Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Scott Squires on "Naming Conventions & Workflow"

Juan Carlos sent me this link:

"Scott Squires, a heavy weight in VFX and cinema industry (programmer of the old "Commotion" among other things) has a blog on tricks and other things of the industry. He also has a podcast.

He just added an entry on "Naming Conventions & Workflow"

Thanks for the hint, JC!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Folder Share

FolderShare is a great help for group work, it keeps a selected folder synchronized among a group of computers (Windows and Mac) connected through internet.

(From their web): "FolderShareTM allows you to create a private peer-to-peer network that will help you to synchronize files across multiple devices and access or share files with colleagues and friends. (...) FolderShare allows you to share and sync important information instantly with anyone you invite(...)
  • Share files up to 2 GB in size
  • Unlimited file transfers - no limits on quantity or size of files transferred
  • Any file type - files are synced and transferred in their original format"

Best of all, it is free, at least by now (it seems to have been aquired by Microsoft).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

WikiCG - The CG encyclopedia

You might be interested in this site: (from their web) "With wikiCG, we are trying to build a Computer Graphics encyclopedia, where you will be able to find in one place anything related to the Computer Graphic community. You can see a list of all the pages that are inside wikiCG. "

Of course I found the Production Management Software article specially interesting.

P.S. It seems the website is off at this moment. Any one has any news?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Temerity Pipeline

Jim, from Temerity Software. wrote:

"I bumped into your blog and thought I should tell you about Temerity Pipeline if you didn't already know about it. I think you'll find it interesting as it provides solutions for some of the most difficult issues faced by both VFX and game productions..."

The software seems quite interesting, as for instance (from their web) "The tight integration of Temerity Pipeline's asset management, revision control and distributed execution queue overcomes the inherent limitations of ad hoc combinations of existing software from multiple vendors and provides new functionality unavailable in separate components."

Thanks, Jim

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Academic Research on History of Animation Workflow & Pipeline

I am currently doing an academic research on the subject of "Animation Workflow & Pipeline" along history, from the first Reynaud films. My interest is to research on how has the animation production process evolved, rather than focusing on the films.

Specifically, my interest is:
- How was production organized in the early years of the industry: How big were the teams, and what were the tasks, and how was production planned, controlled, etc.
- How did the process evolve, and on what premises (supposedly trying to be more efficient)
- A very relevant point for my investigation is to find out how "permeable" were the studios with their know-how, not so much in relation to the technical processes, but rather on the organizative and production ones.
In other words: Did the studios consider that they had devised a unique form of work that they needed to keep secret to give them a competitive advantage? (This seems to be the case today in many aspects of 3D animation production.)

I would appreciate your help in pointing me to some source of documentation on this subject that might be more focused and relevant.

I have found some hints on SPLOG

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Producing animation - the book

These are some interesting things I have found in the book Producing Animation.

Producer´s Reference:
Animation Industry Directory www.animag.com
www.mpsc839.org
www.hollyvision.com
www.producers.masterguide.com

Books that seem relevant for my research (with amazon link):
3D Lighting: History, Concepts & Technique Arnold Gallardo
The Animation Book: A Complete Guide to Animated Filmmaking--From Flip-Books to Sound Cartoons to 3- D Animation by Kit Laybourne and John Canemaker
Animation Magic by Don Hahn
Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney by Russell Merritt , J. B. Kaufman
Of Mice and Magic by Leonard Maltin
Animated Cartoons by Edwin George Lutz *
A Reader in Animation Studies by Jayne Pilling , Society of Animation Studies
Before Mickey by Donald Crafton
American Animated Films: The Silent Era, 1897-1929 by Denis Gifford
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Ollie Johnston , Frank Thomas
British Animated Films, 1895-1985: A Filmography by Denis Gifford
Dinosaur: The Evolution of an Animated Feature by Jeff Kurtti
Toy Story: The Art and Making of an Animated Film (...) by John Lasseter , Steve Daly
Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs & the Making of the Classic Film by Richard HOLLISS, Brian SIBLEY
THE DISNEY STUDIO STORY by Richard HOLLISS, Brian SIBLEY

