In part three, #0020 The Technology is Not the Pipeline, we differentiate technology pipelines as found within software and hardware tools from production pipelines. We also introduced the three dimensions of pipelines: personnel, tools and procedure. We continue now to define the scope and nature of CG pipelines by dealing with a common area of confusion, the difference between a workflow and a pipeline. While this was dealt with to some degree in bog #0020 using the analogy of a fry cook and a baker, I wish to refine the concept for us.
Further, it is important to note that this specialization, while usually thought of as specialization of labor, occurs in all dimensions of the pipeline. Yes, personnel are hired for their specialized skills, knowledge and talent. In addition, they often may use special tools or use common tools in a special way. Finally, within their discipline, they are likely to have their own special procedures and policies.
Take the 3d Modeler as a case. This worker, often thought to be an entry level person, may in fact be a senior artist with years of experience. He may bring to the craft skills as a traditional sculptor or illustrator or industrial designer. Within the CG craft, he is likely to use a special tool, such as Z-Brush or Mudbox; or be an expert in the modeling functions and workflows in a program like Maya or 3D Max. Further, within a modeling department, the modeler often will have specific naming conventions for files and data structures (objects) within the files, and other procedures governing how models are checked-out and checked-in for work and revision control.
The assembly line of Henry Ford is a kind of production pipeline. What differentiates it from other team workflows is not that each person has an assigned task, but that each person's assigned task produces a component or refinement of the final product. Further, that person's work is vital to the final product and cannot be omitted. If the person is absent, another worker must step in or the assembly line will come to a halt. The difference between Ford's assembly line and a CG pipeline is really rather small.
The defining characteristic hence requires that the workflow be divided into meaningful stages assigned to specialists each producing a component or phase of the final product.