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A first look at open source, decentralized version control systems

I am having a first look at this Quick Reference Guide to Free Software Decentralized Revision Control Systems, trying to find some that has both windows and unix clients, can be used without being permanently connected to the server, or installing anything on it, and are suitable for 3D projects.
What I want is to be able to host a 3d project repository using a simple shared web hosting, which gives little more than FTP, SQL and PHP.

These are my conclusions:

Checking monotone´s links I have found A Simple Version Control System which is entirely PHP/SQL based, with file access through FTP. This looks like the best for now.

Darcs has a very interesting approach, clients can read from the repository through "file system, (...) HTTP or email", and submit patches (diffs) through email. Also worth checking.

Bazaarallows to add, commit and recover binary files and will allow you to plug in support for diffing or merging, but it is "primarily a source code control system, not a …

Jon´s open source render farm

Jon, from the Bournemouth University, sent me an email:

"(...) at present we are developing a production pipeline for our Masters in computer Animation courses (...)
You can check out my website here and you may be interested in the open source render farm I have written (click on the Render Farm link under the masters section) (...)"

Thanks for the info, Jon, and check his page for news!

OpenPipeline

Jorge just sent me a brief note:
"I Imagine you already wnow http://openpipeline.sourceforge.net/"

And I just replied
"Rats, no"

But I will have to go over it as well...

From their web:

Animation and Effects Production Pipeline openPipeline is an open source framework for managing animation production data and workflow. It's first implementation is a MEL-based plug-in for Autodesk Maya that handles specific aspects of production: automatic directory structures, file naming conventions, revision control, and modularity that makes multi-artist workflows possible.


Announcements on cgtalk and highend3d

Software in the Animation Industry Data Base

As Diego suggested, i checked AIDB site looking for existing software in this field.

There are 32 entries in the Workflow / Project Tracking section, but the info is a bit outdated and inaccurate.
Other than Alienbrain, I couldn´t find any program that fitted in the category.
Anyway, these 3 projects somehow called my attention:

Wiredrive Projects: A project-based client area used for reviewing and approving creative work and production documents.

PECS Tools Suite is a "Data Pipeline Management Solution": A software and hardware solution for the management of Motion Capture Studios, including Planning, Shooting, Team management of post production, Asset management and version control, Quality control and Delivery scheduling.

ReviewManager is an outsourced client-review tool

Question & reply to Diego García in cg-node

This is my feeble, semi-automatic, hand corrected translation of the reply that Diego García Huerta (Senior Pipeline & Tools Developer at Blur Studios) gave me in this cg-node.com forum

I asked him to help me with my research, with:
(A) Bibliography
(B) Software (programs)
(C) References (interviews, webs, manuals, whatever)
About:

1.- A general approach to analyzing a business workflow. A recommended generic reference book ("The bible of...") that allows to settle a proper theoretical background to build on top of it.

2.- Detailed analisys of 3D production in different companies. I try to define a general workflow, based on real cases.

3.- Programs that allow to manage tasks, assets, processes, files, etc. Specially GPL ones.

4.- Nomenclature conventions.

Diego replied:
This is an interesting subject for a thesis, for sure, and indeed more research is needed in this field.

Obviously in order to organize a studio with over 40 persons you need some sort of help in order to speed up …

Ares own contribution

A new message form Ares brings a couple of new (to me) pieces of software. Here goes the usual translation:

An interesting production tool is "interactive storyboard for maya"
ISFM offers a fast and visual general look at the project, you can check what is already done, and what status it is in, and also what has to be done yet.
It has an obvious connection with Maya, but also with Excel (statistics), shake (postproduction), ...
The integration with Maya is absolute, allowing to run scripts on a batch of scenes, do playblasts, an FTP system, visualize the storyboard with the Maya scenes, icon view of 3D files, sound, video form other sources, transitions...
This is a ISFM workflow scheme

Another tools is Reflex, although it is not for sale yet (I think it will come out in January 2007)
- It has tools to facilitate the workflow,
- Some very useful ones for supervision and data exchange among departments,
- Some animation tools identical to Jason Schleifer´s "greasyPencil"
- …

Another software hint from Miguel Angel Sánchez Cogolludo

This software is starting to be used in some new production houses (old ones have their own software): Gdi|Explorer
The web page says it uses a widely adopted naming convention. There is a trial version.
It is quite complete, with task assignment, and it can even understand a Movie Magic Screenwriter´s "tagged script", making folders for the assets indicated in the script.

It is quite good, althought Miguel Ángel would like it to be tidier creating categories.

Juanma Sánchez book suggestion

Juanma suggests to consult some books on "project management", as managing an industrial project or software development is very similar to managing a complex animation production.
He recommends "La guía definitiva de la gestion de proyectos" de Nokes y Greenwood, Ed. Prentice Hall. (in spanish) because it is a simple and straightforward reading.

This is the amazon page of the english version.

Book suggestion form David Llopis

3d Short Film Production is a book about the steps to follow to create an animated short film:
History, preproduction, file nomenclature, tools, and all subsequent steps.
It is very interesting and it can possibly help you



Ideas from Luisma

I asked for ideas and suggestions in a 3D users forum, and Luisma sent me his own personal opinions about the matter of workflow and pipeline.

This is a resume, loosely resumed and poorly translated by me, and with my own comments in italics.

Luisma´s comments are from the point of view of a mere user, as he is not a programmer nor an expert. Also he is considering a type of production with several departments that will be exchanging or sharing assets most of the time, both internally and among departments, each using its own programs and tools, so it is a rather heterogeneus system.

An efficient pipeline will be mainly based on keeping an strict discipline regarding name conventions (nomenclature).
This will make easier for everybody to:
1.- Find assets to work with.
2.- Keep track of the versions of each asset.
3.- To check and send assets along the pipeline to the next department.
4.- Facilitate writing scripts and programs that work with assets.

This is mere common sense. Now lets go down …

Interesting suggestions by Miguel A.S. Cogolludo

Miguel A.S. Cogolludo has sent me a good wealth of information he has been collecting lately: "Casually this is a subject that has caught my interest lately, and I have some links and files that might be of interest for you"

"There is some people that started trying it, but I haven´t seen progress for some time, the Koji system".
Looking into Koji two more projects are shown: celtx and otc

"This are two essays about Final Fantasy: Tracking Assets and Developing a Production Tracking Database"
"Another interview about the making of Final Fantasy"

Zeno, the new system of ILM (registration required).
And also in this three articles in awn: #1#2#3

Interesting discussion about workflow management in Framestore

Box office hits: Are 3D films getting worse?

In this chart (data from boxofficemojo) you can see the films that have done (worldwide theatrical box office) above 200 million US$ after 1985 (Toy Story).
Green dots indicate 3D movies.
"Titanic" (1,845 Mill. US$) has been removed to gain detail.


You can see that 3D movies between 1985 and 2002 perform between 350-550 Mill US$. Suddenly comes a top with "Finding Nemo" (2003, 854 Mill. US$) and "Shrek 2" in (2004, 920 Mill. US $), and right after that comes a severe drop, with some films performing under 250 M.

Moving on to a more subjective analisys, I have a feeling that 3D movies are getting worse every year. This feeling comes from two factors:

- There are too many 3D films per year lately. Until 2004 there were 1 to 4 films per year. Then the number rises steeply: 6 in 2005, and 11 so far in 2006

- Most of these films have no appeal at all: Aren´t you bored of "twin films" about "funny animals" (2 x ants, 2 x fishes, 2 x penguins...)

- …

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