Journals:
www.animationjournal.com
www.animag.com
www.awn.com
www.cartoonresearch.com *
www.cgw.com
www.toonmagazine.com
www.donbluthstoontalk.com
www.facets.org

Organizations:
www.theanimationacademy.com
www.asifa.com
www.animationnation.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Elephants dream making

This is a (83 minutes long) video of Team Orange conference talking about the making of Elephants Dream.
(From their web): "In it we mention a few things, including our version of what the story is about, and also some of the easter eggs and tributes that we hid inside, so if you’re interested, go and check it out!"
This is a very brief resume, as I go along it:
2:00 It was setup up with an unexperienced six persons team in some sleepless 7 months.
They spent 1 week to set up a teaser, and then 2 or 3 months to set up everything.
15:30 Crappymatic - from the first script
17:00 2nd animatic, more organized
18:00 Remove 90% of the dialogs and 30% of the scenes and start final animatic: unfinished but very similar to the final movie
33:19 rendering in OpenEXR and jpg to avoid huge file transfers
34:40 Scene and render file transfer between Amsterdam animation studio and USA render farm was done using rsync, over a ADSL line! (rsync seems quite UNIX-centric, maybe unison is better in a cross-platform environment).
36:00 They could not use separate render passes / layers for space concerns but they composited everything using blender composer so they obtained the final compositing straight away from a single blender scene.
37:00 Have to stop now. Anyone willing to keep writing, please post a comment!






There is also a previous "making of" video, both in 31 Mb downloadable version and in parts in youtube ( part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Battle Star Galactica lighting, scene break out, compositing and OpenEXR

Juan Carlos sent me two links about "Making a space scene the Battlestar Galactica Way using Lightwave3D, Digital Fusion and the benefits of OpenEXR Render Buffer Image Saving with exrTrader"

One of the links is about "lighting, scene break out with Lightwave" and the other link is about "compositing with Fusion", both by Kelly "Kat" Myers, the Visual FX consultant for Battlestar Galactica Seasons II and III show.

Specially interesting in my opinion is the information about using the OpenEXR image format, Kelly seems very happy with it!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Missing link (corrected)

I met Gorazd in a course. He is the director of a Slovenia-based animation production company.
He was very happy with Missing Link, a software that he finds very useful for production control, that they use for their productions, which span along different time zones around the globe.

Achim corrected the wrong link I had been given, so we now have a new piece of software to check out. Take this introduction as an appetizer (from their web):

"The web-based software Production Kit is an innovative solution designed for a better workflow and an efficient project management, especially when dealing with company wide or distributed content creation (...) The software is setting the organizational framework in which any user-defined process (in consecutive production steps) can be displayed."

Another thing that called my attention was thos, on the history section: " Thanks to the vocational experiences of the founders and their co-workers, who have collected their knowledge in different media companies, the Missing Link Software can rely on more than 10 years of international experience in the areas of computer animation, production, software development and database design. "

Friday, March 30, 2007

Distributed render (a la seti@home)

Render queue management softwares are usually aimed at Local Area Networks, and are not suited for internet, because of:
.- Bandwith limits: 3D scenes and textures can be quite big so the time savings form getting additional processing power would be lost because of transfer delays.
.- Unreliability: If a remote machine or network goes down, even momentarily, stopped tasks have to be relaunched on the remaining working part of the system, and sometimes these last frames can be a real pain to be finished...
.- Security concerns: Although there are several web-interface based render queue systems available, I don´t think they are designed to be installed on a publicly reachable site. Of course you can password-protect them but even so you would need to open specific ports on the different routers/firewalls to enable the communication between client and server, and sometimes this simply is not possible because of the companies policies.

