Scaling Mount Pipeline
It's been a few months since our last report and we've been very busy dealing with the myriad of complexities involved in feature length animation production. The departments have been hard at work making assets for the film with Alex and I problem solving the increasingly complex and demanding pipeline. We have both been effectively doing about 6 jobs each to cover all the bases from motion capture integration to general rigging and TDing, shader and render integration, plus mastering all the various software and techniques required to bring our CG world and characters into existence and pass this on to the teams.
(Stina render test)
The seemingly never ending developments in CG mean that we seem to be learning completely new methods to integrate into our pipeline every week. The benefit of this has been that lots of what we only dreamed was possible is now quite feasible: things like layered cloth systems made from proper tailored patterns, dynamic muscle, hair and skin systems for the characters, clouds that react properly to light and environments and even systems that do geologically based 3d simulations of rock strata for our mountain ranges.
(Animated Environment render test of mountains and clouds)
It's slow going, there's no doubt about that, but the amount being learned by us and the students is phenomenal and a reward in itself, if a little exhausting at times. We are hoping things will settle down once we have the pipeline working smoothly, as most of the pain at present comes from getting the assets to move between departments in a coherent and elegant manner. We have finally seen our first motion capture sessions coming to life on the CG rigs and will hopefully have some great stuff to put up on youtube in the coming months. The deadline we imposed on ourselves for the trailer has been, unsurprisingly extended (the joy of being your own client) This has mainly come as result of all of the above. The reason we set out to limit ourselves to the trailer was to find, then iron out these bottle necks before we tackled the full feature, so it’s all going to plan, more or less :) The imbalance in the department numbers has been occasionally problematic, as Alex and i have had to step in and help out more than i was expecting and this is something we'll be looking to address in our next recruitment drive.
(Render test of Pipe Catcher)
The skill level of the teams is however rising rapidly and considering to what extent they have jumped into the deep end (We are working on the very cutting edge in a lot of cases, with software only just emerging into the professional VFX industry being learned by our students) They are now producing some fantastic work; Recent examples include the sculpts the creatures teams did of their own heads, which i'm glad to say where scarily accurate in places and will be shoved on some of the characters for the crowd scenes. (Note to students - you won’t get any more money being an extra in this film, as 2 times 0 is still 0)
We now have our project management software Shotgun in full swing and it’s amazing to see a complete industry production environment with all the shots, tasks and dependencies active and being used by the students. We also now have our NAZ drive (big computer where we store everything) hooked up to the university system and the internet, so we should be able to let the team work, review edit and publish remotely in the very near future.
We have a pick-up shoot coming up at Easter, where we'll be capturing a few extra scenes with Becky and also our dance director Natalie Curds, who will be impersonating a variety of exotic gypsies. I'm personally looking forward to putting the director’s hat back on, if only briefly and prizing off the rather cumbersome digital-fix-it hat.