One of the most critical action of a production is the validation step. Every assets and components built must be reviewed by directors and supervisors before being shipped. Every validation is a strong decision and can be either technical or artistic. If the reviewed component is not accepted, it leads to more work and cost for the whole studio. On the other side, when enough shots have been validated, parts of the budget are unblocked and fuel the studio. Hence, it matters a lot for the production management to have a proper validation tracking.
In this blog post we’ll discuss what should be tracked and how your pipeline can help to make the validation faster.
Because every validation decision implies commitment and budget impacts, you should better know who said what and when. The most common tool we see in studios is Google Spreadsheet. You can build very informative tables with it and you can access it from anywhere. Which makes it very useful. But, unfortunately, except the production team, people are not very eager to fill it. Worst, previous changes are hard to access.
That’s why we recommend the usage of more complete solutions like Shotgun of Ftrack. It will allow to have a clear history of the conversations and you will be able to browse easily the state of your production. Their price may seem high but they will save you tons of time. Additionally, knowing how many back and forth happened is important to identify which shots or assets require double attention.
For validating an item, going on the machine of the graphist and see the result is not very effective. So, you should think about building a preview publishing process. Whether it is to store movies or pictures of rendered items in a dedicated folder or uploading it in a specialised software, you will need to establish a tracking system too. When an artist consider that his work is done he should tell you that a preview is ready to be seen and should note which working file was used to make this preview. On the same way, every comment should be linked to related preview to avoid any misunderstanding.
Once the component validated, things are not done yet. You should build the resulting file for the team who will handle the next step. The generated files are different from the working files (cache files for animation, low resolution and high resolution models for the modeling…). That’s why source files must be tracked too. The created file should be linked to a validation and a working file. It’s useful for validation and in case something should be rendered again.
Pipeling the whole thing
The good news is that among all the grunt work required to make this, you can automate several things. The generation of the preview can be done via scripts/plugins and be sent to your tracking software on a simple click from the graphist. Output file can be automatically generated after a validation. Relations between your comments, your working files, your output files and your previews can be stored in a indexed databased. From that data store your R&D team can build tables and charts to provide you with an overview and details of the status of your production.
Following the progress of a CG movie production is tedious. It requires patience, commitment and excellent communication. Fortunately, production team, supervisors and graphists can be assisted by software solution in this task. All this hard work may look secondary at first but when it’s done properly it changes completely the production. Bad surprises are avoided and more flexibility is brought to your fabrication. It leads to less stress and faster results which means more time spent on the artistic and better overall quality!