Anyway, if these drawbacks can somehow be cleared, this opens a whole world of opportunities for small projects. Just do the maths: How many hours is your computer on, but not using its processing power? If this time can somehow be shared between users, the end result is an increased rendering power for everyone. I am thinking of some sort of "MHz exchange system" where you could end up getting back the CPU time you have given first...

This, of course is nothing new, and has already been thought off, you can read more about the general concept in Grid Café.

In this sense, BOINC is: (from their web) "a software platform for distributed computing using volunteered computer resources".

Under BOINC´s infrastructure there are several projects, one of them is BURP (from their web) "Aims to develop a publicly distributed system for rendering 3D animations".
It currently has a Windows Blender client, but "Please note that this project is still in its testing phase and does not yet provide the security and stability of a full-blown BOINC project"

A similar idea, but structured in a P2P fashion, is behind GPU a (from their web) : "a Gnutella client that allows users to share CPU-resources (...) Right now, this client allows rendering of Terragen movies."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

PSD2Mat a Photoshop to Max/VRay Material converter

Anselm wrote to announce Georg Dümlein´s release of , a PSD to Max/VRay Material converter, "a highly improving pipeline tool for Texturing and Shading Artist. PSD2Mat is a production proven connection between Adobe PhotoShop® and Autodesk 3D Studio MAX®. This maxscript converts layered PSD Files into a Scanline or VRay-Material. Named layers are converted to bitmapfiles and assigned to their respective material slots."

Features:
Autodetection of map names in layered PSD files.
Versioning
Configurable with 'textfiles'
Photoshop Template Helpers
...

Georg Duemlein aka RDG developed this tool.
Anselm v. Seher-Thoß aka PsychoSilence was the advisor in this project.
Last but not least we'd like to thank Keith Boshoff (Wahooney) whose PSD2Material was the cornerstone for developing this tool.

(Update 2) Site statistics and call for participation

I have been checking the record of visits to the site, and I find it very encouraging to see that almost 2/3 are recurring visitors. Thanks!

I would appreciate even more receiving some sort of feedback from you, please use the "send a comment" link to write something back to the site.

I am going to start writing my paper very soon, and suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Omemo

Omemo is (from their web) "a distributed storage network that is fast, scalable and anonymous, allowing users to not only search-download from it, but also storing their files persistently on this virtual drive, and organizing its contents in folders. Users of omemo will not share files (0’s and 1’s). They will share free space (only 0’s), more accurately, a percentage of their hard drive’s free space. Omemo is a peer-to-peer network that takes all that free space and creates a unique and immense virtual hard drive. Then users can read and write on it, just like they do with their local storage media. "
This project seems a very promising solution for file sharing in a collaborative 3D production.
I have asked for more details about it, like latency, redundancy, etc.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Call for help in 3D forums (update)

Some time ago I asked for help with my research on several 3D forums.
I got over 200 readings, and even a couple of replies!
This is an updated resume of the reactions.

On vfxtalk jah commented about a very interesting and apparently similar project: Jahnet, related to the multi-platform free open-source video editing software jahshaka
More on that when I check it through.

I also received a private reply from someone who is writing a book on the subject, this can be quite interesting as well.

On the sidefx forum, Edward pointed out a new side of the issue:

"You should think about interchange as part of the problem. Take a look at Collada.
(This company offers free plugins for 3D programs)

The idea of "digital assets" (eg. HDAs (Houdini Digital Assets) in Houdini) I think forms a good basis for it as well. See exchange for example.

Production & filmmaking programs

I thought I should have a look at production-related programs and searched a bit.

