Of Projects, Pipeline Proficiency & Personalities

It is not technology alone but how it is strung together to service the project and the artists working on it that makes a pipeline. And while each pipeline may vary, the end objective is stability, efficiency, scalability and most importantly, quality.

That in a gist was the learning that one got during the pipeline session at Day 1 at FICCI Frames 2008. Moderating the session was ettaminA studios CEO Amit Anand and panelists included Toonboom‘s Joan Vogelesang, Autodesk VP for Film Sebastian Sylwan, VFX & Tech legend Jon Labrie, DUX Soft‘s Aamir Shahenshah, Foundry Networks Chandra Kopparapu and Margret Dean.

Paraphrasing Mark Twain, Jon Labrie shared, “There are many ways to skin a cat. Your pipeline is going to be as specific as the projects you work on, and the kind of teams that work on it.” The panelists agreed.

The discussion gave insight that while Pipelines could vary in terms of specialization such as talking animals or aliens and creatures, 3D cartoony features, or photo real etc, there were certain essentials common to each workflow such as file naming and saving conventions, asset management, practice of dailies amongst others.

“The purpose of having a pipeline is only and just to enable more creativity for the artist” opined Autodesk‘s Sebastian Sylwan. “Positive development is that the processes are moving away from being technical to creative and the technology is there to serve creativity”

ToonBoom‘s Joan Vogelesang shared similar sentiment, “We develop our tools on artist feedback” She also pointed out that the Indian industry had evolved from production service workflows and now into developing their own content as well as providing higher value services to International clients.

“This means a new approach to pipelines which will push the quality further and enable delivery of high caliber productions” she added.

Margaret Dean who has been working with Indian studios for a while gave a very interesting insight about how things are evolving. She pointed out that earlier, clients would enforce their pipelines and processes onto the production service providers. These days however, International clients are demonstrating more faith in the studios and would rather look at the vendor to create the pipeline as that is where most of the assets come from.

She also pointed out that Feature film pipelines and TV series pipelines were different in their demands. “When it comes to animation production for TV, the approach to a pipeline has to be simpler”
Technology wise, Foundry‘s Chandra K pointed out that ethernet switches and routers over the years had advanced from being 10 MB per second to 10 GB ps and in a couple of years, throughput speeds could clock upto 100 GBps. “This means more time for the creative guys to work on the project and complex data and assets can be better creatively controlled”

DUX Soft‘s Aamir Shahenshah stressed that tracking systems were extremely necessary for projects. You need to track where the iterations are happening, and need to have a complete grip on the flow to be able to streamline it.

From a quality perspective, Jon Labrie opined that the best work-flow and pipeline was one that allowed maximum amount of iterations before FINAL and “that is key to quality” he said.

The end summary was that create a pipeline based on project needs, area of specialization and stability in mind. Internal standards have to be defined and tech and artists need to be consulted as in the end they are going to use it.