How two weeks of creative freedom laid the foundations for your future workflow

Whether you’re a long-standing customer, new to our products or just shopping around, one thing you can always expect from Foundry is continuous product innovation. With incumbent features aimed at making your life easier—from artists, to studios, to whole industries— supporting the intersection of creativity and business has, and always will be, a fundamental part of Foundry’s DNA, fuelling our efforts to help our customers work better through initiatives like Sprint 100.

Whilst you may not have heard about Sprint 100 at Foundry, you'll most certainly have felt its effects if you've used one of our products. This is a two-week period in which developers across Foundry are given free reign to channel two decades of inside-out industry knowledge, technical depth and expertise—all of which power our products, and empower the artists behind them.

The Katana team was the most recent of Foundry’s talent developers to undertake their first Sprint 100. Below, we’ll dive into the what, how and why of Sprint 100—and how it impacts you.

Not your usual sprint

Foundry’s Sprint 100 stretches over two weeks and involves entire dev teams, plus QA engineers and product designers. It serves as a way of encouraging everyone to work on something they're passionate about—whether that’s exploring a potential feature outside of urgent product requirements, or fixing a bug that’s personally annoying—whilst providing a change of pace from ongoing release cycles which, at any other time, necessarily take precedence.

Sprint 100 was born from the concept of ‘4% time’, originally rolled out in Foundry in 2017 with the intention of enabling our engineering teams to explore and innovate on ideas beyond their own backlogs. Unfortunately, participation was limited due to logistical challenges—synchronising the time of those involved for things like code reviews proved difficult, as projects were being worked on at different times.

Quote from Gary Jones, Katana Associate Product Manager

Enter Sprint 100: a dedicated period of time in which this 4% of time takes place, mitigating the challenges above by syncing participation across the board. At the end of this time period, the developers present their ideas, concepts and creations to Foundry’s product teams, who ask questions with a view to getting it into the product—and in front of our customers. Gary Jones, Katana Associate Production Manager, often asks: “If this got to a point where it was good enough to go in the product, what would you do to make it solve X,Y, or Z?’’

The very first Sprint 100 took place in the Nuke team in October 2019, and was such a success that the Katana team soon followed suit in December.

Zoom UI grab of Sprint 100 in action

In the Sprint spotlight: Katana

Katana’s Sprint 100 was selected as the penultimate Sprint of the year in the lead up to Christmas, a traditionally slower period for businesses in general, making this the perfect time for the team to embark on some creative product exploration.

The two weeks produced a myriad of responses to this exploration—some developers simply wanted to fix bugs, renaming their Sprint 100 the ‘Bug Fixing Extravaganza’, whilst others dove wholeheartedly into scoping potential new features for Katana. A total of 33 ideas were identified and went through the product team for an estimate of their impact, a process that involved two demo sessions and nine supplementary videos.

One of the key developments that came out of Katana’s Sprint 100 was that of a new OpWrite Node, allowing pipeline developers and C++ savvy TDs to build custom “op” tools from within Katana. This tool removes the loop of programming in a separate IDE, compiling, configuring that op to load in Katana, testing, and repeating this cycle.  Now Katana developers at Foundry and client side can perform all of those tasks from within Katana, shattering the iteration cycle time. Discerning readers will notice that this feature made it into Katana’s latest 3.6 release, providing a perfect example of where the benefits of Sprint 100 come to fruition, and a blue-sky idea becomes productized and made a reality.

Katana 3.6 OpWrite node

Other concepts to gain traction in Sprint 100 involved improving Katana’s Hydra viewer performance and capabilities, an update that users can likely expect in Katana’s upcoming 3.7 release. More on that later this year.

Needless to say, Katana’s first Sprint 100 proved a roaring success—not only judging by observation and feedback gathered, but also the exciting product developments that have resulted from it. Currently, the plan is to repeat Sprint 100 once a year, with the potential for a more frequent cadence inline with calls for it to become a regular thing.

And why not? After all, as we mentioned earlier, it’s a part of our DNA. Foundry’s filled with people, passion and tech that takes you places. We love to go above and beyond to give our customers something they can get behind.