This list (select
"production mgt." category and then "go") seems quite exhaustive

Movie Magic Scheduling/Budgeting Seems somewhat outdated but widely used
EP Scheduling/Budgeting
Cinergy Suite
Cinergy Scheduling 5
Cinergy Budgeting 5
Cinergy Shot Logging
Reel Production Calendar 3
Filmspeed
Easy Budget Feature
StoryBoard Artist 4
ProductionPro Budget 1.4
CineMatrix Indy 4
CostumePro 5

Additional research findings:
http://www.company-move.com/comparison/3.html
http://www.junglesoftware.com/home/

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mad and Bad

I have recently created my own production company, together with my friends Abraham and Jorge.
We have several projects going on, one of them is "Mad and Bad", a funny 3D animation series with short episodes.
We have made some of the episodes freely available on the web, so if you want to find out who the hell are Mad and Bad, please visit the web (http://www.mad and bad.com) and spread the word!



Thanks
Gerardo

VFX comprehensive free managing database

Achim dropped me a quick note about VFX Showrunner as commented on the sidefx mailing list.
(from their web) "Visual Effects (...) issues addressed by Showrunner: Budgeting, Communicating shot specs to your crew, Keeping track of the progress of the project, Managing Editorial, Shipping & Receiving, and Scheduling (...) one database that can seamlessly integrate virtually ALL of the various kinds of information your project requires to keep running smoothly."

Comments from Ruben

Ruben is the FX Department Director at Dygra, a CGI film production company in A Coruña (Spain).
He has been doing some research on animation pipeline, to optimize it for their new feature film productions, and he wanted to share some of his findings:

ZOHO is an online application for management and control of projects, tasks, milestones, calendars... you can get a free unlimited account for open source projects.

Collada is (from their web) "an open Digital Asset Exchange Schema for the interactive 3D industry (...) is not designed to be a temporary data transport mechanism, but rather to be the schema for the source data for your digital assets. It is not designed as a delivery mechanism, but to be a content holder for any target platform."

Mayasvn is (from their web) a "Maya Subversion integration system to make it easier for your team to use subversion to manage Maya assets". It is compiled for Windows 6.5 & 7.0.

lpics is a paper about an impressive (from their web ) "interactive cinematic lighting system (...) provides lighting artists with high-quality previews at interactive framerates with only small approximations compared to the final rendered images."

A very interesting text about pipeline in production.

Superconductor (from their web) "is an open-source, multi-platform render farm controller for coordinated rendering control of multiple graphics/computation/rendering projects using multiple client apps..."
Unfortunately the project seems somewhat stalled since 2004, so "Currently SuperConductor works with World Construction Set from 3D Nature. Work is in progress to add support for Newtek's Lightwave 3D."

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Max tutorial: "Project Setup/Management and Quality Assurance for Small Business"

Diego (one of this page 'recurring visitors') sent me this link to a tutorial in CGArena about project setup and management, with some scripts for Max.

Project Setup/Management and Quality Assurance for Small Business
"This tutorial is dedicated to freelancers and technical directors in smaller companies who aren´t blessed with an alienbrain server and haven't set up Asset Tracking yet. It covers Project Setup (...) and quality assurance for a consistent production if you take some steps to heart."

The author of the tutorial, Anselm v. Seherr, is a CG freelancer (VFX, shading, texturing and compositing) for several companies.

Thanks, Diego!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Loose links

These are some loose links that might be useful:

Other webs and repositories:
Rendermania has not been updated for a while but if has a wealth of info about renderman compliant renders and also a lot of other renders & related stuff... Since 9 Sept 2000!
Open source projects:
Cgmuscle is an open source muscle system for Maya

Articles, essays:
The Case for Doing a Project by the Book, rather than by cutting corners.

Hardware:
How many of these would you like to have to render your feature film?

Some propietary softwares:
Toonboom should really know how to make a storyboard system, so it is worth having a look at it.

The ContentCube is a comprehensive and scalable MAM solution that is feature-rich but also affordable and modular. It allows entire media libraries to be organized, archived and reused. Each video and image asset can be easily retrieved and transcoded into a variety of formats allowing the use of these assets without specialized software or hardware.

