Wednesday, May 19, 2010

#0034 Seven Point Functional Description of Visual Effects Pipelines

In this post I re-publish the Seven Point Functional Description of Visual Effects Pipelines with two aims. First, to make it easier to find. Secondly, I've made three important changes and wish my readers to see them incorporated. Any further changes will be done as revisions to this post. After the description, you'll find an explanation of the changes and why they were made.

Seven Point Functional Description
of Visual Effects Pipelines
  1. A VFX pipeline belongs to one of three classes: 
    1. production  (task)            primary
    2. material      (data)           secondary
    3. approval     (meta-data)   tertiary
  2. A VFX pipeline is comprised of four structural dimensions: 
    1. leadership
    2. personnel
    3. tools 
    4. methods
  3. A VFX pipeline utilizes technology but is not the technology
  4. A VFX pipeline divides a work-flow into separate and meaningful tasks assigned to two or more persons
  5. A VFX pipeline tasks divisions are determined using a tree of specialization across the three dimensions
  6. The VFX pipeline structural form is dictated by 
    1. the functional mission,
    2. resources available and 
    3. company culture
  7. A VFX pipeline is malleable
The Four Dimensions
of Visual Effects Pipelines
First change: Leadership. In post #0031 the concept of a fourth structural dimension was added to the previous three.  During my recent travels to India, where I taught NUKE for two weeks, I realized that I had lumped leadership in with personnel.

I've decided the leadership structure is far too important and must be separate from personnel.The tasks and training are significantly different enough that it must be looked at as a separate dimension.

Too often leaders are merely promoted from the best artists and left on their own to figure out how to lead.  I believe leadership selection and development is a critical part of designing an effective and efficient sustainable pipeline.  Developing visual effects leadership is the whole point of this blog. 

Second change: Methods.   In the past, I used the term "Procedure."   In a recent epiphany, it occurred to me that the term methods provides a broader understanding of what I mean.  "Procedures" may seem too much like a set of workplace instructions.  Even lumped together with ideas like "policies" and "conventions", it just felt too narrow.  A company's methods, however includes conventions, policies and procedures, but adds in technical and artistic know-how.  It incorporates also the idea of proprietary work-flows and even patented processes.  Finally, it allows us to include within the methods used by a company, its training and mentoring programs.

It may seem this change is pedantic, especially to readers translating this into their own language where the nuance of meaning may be lost anyway, but for those of us thinking in English, it seems best to get a tight hold on our thinking here.  And with any luck, the results of any translation will also be more clear.

Third change: Visual Effects Pipelines.   It's really been a challenge to think of a term that really embraces the breadth of this industry.  For years, "CG" was enough.  But more and more "CG" is coming to imply the 3D modeled surfaces and dynamics.  I think this is a good idea, because that opens up the industry to clearly distinguish between 3D and 3D.  That is, between CG and Stereographics.  Some consider digital effects and motion graphics separate, and some consider visual effects and cg animation separate, and some consider visual effects to be the compositing of the cg produced effects.  It doesn't matter, by Visual Effects Pipelines I mean it all and leave room to embrace digital intermediates and other post functions that may be integral to the process.

Enough with words  --onward to production pipeline design...

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