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Urs Furrer's NAB vfx diary

Throngs of eager men, groups of vaguely interested 'hostesses' and a myriad of lights and sounds. It's not the casino floor at the Bellagio, it was the NABshow earlier this month.



Apart from the halls and halls of broadcast and TV technologies (that were frankly too far to walk for this desk-bound and oft-sleep deprived vfx artist) there's always something interesting to be found in the world of post-production and vfx.

One of the best things about NAB is you have quite free access to the people who help shape the tools we use every day, and it's quite intriguing to see where our world is headed.

It seems as if the technology is really focussing on workflow and collaboration. Whether it's integration between a number of different softwares so that they can all communicate a bit better, or helping to speed up workflow.

It feels like content creation entities are no-longer the closed-off bubbles as they once were.

Whether this comes from the fact that larger umbrellas are now owning what was previously independent bit of tech, or if individual companies have realised that in order to remain a viable option in a deadline-driven market they have to "play nicer with others".

Companies actually communicate. One example is The Foundry and Filmlight.  

With the advent of the Baselight for Nuke plugin you not only have one less problem in the commercial world (changing grades, working off ungraded vs graded, available of colourists to apply grades to vfx shots etc) you also have two companies who are highly specialised yet have a great level of communication with each other.



Standing at The Foundry booth I could turn my head, and see the team from Filmlight who actually helped write the plugin. Pretty cool, in my opinion. 

Also, the larger companies are starting to notice. Although a larger behemoth like Autodesk is unavoidably slower to react, much like an oil-tanker vs. a cigarette boat, there is an air of   change in the wind.

There is evolution. The readiness and willingness to listen to their customers and take hints from their competitors. It's refreshing to see that as artists, we are being listened to and consulted.  However, along with that, comes the slight fear that with the readiness to change comes a hint of uncertainty.

We saw it with Autodesk announcing they will no longer ship Softimage - a tool that has become integral to many an artist. A moment of raised eyebrows, disbelief and shaking heads. It's inevitable that the smaller entities will have these moments too, especially as their software gains momentum and attracts attention from the equity and investments companies that are looking for a profit. 

All we can hope for is that if these moments do continue to occur, that somewhere out there is some sort of "underground resistance" movement that will maintain a working version of the tools we know and love. Or, even better, that the powers-that-be let tools they consider to be obsolete become open-source.



Free to use at our peril, yet the choice remains ours.

Also quite interesting is the advent of technology that is being heavily touted for the broadcast industry, especially that of real-time camera tracking and graphics placement.

Whilst the graphics themselves are of minor relevance to post, the area of real-time tracking could be quite an interesting area to watch.

Whether it enables for live on-set previz: the blocking out of scenes involving both a real location and talent together with CG characters, or the potential to walk away from a days shoot with camera track 'rushes'.

If the power of software has temporarily plateaued, it's refreshing to see the creators continuing to make advancements that will ultimately and hopefully make our lives easier.

Interesting times indeed. 

Urs Furrer is a senior Flame artist/VFX supervisor at Glassworks Amsterdam.




Posted 29 April 2015 by Urs Furrer
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