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/