The Nuremberg Institute of Technology Georg Simon Ohm is an elite university for film and animation with a focus on digital image design and VFX. Professor Jürgen Schopper has headed the renowned course at the Faculty of Design for two decades. Schopper started his career in the VFX team of Roland Emmerich's blockbuster 'Independence Day' – which was awarded the Oscar® for Best Visual Effects in 1996.

Today, he works to prepare young filmmakers for everyday life on the set or in post-production with as practical an apprenticeship as possible. Together with some of his students and the lecturer Lauri Trillitzsch (film conception & digital tools), he talks about the experiences at the university during the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of Yamdu in teaching.

"I prepared the complete setup for 14 teams with over 60 students for this semester in just 3 hours."

Jürgen Schopper, Head, Faculty of Design, Nuremberg Institute of Technology

Yamdu has been an integral part of your daily teaching since the last semester. How did that happen?

Prof. Jürgen Schopper (JS): The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with new challenges. From that point forward, we had to switch the entire operation to online teaching. Classroom teaching was always standard up until to that point. At first, we couldn't think of a tool that could cover the special challenges of our work - until friends at ARRI made me aware of Yamdu. Everything after that happened very quickly - and that was a blessing.

Lauri Trillitzsch (LT): Absolutely. Of course, we have always worked on projects with DropBox and various things, but it seemed impractical for us to base the entire project management on it. A subject-specific tool like Yamdu was more promising.

A teacher's overview of student projects.
A teacher's overview of student projects.

What were the first steps and how exactly do you proceed when you want to establish new software in a course of study?

JS: Just do it. We got started within days. Of course, the Yamdu team took us by the hand at the beginning to set up the first projects and organized two one-hour online courses: one for the students in the summer semester and one for the teachers. That was also important so that the students didn't suddenly have too much knowledge in Yamdu ahead of us (laughs).

LT: At first, I had the feeling: Oh dear, what Yamdu does is overwhelming. But then we quickly noticed how flexible the system is and how easy it is to switch individual functions on and off in projects.

JS: I think that was also the key. Yamdu offers an ideal framework for our live action projects as well as for animation. As a teacher, it is very easy to create project templates, even with the desired file structure that we have already established and with the functions that the respective projects require. Then you create the actual projects for the respective courses of the semester and add the students. They find a preparatory workflow and can already see their first tasks and the areas in which something should be done. They can also add project-specific elements and enter their positions in the team themselves. It starts immediately.

LT: That's a good keyword: we have found that with Yamdu you can get straight to the point faster than before. Before Corona, the teams presented their work status at intervals on site at the university. It always went back and forth when you wanted to illuminate something again. Which USB stick was that on? Oh, we don't have location suggestions with us... Then there was of course absent students and the feedback from the meeting passed them by. And so on. This time it was completely different. The fixed structure of Yamdu was not a hurdle, as initially feared, but a clear advantage for everyone involved.

How do you see it from the students' point of view? For example, Andreas Fischer from the Keyholefilms team? With your young company, you are already on the verge of leaping out of college and into a professional career.

Andreas Fischer (AS): That's true. We continue to work with Yamdu on our animated film "Ramen Dojo". That made the coordination processes with my colleagues Chris Kühn and Dennis Brinkmann extremely easy. For example, for an animatic, we ended up with 29 versions. In Yamdu that was a single file, so to speak. We were able to comment precisely and always be sure who was referring to which version and when. And since there were no queries on this point, I assume that the lecturers did too.

JS: Correct. As soon as a message was received from the students, you could also see the project between lectures, which ran via zoom, and comment on the current status or even just small details.

AS: Apart from that, Yamdu is very self-sufficient. We had been given admin rights for our project ourselves and were able to continue working in Yamdu as we saw fit, based on the university structure. For example, we have created our entire production plan with the Gantt chart in Yamdu and keep making updates and coordinating with the professors until they are submitted. It's a great tool and we will definitely continue to use it.

The team is using Yamdu for constant review of their project 'Ramen Dojo'. (Keyholefilms)
The team is using Yamdu for constant review of their project 'Ramen Dojo'. (Keyholefilms)

Fabian, you already have one foot in the professional world with FZStudio. How does it work with your live action Sci-Fi short film? You work as a production manager in a somewhat larger team, correct?

