Sunday, 19 June 2011

OGAM (Of Gods & Men)...crunch time.

I've been a bit quiet of late for a number of reasons. The one that's brought me the most stress and been the hardest to deal with is the making of my short 'Of Gods & Men'. It become obvious a little while back that any hope I had of getting it done by my 2nd day of Lectures at the End User Event in Holland at the end of this month was impossible due to events outside my control. You may think that that was pretty self apparent anyway when you're trying to make a film quality short on a budget of £25, 90% of the time on your own. Had I been able to put the time in I needed , then there was a very good chance it would have been done.

So I made a decision to finish half of it and in the spirit of the last Harry Potter book split it into 2 shorts (that I'll release eventually as a single short.) Hey if it's good enough for holly wood its good enough for me lol. This should have made things far easier, but that's not exactly the case, as I still have 3/4 absolute nightmare shots to finish and render out. It's the rendering that's taking the time as these shots are :

A - created using my own app 'Exodus' (don't worry I'm not going to release it as it'd be a legal minefield lol)

B - as such they can only be rendered on my machine

C - The render farm I've had use of doesn't have a Renderman compliant render engine ,on it which is what HAS to be used for those shots

D - They have raw polygon counts that are between 100million and 750 million (not counting displacement maps...and all of those polys are animated. I'm pretty sure most people don't want me blowing up their render farm

As exodus is only for me, and is a mish mash of all sorts of crazy code from all sorts of places, it's about as stable as an Italian taxi driver behind 2 nuns in a tractor. This doesn't make for an easy workflow and many man hours have disappeared either on development or solving crazy issues. (such as it suddenly deciding to render bright purple using a constant shader and dump all animation ...Just for shits and giggles it seemed lol. Or the time a forgotten floating point interferred with animation on some characters making them all look like they were having spaz attacks.) That doesn't do good things for your stress levels as come what may I have to have this ready for a complete breakdown on my 2nd En User Event lecture.

I've also had in development for myself only a mental ray PTEX enabling shader, and my own propriety 1 click auto rig and skin solution....and a few other things I'll keep to myself. But alas these items mentioned simply were nowhere near ready for use in even a personal short as stability needs to be worked on. My idea behind developing them is mainly so I can have apps that do what very expensive ones do without having to resort to piracy. Which I cannot and will not condone.

This way I have no license fees to pay, I don't have to wait ages for support emails as I can fix it myself, and if it doesn't do exactly what I need it to I can simply research and add the feature myself. Another reason I won't be putting them out for sale or for free is twofold. Firstly, as not only are there other apps that do these jobs nearly as well (or in some cases better), but also its a mash up of various source code and legally it'd mean I'd make buttons anyway. Secondly I want a set of tools to do certain jobs easily that no one else has to give me an edge in production. I don't want to give my best tools to everyone. Harsh but honest.

Thankfully although I am convinced that this short is cursed due to the sheer amount of things that have went wrong, sometimes nice things pop up that help in some way. So I was surprised today to have a message on twitter from one of the guys working for Pixar on the Renderman side offering a free 1 month license so I could get my short finished (or the 1st part anyway)..Hopefully once that's up and running I won't be reduced to the single core frame at a time crap that I am having to put up with from 3delights free version lol. As I can then use 2 machines and all my cores to render it theory mean I can get the 1st part of my short done.

Of course there are still only 24 hours in the day so let's have a little list of what's left to do before EUE on the 30th June / 1st July.

The List of Doom:

  1. · all the complex high poly animated scenes need rendering out , inc passes
  2. · final soundtrack edit
  3. · final short edit
  4. · compositing
  5. · final colour grading
  6. · write lecture script for both lectures
  7. · do breakdown videos for EUE
  8. · Sort the PowerPoint presentations out.
  9. · Make beginning and end final titles for short
  10. · final encodes of short in various resolutions and colour levels (so I can keep it looking perfect no matter what the projectors colour balance).
  11. · Round up and arrange all files used
  12. · Do sculpt tests for 1st lecture
  13. · organise private course for a teaching gig just after EUE.
  14. · Have nervous breakdown

That's a list of the top of my head and I KNOW I have left stuff out. Once EUE 2011 is over with I will then have to try and finish of rendering the complex scenes that will be left for the 2nd part of my short before the Renderman license runs out. A big thanks to the guys at Pixar for the helping hand with the free Renderman for a month.

There can't be many times a blokes CGI short is bailed out by Pixar lol. If by some miracle I have time free I'll put an unreleased shot or two up from my short nearer the time.