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December 16, 2013
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Care to watch? VFX Pipeline Video

Hey everyone! So another video I’m putting out this week – as I promised! This is actually more to gauge everyone’s interest and see whether there are enough of you interested in this sort of thing before I go head first into developing a series of free videos on this subject and then find out that everyone just wants to blow stuff up and has zero interest in the more ‘big picture’ kind of stuff.
Something, that I do a lot of is developing tools to automate a lot of processes. Both day to day tasks such as repathing FumeFX caches, render output paths and versioning up tools, Render submission tools and that sort of thing. But, I also develop tools specific to film productions to do a lot of the heavy workload that would take weeks otherwise to complete. On Transformers, I developed a set of tools that would actually construct 100 or more Max files from scratch with my FX in them with updated rigs and assets that I would plug into it, to make characters die very carefully based on specific variables and rigs I implemented. And for F-Light, the short film I created all of the visual effects for recently, I literally would have each shot generate the first pass of visual effects for me automatically, before I even touched it myself. So I could see all of the fluid simulations and particle effects simulated and built for me for first review so I can see how the effects look before I start changing them. All of it was purely generated from nothing but the camera track file I was supplied, and the animated shoes. Each project has it’s own requirements and I tend to be doing al to of very ambitious things every time that lately have been massive game changers for me.Why waste time doing the manual work, and also risk human error and mistakes, when you can supply the artist input that it needs and let the other 98% of the work, the parts that slow us all down, automatically happen for you?!

In this video, like I said, it’s more just a quick demonstration of something pretty simple at first glance. But, it’s more to gauge your interest and see if you are interested in this sort of thing. And, if you are, I will make a lot of how to videos demonstrating how to write your own tools and custom scripts to apply to your FX heavy film productions.

The idea here is simple. I’m in Boston, working on a movie, all of my render farm and file servers are back in LA. I wanted to use my render nodes, to simulate my FumeFX simulations, as well as render them out. However, I DON’T want to have to

* Manually email a file to myself, remote desktop into my LA workstation
* Download the file
* Make a shot directory, save file there, make a Render directory, FumeFX directories, path everything there.
* Submit each simulation manually to back burner, and my render image sequence too
* Go into Nuke and build a quicktime video of my FX renders, and send it back to myself for review
* Make a folder back on the PC I am sitting at remotely, and transfer the files over manually once I have viewed the quicktime and like the frames

If I have to do this every time I want to render something out, it’s going to eat up all of my time and bring production to a halt. However, I do need to do this, because I do not have access to any render nodes in this city. So, didn’t take that long to do but I built a couple of small tools that would automate the process. Now, keep in mind that I could have automated this process further and tried to be all fancy about it but just like Kung Fu in movies, and “procedural automated FX driven pipelines” and trade shows and such, fancy is cool to show off, but you really want to do the most affective approach that will give you the most control and the best results, the fastest way possible.

So, things like transferring the files back to me, I had it write me a .bat file, or batch file. So that when I am ready, I can double click it and it manually starts copying each file over for me through that batch script. The reason, so that it’s ready to go if I decide to transfer the files, but I won’t transfer them until I watch the quicktime video and make sure I like what I see. A QT is 5mb, an image sequence is 1.2gb.

This is just a fun demonstration, but I thought it would be cool and best off the whole thing is short. However, all of the things it’s doing under the hood, are actually very useful tools So, off the top of my head I can think of a dozen cool scripts I can show you how to write yourself.

* How to automatically make a directory and repath your scene file’s render output to that directory and naming for you automatically. So each time you change the version of your file to v05, v06, it’ll repath your render images output directory to a new directory named ‘My FX Pass_v06′.

* Same for all your FumeFX containers, as well as each folder is named individually for your container and then furthermore for each version. This is useful because most of us will have a specific FumeFX simulation folder on the network where we save our stuff out, usually outside of everything else so its easy to blast FXD data when necessary. But it’s also good to have it all organized, so it’s easy to delete that data when IT starts nagging that the server is running out of space.

* Backburner job submissions, both simulation jobs as well as render jobs, plus additional render passes built at render time, such as RGB lighting passes and other things. You can have so much control when you control how your jobs are submitted! I have had productions this year that had 20+ FumeFX containers in them, and submitting them to sim has been painful Worse, what if I have back burner mode accidentally on on a container I didn’t want it on and I overwrite the old data. you can write tools that protect you from yourself!

I could go on and on, but the point is, there’s lots of cool shit to do and the more technical you get the more you want to do this. And the thing is, there’s not really any tutorials out there on this sort of stuff. I’m far from a programmer, in the sense that I don’t live and breathe math. I’m no Bobo, and hell I didn’t even finish Jr. High. BUT I’ve yet to run into a problem I task I haven’t been able to do, and it’s just a matter of looking at it all from the right angle, and I’d have KILLED to have had a helping hand in my early days of learning all of this stuff, but I had to do it all on my own. You don’t need to do that. I’m here to help, and I’d love to help you!

Watch the video and then tell me if you want to see this kind of stuff. If you do. I already have a few things ready to go and I will put out more video content on this subject over the xmas holiday period. If you are like “Nah, Allan, I just want to blow things up, more FumeFX and Krakatoa tutorials please” Then that’s cool too. I’ll stick to what you know me for!

-Allan

3 Comments

  1. Eric says:

    That’s a great tool you created, once i got on drop box I cant see how to not use it, I have used on all my projects. so funny did the same work flow with in the same city while working on site and sent files to my farm an render remoted in an fired off renders an comped the videos not as automated but same concept.
    if you have any more workflows on being more efficient to complete projects faster as a independent. Thanks

  2. amckay says:

    Eric, that is pretty funny, maybe it’s something about those two cities! There definitely are better ways to do it, and for me making that article I knew there’d be some people who’d say well do XYZ but for the easiest and less time costly way, doing something like this works, and that’s what matters – and I love dropbox it’s perfect what I do!

    Thanks for the comment, I will definitely try to put more together
    I will say with my podcast one of the big areas I created it specifically for is to do with workflow and efficiency so I’m going to be putting a LOT of content on there for sure in future episodes!

    Thanks Eric!

  3. Blue says:

    That’s cleared my thoughts. Thanks for cournibtting.

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