Digital Storage Manager is a powerful storage management solution specially designed for creative, publishing and prepress workgroups. Workgroups generate thousands of digital document files during the creative and production process. As the number of files grow, so do the challenges faced by the professionals who need them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Two related projects

These two sites have a similar objective to this. They both have some interesting links

LinuxMovies.org Advancing Linux Motion Picture Technology

The Internet Movie Project "Our dream is to create a movie with the POV-Ray raytracer,
as a collaborative effort of many people from all over the world"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Remote acces to PCs

A way to use PC remotely, for instance to launch and control renders through internet: LogMeIn
I am trying the free version, and it works quite well, althought it is windows only, by now.

Also, be sure to check the "Labs" tab for nice gifts, specially Hamachi, a "a zero-configuration virtual private networking (VPN) application. In other words Hamachi is a program that allows you to arrange multiple computers into their own secure network just as if they were connected by a physical network cable. "

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Southpaw technology´s "tactic"

Achim suggests to try out tactic, he "had a quick look at the demo, and it seems very well done."

"A simpler production pipeline workflow" (...) "provides three separate software modules" to manage Production, Workflow and Assets

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Updatable "Tricks and Tips" (AKA "Trips and Ticks")

I will use this thread to add short links that I find interesting but not worth for a whole single article.

- Animation workflow basics, from Don Bluth's Animation Academy: "5 major steps the animated film must go through after the script is approved and before the original score and final sound effects are added"

- Blue Sky Studios´"showcase our departments and explore our pipeline process"

- 2004 CGTalk thread: "
Project workflow / pipeline - how is it all managed?" with some detailed answers

Audio interview about PDI DreamWorks' Animation Pipeline

I just found this interview with "Darin Grant, Head of Production Technology at PDI DreamWorks" about "the proprietary software and production pipeline in use at PDI DreamWorks." It was recorded at Siggraph 2006

Mind the Gap´s fps

Mind The Gap, Inc. is an "Animation Pipeline Development and Consulting" company "providing cost-effective, customized animation pipeline solutions to CG studios".

The Resources section has a couple of interesting articles, and they also develop fps, a "project management software that allows teams to track film assets as they move through the production pipeline."

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Shepherd: A goodlooking newcomer

I just stumbled upon this new sourceforge project, which I am adding to my to-check list.

"Shepherd is an asset and project manager specifically created for the visual effect/Animation industry. Currently still under first construction, tools have been made for Autodesk Maya for integration in to the project which will eventually be usable to keep a track on version of files and stages of production.
Shepherd is being written in python using pyqt to make it cross platform, though the primary development platform is currently Linux."

I asked the project admin, Ashley Retallak, and he gave kindly me an update on the status of the project:

"Shepherd is currently in planning really, though some Maya scripts UI designs have been made/started. I am working on it with help from some people that also work in London, trying to develop it in to a project that can easily be customized for use with any software (off the shelf or proprietary), using a module based architecture. It's main core is to give an easy to use versioning system for files with in a project, so the basics of making sure everyone is working with the most stable version of models, rigs lights etc is automated."

2007 is sure coming packed with news!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Some time ago I wrote about a "meet the artist" forum with Diego Garcia.

This is a (poorly) translated resume of the parts of this meeting that I found more interesting.

Diego Garcia Huerta
Pipeline & Tools developer at Blur Studios
Los Angeles. CA
www.sloft.com

Several jobs he has had:
Department of programming and control of quality, Software Engineer, Tools Team, Tools Programmer, Pipeline & Tools Developer
He works as a “tools and workflow developer” “designing and developing tools for pipeline”, “doing tools to make artists´life a bit easier, save production time, or achieve visual effects that would otherwise be too expensive to acomplish.”

How do you decide the tools you need:
Before a production is started, the script and animatic is revised in order to determine wether tools are going to be needed.
Other areas where the tools are used are day to day recurring problems and pipeline development, that is, the Studio´s methodology for all works, careful planning of how will the departments communicate with each other, who depends on who, and how does someone´s work affect somebody else´s. For instance: Naming Convention usage, Quality control, automatic notifications between departments, renderfarm tools, etc.

