02 Codex DNA

Kiryha edited this page Feb 17, 2017 · 147 revisions

Animation DNA Introduction and general notes.

To optimize and speed up shots production process, proper system should be developed and implemented. This system calls PRODUCTION PIPELINE. Production pipeline consist from a set of rules and tools for every branch, phase, procedure and action. Rules define relations between branches and phases, tools allow to execute actions automatically. The main goals of pipeline are: distribution of work between team members, automatisation of actions and procedures, make workflow flexible to changes.
Codex DNA is set of instructions for computer graphic which establish workflow for creation an animation movie.

A) General notes:
Structuring | Naming | Quality control | Progressive workflow
B) Pipeline overview:
DNA.rar | Wrapper | Pipeline brief | FTrack | Outsource | Shot creation
C) 3D branch:
3D overview | 3D pipeline | Asset creation | Layout and animation | Rendering | FX
D) 2D branch:
2D overview | Procedure | Output
E) Art
F) Editing and grading

General notes

Structuring | Naming | Quality control | Progressive workflow


To solve complex task (or operate with a big amount of data) it must be splited into smaller pieces. This process of dividing big amount of data into smaller parts according to a particular model is called structuring and structuring is a basement of organisation.

Structure of film and production

Structure of film: FILM >PART> SEQUENCE > SHOT
Structure of production process: SEGMENT > BRANCH > PHASE > PROCEDURE > ACTION
Structure of employee in VFX segment: VFX Supervisor > head > TD > artist

See Codex employee for stuff management notes.

VFX segment structure

  • 2D (compositing) branch
    Phases of 2D:
    • Compositing
    • Mattepainting
  • 3D branch
    Phases of 3D:
    • Pipeline development and data transfer
    • Asset creation
      Procedures of asset creation: * modeling * texturing * sculpting * setup
    • Layout and Animation
    • FX
    • Rendering and look development
  • Editing and grading branch

Folder structure

Physically VFX branch is set of files on a hard drive. To manage huge amount files of different formats in a logical and predictive way proper folder structure has to be created. Folder structure relies on:

  • Used software
  • Requirements to folder structure for particular software
  • Pithiness, logic and usability for data exchange. Each file should have proper name, version and be in a proper folder.

Animation DNA folder structure designed for a full CG projects and already has directories elaborated for all imaginary data required for a production. At least at the first 3 levels of nesting you don`t need to create new folders.

Project root directory — <rootProject>: <drive>:/<path>/<projectName>
This is main directory of project, stored on hard drive in the studio, no project files can be stored outside this folder. Project root directory contain:

  • EDIT — Editing and grading area. Contain:
    • GRAD — Working files and final result of grading process, contain DCP folder for final DCP and FORMATS for video files for TV, internet or other carriers.
    • OUT — Preview renderings from editing software sorted according to a film structure
    • PRO — Editing software project files
    • SRC — Source files for editing process other than 3D or 2D renders, e.g. sound for film.
  • PREP — Pre-production area:
    • ART — Artwork
    • DOCS — Project documentation
    • MANAGE — Project management team data
    • PIPELINE — Pipeline development and final scripts
    • REFERENCES — All types of reference materials, for artist, animators, lighters etc.
    • SCRIPT — Script of the film.
  • PROD — Production area, root for the VFX segment:
    • 2D — Root for compositing branch
      • COMP — Compositing software project files with <codeRSS> structure
    • 3D — Root for 3D branch, Maya project root folder.
    • RENDER_2D — Renderings from compositing department:
      • DPX — Final renderings from compositing department with <codeRSS> structure
      • JPG — Service files for art department with <codeRSS> structure
      • MOV — Previer renderings for editing software with <codeRSS> structure
    • RENDER_3D — Renderings from 3D software:
      • BLAST — Playblast from Maya with <codeRSS> structure
      • LOOKDEV — Renderings of assets
      • RENDER — Final renderings from 3D rendering software(Arnold) with <codeRSS> structure

Full folder division can be learned from DNA.rar which contain folder structure.


If structuring is a basement of organisation than naming is a basement of structuring. Naming is an art and it highly important aspect of production.

All files on HDD and objects in software should be named correctly according to strict rules, described for all phases and procedures in this document.
ONLY ENGLISH characters and words allowed for using in ANY names.
NO SPACES allowed in naming.
Name should be short, readable and descriptive!

