Today we are back to the subject of pipelines with a look at some of the forms a production pipeline may take. But first a quick review of the nature of CG pipelines:
Previous articles focused mostly on helping my readers see pipelines from a broader point of view. I shared an epiphany I had a few years back that there are in any given project three classes of pipelines: production, material and approval (posts #0018, Understanding Pipeline, and #0019, Form Follows Function). These coexist on a project, touching here and there to exchange information, but functioning in parallel, mutually dependent yet separate from one another.
I differentiate between work-flows, the steps in a task done by one or more people, and a pipeline, the organization of personnel, tools and procedures to facilitate a work-flow (post #0022, Workflows vs Pipelines). In the same post, I introduce a concept of a Tree of Specialization to show that a work-flow can be divided and redivided into ever greater degrees of specialization.
Any time two or more people get together to do a task, some system of cooperation and division of labor occurs. If a couple of kids get together to do their chores, this may be completely ad hoc, with the dominant personality often suggesting to the other what each one does. A group may get together for a little basketball, and again, they will structure their team to either play zones or one-on-one. In many sports players often specialize: a baseball pitcher, a quarterback, a goalie. Likewise, as the person responsible to run the crew, the CG Supervisor must determine the best form for his team.
Many people working in CG assume that organizing the team, the CG production pipeline, by functional specialty is the only way. While some people will argue the best form divides the work among specialists, working alone or in teams, others may argue that a good pipeline is flat, with strong generalists who can insure contuinity of design vision through a project. It's sort of like the difference between zone and one-on-one basketball: the zone player focuses on developing skills and habits for playing a position, a functional specialization, while the one-on-one player focuses on his opponent, developing a project orientation, while being able to generally play anywhere.
Others will say the best organization is to structure the team around the technology. Another model is to break up the pipeline according to artistic styles, for example, photo-real vs. 3d cartoon vs. stylized, etc.
These four organizational forms: project generalists, functional specialization, technological specialization and style specialization may represent the range of possibilities, but other forms may exist outside my experience and imagination.