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AFX Project Management and Rendering Software

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Scott McDonnellAFX Project Management and Rendering Software
by on Feb 12, 2013 at 5:05:48 pm

What are your biggest workflow challenges?
What pipeline software are you using?

A bit of background: I work for an animation company where we mainly animate in Flash or AFX and then composite BG and animation and do any VFX work in After Effects.
For Rendering we originally rendered on our own machines then tried the watch folder rendering. For PM we used google docs. We used Shotgun a few times but felt a fair bit of time went into configuration and data entry and it was a bit expensive for our budget too. Our main problem was keeping on top of the status and latest version of each shot and ensuring it was in the latest edit the director was watching, tracking notes and managing render queues.

So over the last number of productions I have developed our own web app that manages project management, approval and review, and centralised render management for our flash and AFX work.

The idea is that a production starts and ends with an edit and then automates as much as possible in between. From our first edit, in our case often a cut of an animatic, but also works for live action edit with VFX shots, we output an EDL of the the shots that need to go through the pipeline. This EDL is imported into the web app to create your shot list, you can assign to artists who tackle the work for the different tasks or stages and use a simple Flash/AFX plugin panel to commit the new version (with any note on changes) back into the system.

We have a wrapper around aerender that queries the web api for new render jobs and then sends back progress as it renders to shared storage, finally converting the final render to high and low res mp4 and uploading back to the web app for review and approval. Project files and full res renders stay local on shared storage and preview files are uploaded.

Simple edits can be automated to build nightly with on-screen notes about shot status, and all final version shots can be collected with an EDL or FCP XML for edit or delivery. The aim has been to make the tool as simple to use as possible, automate to reduce human error, and free up the artists to focus on just making artistic decisions.

It seems that most companies have also had to develop their own set of tools to tackle their pipeline, or connect and customise a set of tools, so there may well be no one solution to rule them all. Having said that maybe there are common workflow issues that a tool could help take some of the pain away and still offer customisation if needed.

I am thinking of embarking on developing this app further, rewriting much from the ground up, to bring to market and would like to engage with the community to see if I’m embarking up the wrong tree!

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