Setting up your first toolkit project

Ever since starting at Branch VFX I’ve been trying to figure out how to setup different Shotgun features. Shotgun’s own documentation seems to be… Well, let’s just say that it’s aimed at people who already have a pretty good idea of what they are doing and don’t need a step by step tutorial.

So I decided to write some stuff up as I go on this mildly boring adventure to help me remember exactly how to do different things, and maybe it’ll help other people who are trying to learn Shotgun’s many awesome features.

So what is Shotgun Toolkit?

As I understand it, the toolkit is Shotgun’s attempt to build a fully functional pipeline that is technically ready to use out of the box. Toolkit will organize your folder and file structure, figure out which shot and task you’re working on at any given time, let you save and open files in a standardized way in it’s supported apps, publish a finished file so other departments can pick it up, etc. It’s really an amazing piece of software.

But toolkit is (mostly?) a backend system. If you have an existing pipeline (let’s say you’re in love with the way your Maya  saves files) you can integrate it into toolkit. So Shotgun took the time to build the front end of the pipeline as well, and named it ‘Shotgun Desktop’. Desktop has a few basic apps that have very clear names like Publisher and Loader that kind of tells you what they do.

Before we begin

This post will describe setting up a project called ‘Madness’. Toolkit expects at least two network file locations. One for storing the production data (plates, Maya files, references, etc) and one for configuration files. In my setup these locations are:

  • Production files: /Volumes/beapot/jobs
  • Config files: /Volumes/beapot/software/shotgun

As you can see I’m using a mac os machine, so if you’re using windows your path will look something like Z:\jobs and Z:\software\shotgun.

You can name your folders what ever you like, but jobs and software/shogun are pretty standard.

Getting the software you need

The first thing I did (after creating an project on our studio’s Shotgun site) was to google how to setup Shotgun toolkit. I got this link. It looks like it’s exactly the thing I needed only… the very first item in the table of contents is “Deprecation Note”. Get used to it. Half the time my searches lead to old documentation that has nothing to do with the current way Shotgun or Toolkit work.

On the positive side, the old documentation always leads to the new one. To download and install Shotgun desktop follow the instructions here.  It’s pretty straight forward, though it goes into details that might be unclear to new users. They mention a lot of Desktop’s app but the only ones you will see right away are the project browser and maybe the publisher. The rest of the apps are only available once you are in one of the DCC apps, and even then only if they were launched via the project browser or the Shotgun site.

To install Shotgun desktop:

1. Go to your Shotgun website and click the apps menu and select Shotgun Desktop
2. Select the download link that matches your current OS


3. Run the installer. At least on a mac there are no options other than the location of the installation.
4. Launch desktop. If you didn’t change the install location it’ll be where ever your os usually installs new software (i.e. Applications, Program Files or /opt)






5. You will be asked to log it (the login is your Shotgun site credentials)
6. Desktop will start downloading updates and will probably restart at least once. You might not even see this window since Desktop has a strange tendency to hide behind other windows on launch


7. You should now see the SG icon in your system tray. Clicking it will open a list of your current projects


At this point you might think you are done. After all, you can see your project and if you have any DCC apps installed you can even launch them from the desktop. The Shotgun Panel will load with them and you’ll be able to see your assigned tasks. But… The only apps you’ll have access to will be the Loader and the Publisher. You will not be able to save via the Shotgun menu for example. Strange isn’t it?

Where is toolkit hiding?

Turns out that installing Desktop is only the very first step in setting up toolkit. The instructions for actually setting up a project can be found here. And by here I mean here. Yes, there are 31 sections to read BEFORE you get to the part where you can actually see anything useful in Desktop. Don’t get me wrong, each of these sections is important, interesting, and will give you a better understanding of what toolkit is, but all I wanted to do was to open a file in Maya.

It’s also named kind of funny ‘Taking over a Pipeline Configuration’. Who are we taking it over from? I’m not sure why it’s not just called setting up a (toolkit) project, especially since the command to run it is called ‘Advanced Project Setup’.

Advance Project Setup

Once you find them, the instructions are very simple to follow. Here’s a short version:

  1. Click the SG icon in your system tray to see a list of available projects
  2. Click the project you want to setup
  3. Once you see the apps right click and select ‘Advance project setup…’
  4. The toolkit setup wizard will start
  5. Select a Configuration:  A toolkit configuration is a massive set of files (mostly text files) that define how the pipeline works. If it’s the first time you’re running the setup and you’ve never created a configuration of your own, you should select the ‘Shotgun Default’ option since it’s a good place to start. If you already setup a configuration you don’t really need to be reading this post, but you probably want to select one of the other options (set up from an existing, a git server, etc).
  6. Define Storages: There are all sorts of storage types in the world. What Shotgun means in this case is where do you want to save your production files? This is the root folder for ALL of your projects. So we’ll select /Volumes/beapot/jobs. Note you can define here three types of paths, one for each type of supported os (linux, windows, mac os). I like putting all three in since you never know when a new os will be introduced into your pipeline.
  7. Project Folder Name: This is the root folder for the specific project you’re setting up. In our case it’s ‘madness’.  So type in madness into the name field and watch as the full path updates at the bottom of the screen to /Volumes/beapot/jobs/madness
  8. Select Configuration Location: Now we tell toolkit where to save its own files. In our case it’ll be /Volumes/beapot/software/shotgun/madness. Notice that this time it doesn’t take two steps to define your storage option, you enter the full path.
  9. Now just run the setup. It will take a few minutes but at the end of it you will have your first project setup with toolkit.

If you’ve used the default settings you should now be able to simply launch into a DCC app (say Maya) and play with the options that will appear on the new Shotgun menu.

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