Fabian Zimmermann (FZ): Exactly. In our film 'A Walk in the Woods', Corona shook us up a lot. So it was all the better to have a cloud-based platform for everyone with Yamdu - completely device-independent. We invited some external people because we couldn't fill the team with fellow students. But that was very easy and very transparent with the access rights and the crew structure of Yamdu. Otherwise, a lot of things you had to create your own workarounds for previously are fully integrated.

As already mentioned, we don't need DropBox anymore because Yamdu's file-sharing makes it easy to manage your data. But apart from file sharing, we were happy to use some of the special tools. Anna Geissler's and Joana Oehm's script was the basis for the information in the project. As a result, for example, Max Oschmann, our cameraman, found great locations. And then we quickly put all the information on Yamdu. It was the same for the cast proposals that we added to Yamdu which we were able to vote on online very quickly and easily.

Maximilian Oschmann (OS): And it's hard to emphasize how easy it was to communicate with the teachers when feedback was needed. You can just comment on anything in Yamdu, and we did that a lot with the storyboard and shotlist features which we used intensively. And everything stays connected so that you never have to search long.

Production planning in Yamdu’s collaborative environment. (Keyholefilms)
Production planning in Yamdu’s collaborative environment. (Keyholefilms)

Working with shots and storyboards is also essential for your 'Letter to my Sister' project, isn't it, Leah?

Leah Jacob (LJ): Yes. Sophie Scherb, Lukas Krüger and I work mainly with Adobe After Effects for the animation on this project. But everything else is on Yamdu. Storyboards, animatics, character profiles and so on. Everything at a glance. For example, we are currently using Yamdu to assign our backgrounds to the scenes and to vote on them. If somebody can't be at a meeting, it's not a problem - it's just a matter of having a look at Yamdu later.

Jana Miller (JM): You have your laptop open during the lecture anyway and it is actually always the case that we comment on ideas or feedback on Yamdu right away. And the professors can also see all of this before the meetings, so everything is structured straight away with a full focus on the actual problems.
Joana Oehm (JO): During our “walk in the woods” with Yamdu, we were able to move shots or related information in no time using drag and drop. That means you could not only tackle problems quickly and specifically, but often update the result in Yamdu just as quickly.

Lukas Krüger (LK): You don't have a good feeling about simply saving creative content from pictures to music and so on on DropBox or Vimeo. In addition, Yamdu's review features are really simple and good. A quick reply function for comments would be great just to able to quickly say “OK, will do” or “Hmm, that's difficult”.

For 'A Walk in the Woods' the team uses Yamdu's shotlist tool - seen here with scenes and shots being used together. (FZ Studio)
For 'A Walk in the Woods' the team uses Yamdu's shotlist tool - seen here with scenes and shots being used together. (FZ Studio)

Very well. We are happy to take that with us!

JS: I think it's generally great that the Yamdu team always gives you the feeling that they have open ears. And teachers and students could always contact Yamdu directly for support questions. This makes it much easier to introduce such a workflow and takes away the fear that you will suddenly be saddled with the administration of the software.

LT: At the beginning I was very skeptical and worried that Yamdu would be too busy for us. But I have to say, it actually saves us time and resources. And the processes have clearly been improved and will continue to be improved.

JS: And everyone on our side took part. Together with our teachers, we mapped the course content and even guest lectures in Yamdu and predefined the projects including tasks, data structure, file templates and schedules and then invited those who were concerned. To be on the safe side, we briefly emailed everyone in the department a few basic terms and the underlying structure of the file storage as information. After that there were hardly any questions and everyone worked together perfectly. Yamdu is taken for granted today.

Yamdu's storyboard feature used by the team for 'Letter to my Sister'.
Yamdu's storyboard feature used by the team for 'Letter to my Sister'.

That means you would recommend Yamdu to other film schools as well?

JS: Absolutely. Above all, the project templates and the simple addition of students and teachers saves a lot of time and is a lot of fun: I prepared the complete setup for 14 teams with over 60 students in just 3 hours for this semester (laughs).

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