What tools for animators have you done in Blur:
-Modular rig system, that allows the rigger to add “layers” of functionality keeping the previous animation.
-Facial animation system integrated with Face Robot, allowing the animator to mix bones, morfos and Face Robot animation, all in the same package.
Also tools like copy/paste poses/animation, mixer, a bit of everything
- Animation supervisor control system fo find animation mistakes in 'first pass', 'second pass', 'final pass' animation, before moving onto tne next stpe of the pipeline which is scene assembly.
- Characters crowds and instancing system.

How many in-house tools do you use in Blur to help artists
A quick search in our server says we have some 1600 scripts (from easy 4-line scripts to more complicated ones) of those I would say 280 are really useful because according to the story have been used at least once during the last month. I would say there are some 30 production tools thta are used all the time by the artists in the studio.
These tools are added to the commercial version of 3dsmax, making it different, but it is more important the pipeline that is organized around, defining the methodology of work.

Which languages are used for programming in the industry:
In Blur he uses:
3dsmax: Maxscript, C++
XSI: python, pyQT, javascript, C++
Pipeline general and IT tools: QT, python, perl, C++
python is an incredible script language, very versatile and superpowerful, I recommend it to whoever wants to learn scripting with an OO (object oriented) language.

The big companies like Sony, Disney, as far as I know mainly use Maya but they have an army of programmers who modify it so much that is hard to recognize it (from the programming point of view).

There are plenty of in-house tools, everyone programs what best suites his pipeline, Sony has its own render and lighting system, Disney its own hair system, Rythm&Hues has programmed almost everything by themselves, etc

How long does it take to finish one job:

Blur works on different types of projects: from spots and animatics to small VFX for feature films. The time it takes depends on the customer´s desires and the available resources, sometimes there is a bigger number of people involved in a project, which is finished earlier, and other times you only have 3 or 4 persons.

A long project as 'A Gentleman's Duel' took one and a half year ( form initial idea to last render) but of course not everybody worked on that project all the time, it began with a couple of persons doing the script and concepts, then more people entered into the layout phase, animation was done in the last three months, in parallel with “scene assembly” and “render”, where almost all the studio got involved to get in time to present it to the Oscars.

On the other hand you also have one month projects, as TV spots, and cinematics that last 3 or 4 months. It mostly depends on how complicated the customer wants it.

About different approaches to a job, regarding departments, proccesses, etc in different studios.

Each studio has its own pipeline, adapted to its size and the kind of projects they do. They are all very different, for instance Disney´s programming team is as big as all Blur, Sony has a whole floor with programmers, here we are only 2 persons full time.
Each company´s process is somewhat reserved, as this can be the difference in productivity between a company and its competitors.

On the other hand, the departments are almost the same: concept, modelling, rigging, animation, effects, compositing, etc. it might change a little bit depending on the type of CG that is done, VFX houses will have a real footage integration department, videogam houses will have a motion capture and engine department.

Some companies are more interested in the final product asn if they can afford it they will hire as much people as possible for the best finishing, but they have to “let go” that people at the end of the production. Others, as Blur, are more oriented to people, here we try to create a team of people that work happily together project after project, avoiding to let people go because we can´t afford to keep them on board.

Regarding the layout itself, in Eurocom we were separated in rooms, like four or five in each room, whereas in Blur it has an open plan style, like an industrial room, where all artists, bosses and programmers sit close to each other, without distinction, easing the communication among teams.

Links:
In english:
http://www.awn.com/
http://www.animated-news.com/
http://www.cgchannel.com/
http://www.cgsociety.org/
http://www.3dtotal.com/

In spanish:
http://www.3dyanimacion.com/
http://www.3demotions.com/
http://www.3dsymax.org/
http://www.cg-node.com/
http://www.3dpoder.com/

DVDs, courses and schools:
http://www.gnomonschool.com/
http://www.animationmentor.com/
http://www.pepe-school-land.com/