the field.
To date they have completed conversions for Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Hewlett Packard, MTV, and many others. Within a year of doing conversions, Legend3D went from a studio of 30, to having over 300 employees. The company attributes its blistering growth to its commitment to providing the highest quality conversions of any company in the industry.
Creating An Efficient Conversion Pipeline
Streamlining production pipelines is critical in any production, and that is especially true for conversion work. Legend3D started with just the one conversion project in late 2009: Alice in Wonderland. From there they were immediately able to ramp up their conversion production to five simultaneous projects, a remarkable accomplishment. They were able to scale up quickly because they had a good handle on their workflow.
The only way to create an efficient workflow is to understand the entire pipeline process. If people are only thinking about the steps immediately before and after them in the pipeline, they do not have the entire picture. Companies tend to focus and tackle one area of the pipeline at a time. Instead, they need to be asking, what is the goal of each piece, and how does it affect every other piece of the pipeline? In other words, companies need to understand, and drive efficiencies across the entire pipeline.
Anthony Lopez, Legend3D’s director of information technology has made a career out of deciphering production pipelines, having done it now for a number of studios. When Lopez first came to Legend3D, he spent a lot of time going through every step of the company’s production workflow. Lopez admits that spending the time upfront to define your pipeline can take up to a few months, but if you go through every single process, the rewards are well worth the work.
Having done similar exercises in the past, he has become an expert at breaking down critical pipeline components. Lopez explains, “You have to know and understand what you want your pipeline to be if you want to run a profitable studio. “
Lopez outlines four key components for successful pipeline implementation:
1. Talent: Without talented individuals it doesn’t matter about a pipeline. This is not confined to the artists, but includes the entire company working together to increase production efficiencies. That includes everyone from the producers, coordinators, and programmers. They each play an integral part in the pipeline.
2. Infrastructure: The right storage and server solutions are important. Companies need to think into the future when building their infrastructure so they create a scalable solution.
3. Collaboration: Departments need to collaborate. If only 20% of the production team is collaborating it will fail. There are too many disconnections which mean added waste and expense.
4. Tools: Tools are a huge component of Legend3D’s production process and Lopez notes that they have built a number of proprietary tools to help automate and streamline their production process. However, the single largest tool they use is TACTIC, a production asset management solution.
TACTIC at Legend3D
TACTIC was developed by Southpaw Technology, a company co-founded by two veterans of the visual effects industry: Gary Mundell (CEO) and Remko Noteboom (CTO). Both have worked extensively with large-scale productions at a wide range of studios. It was the limitation of existing tools that finally lead the pair to build a system that they hoped would work for others.
TACTIC is a web-based system that combines asset management, project management, workflow management and communication tools in one unified system. Its flexibility enables it to adapt to any workflow, mine data from any application, creating any type of report, and be accessible from any location.
Lopez maintains that their use of TACTIC is a key component to their success. Legend3D installed Southpaw Technology’s TACTIC production asset management solution on everyone’s system in the company. “TACTIC can do whatever we want it to do, we just needed to know what we wanted it to do first,” explains Lopez.
The company uses TACTIC to monitor the production in real time, and to produce up-to-the-minute reports, such as status reports and productivity reports. They also have it built into every department in the company, including their administrative and accounting functions. With everyone in the company using it, it has become a backbone for every facet of Legend3D’s work. “We view Southpaw as strategic partners and have worked side-by-side with them to create the system we have today.” He believes Legend3D’s growth has been in part due to the success they have had implementing TACTIC into its pipeline.
Lopez maintains, “We have been able to leapfrog two years of development by trusting TACTIC’s capabilities. It is such an extensible tool. It has been able to do everything we’ve thrown at it and allowed us to adjust quickly to problems.”
“TACTIC is a very open, flexible and powerful tool when used correctly. The important thing is that studios first need to understand their pipeline before TACTIC can be effective,” explains Lopez. “Unfortunately, most companies have gotten accustomed to having applications define their process because the tools have been so restrictive. But with TACTIC it can be the other way around, studios can define their process, and implement TACTIC around it.”
Lopez continues, “To be successful you need to break down all the parts of your pipeline and figure out how it works in your own studio. Once you understand that, TACTIC will do whatever you need it to do, and much more. Every studio is different, and every studio has a different approach to their pipeline, and TACTIC is built to be the translator between pipelines.”
The ROI of an Efficient Pipeline
Thanks to their detailed tracking, Legend3D has been able to increase their total shots per day by 10-fold, which Lopez directly attributes to efficiency and improvements by everyone in the production process. The increased efficiency is not only at the artist level, but includes everyone in the production pipeline. From production staff and data management teams to accounting and business development, the entire company is more efficient.
Legend3D is now able to track a single daily shot and compare it to any other day. This enables the company to see variances in productivity on a daily basis and know the precise status of each shot. Legend3D uses TACTIC to track daily correspondence with their clients, and develop custom delivery logging pages that help log every version of a shot that gets distributed. This customized naming convention process has helped them eliminate tracking errors on shots.
“With TACTIC, we are able to track the exact amount of time we spend per shot and per task, which not only helps us monitor the production in real-time, but has also helped us in project bidding and accounting,” notes Lopez.
TACTIC is the interpreter between pipelines and in 3D conversion that is critical,” explains Lopez. “With TACTIC as the interpreter it doesn’t matter about the workflows. TACTIC becomes the translator between the pipelines.” As a result, every person involved in the production is free to focus on their work, not on the mundane tasks that tend to bog productions down.