Leading film special effects creator Hasraf Dulull keeps deadlines and budgets on track with Bento.
Visual Effects Artist
"I just dragged fields onto the form and got started," says Hasraf Dulull. "I linked files to the database so I can find them easily. I linked email messages from Apple Mail and associated them with people, files, and parts of the project. Artwork, shots, invoices, they're all logged in Bento."
Films, even short ones, are big productions. It takes countless hours, dedicated crews, and top-notch organization to put them together. Visual effects (VFX) artist and filmmaker Hasraf Dulull knows this first hand. His short animated film, FUBAR, involved nearly a dozen artists, multiple producers, and several animators. To keep track of everything and meet deadlines on time, he used Bento for Mac.
"My Bento database is central to everything I do for the film," he says. "If a piece of artwork, email, or movie clip isn't logged in the database, it basically doesn't exist."
Dulull, known as HaZ in visual effects circles, is working with software company The Foundry to create a short film using their award-winning visual effects software Nuke. The VFX artist has extensive experience animating for films such as The Dark Knight, Prince of Persia, and 10,000 BC, and was recently nominated for a Visual Effects Society (VES) award for his visual effects supervision work on the History Channel's America - The Story of Us.
For many projects, organization was always a challenge. "In some of the projects I worked on, I just had all the artwork and shots stored in files," he says. "It wasn't easy to find things and could really slow the project down." Multiple revisions, clips, and notes resided within a tangled structure of nested files. Files were often misplaced, or worse, lost. "It was a nightmare to manage the assets and keep all the files in an accessible form as the projects grew," he says.
For his latest project, he needed a powerful organization tool. "I didn't have any database experience, but I knew I needed a database to keep track of things," he says. "I looked into using various platforms, including Microsoft Access or just Excel spreadsheets, but they're not easy to use or intuitive."
HaZ soon discovered Bento. "It was everything I needed," he says. "It's fully customizable, powerful, and very easy to use."
At first, HaZ experimented with a Bento template. "I began with the Project Management template to learn how the application worked," he says. "But within a few minutes, I realized that building my own database would be so easy that I didn't need the template."
HaZ quickly built a custom database to track files, reference material, shots, messages, expenses, and crew info. "I just dragged fields onto the form and got started," he says. "I linked files to the database so I can find them easily. I linked email messages from Apple Mail and associated them with people, files, and parts of the project. Artwork, shots, invoices, they're all logged in Bento."
The director also customized the database to look and feel like applications he's familiar with. "I was able to customize it to the way I work, to keep things simple and clean," he says. "I wasn't locked into someone else's idea of how I should be using the app."
Altogether, it took HaZ just a few hours to build a fully functional Bento database that met all his needs for project organization. "I saved a huge amount of time with Bento," he says. "It was easy to learn and I was up and running within hours. And I didn't have to hire a person to design and maintain the database because I can just do it myself."
Now HaZ can manage his film and VFX projects with Bento. "I launch Bento first thing when I sit down to work," he says. "Right away I can see what needs to be done, who I need to get in touch with, even all of the expenses associated with the project. I can open up the sequence or shot that I'm working on and know right where I left off thanks to the notes I've added in Bento."
The VFX artist can also view video clips and PDF files within Bento. "That's really my favorite feature," he says. "I can load reference assets like QuickTime movies, images, and other files without leaving Bento to launch external applications like QuickTime Player or Adobe Photoshop. That saves a tremendous amount of time."
Bento is central to HaZ's project. "Bento is instrumental to the way this film is being managed," he says. "I'm the director and an artist on this project, so being organized is important. It can easily slip away from me if I'm not careful. With Bento, it's all drag and drop, simple actions. It's so easy to stay organized while I'm working on the artwork and effects for this film."
HaZ says the new database saves him time as well as money. "I can get to files quickly and easily and start working right away," he says. "That lets me get more done in the same amount of time."
With an easy-to-use organizational tool, HaZ can get more done and focus on what really matters: his films. "Bento makes it easier for me to focus on being creative and helps me put the day-to-day organization out of my mind," he says. "I really don't know how I managed projects in the past without it. From now on, Bento will be at the center of every project I launch."