Any name should start from lowercase letter. If there is more than one word in name for better readability it should be divided — each next word should start from upper case.

Division of logical parts in names of files and objects occurs with underscore sign.
Name of files: prefix_name_version.extension or name_version.extension
Name of objects: name or name_variation or name_variation_property
Examples file names: ANM_E010_S010_001.mb, RIG_BENDER_001.mb, trsMelony_001.mb
Example asset names: trsMelony, trsMelony_D, trsMelony_D_trunk

Quality control

At the end of each procedure, phase or branch, before resulting data is transferred to the next procedure, phase or branch, the control stage should go, in which the data is being checked for FLAWS and ERRORS.

Progressive workflow

Progressive workflow is a method of step by step project execution when your get the rough form of the end step as soon as it possible and than refine stages which are most valuable in overall result according to resources your have. Mathematically it expressed as Pareto principle: 20% of efforts gives 80% of result.

Understanding progressive workflow and using it at all stages, from the basic actions till the overall project management can dramatically rise production efficiency.

This approach allow to:

  • have general overview of final result on the early stages
  • achieve the best outcome within given resources
  • focus on important aspects
  • avoid spending many resources on not valuable things

Progressive workflow paradigm is: from general to specific — from rough form in the beginning to refined result at the end.

Such algorithm called progressive workflow similarly to progressive JPG or progressive rendering, when your see full resolution of image in rough pixelated form and than refine quality instead of getting small portions of final quality one by one.

Pipeline overview

Animation pipeline is a system of organisation and execution of a project.

DNA.rar | Wrapper | Pipeline brief | FTrack | Outsource | Shot creation

DNA archive

Materially on HDD Animation DNA represented as a winrar archive DNA.rar which includes:

Animation DNA documentation located online:

Download JSON version of DNA.rar

Setup system

To run FTrack version of Animation DNA you need setup environment variables for each user in windows system properties. Create new variable and set proper value:

[FTRACK_SERVER] = https://<userAdress>.ftrackapp.com
[LOGNAME] = <userName>

Running Maya and Nuke with wrappers

Go to <rootProject>/PREP/PIPELINE/ and run:

  • runMaya.bat to load Maya,
  • runNuke.bat to load Nuke.

Optional you can create shortcuts on runMaya.bat or runNuke.bat on desktop for each project, rename them to a project name and build a representative icons or use DNA icons in .ico format.

runMaya.bat executes runMaya.py – python script which run Maya with settings you need to setup for particular project (environment variables, project settings etc.) and it called wrapper.
Once Maya opened you should get following messages in the script editor without any error:
<< userSetup.mel: RUNNING setupMaya.py >>
<< setupProject [ rootProject ]: P:/DNA/ >>
<< setupMaya [ projectName ]: DNA >>

runNuke.bat executes runNuke.py to load Nuke with DNA menu and necessary settings.

If Maya or Nuke does not run — check paths to Maya and Nuke installation folders in runMaya.bat, runMaya.py, runNuke.bat, runNuke.py

Pipeline brief

The final output of VFX department is set of shots for editing and grading.
In a very general overview, VFX department pass from story reel through asset creation to shot production.
Asset creation stage consists from: modeling, texturing, sculpting, look development and rigging.
Shot production stages: animation, lighting- rendering setup, renders 3D process; compose and render 2D process (final VFX images).

Schemes below illustrate shot production in general and VFX pipeline more in details.

Asset forms

Each animated asset exists in two forms — RIG and GEO — polygonal geometry with setup and polygonal geometry only. We use RIG assets in animation scenes and GEO assets in rendering scenes.
Each polygonal object shape contains all shading data in Arnold custom attributes (textures and materials).
Finalized animated asset (or environment) should be published to FTrack with Data Publisher.

Each static asset also exists in two forms — GEOMETRY and STANDIN. We model static assets as regular Maya polygon geometry and at the last stage of asset creation convert them to Arnold Standins.

Production with Animation DNA

For each shot layout artist creates animation scene with Shot Assembler.
On the animation stage artists bring characters and props to life, setup and animate camera.

After animation has been finished and approved, animation scene goes to a pipeline department, where pipeline artist should check scene: if there are all assets in scene; if there are no redundant assets in scene; if assets has proper versions. Then FX artist creates cloth and fur simulation scenes with FX Manager and export animation data to alembic with Animation Exporter.

Once pipeline and FX department had export all caches, rendering artist can take shot in production.
During the lighting- rendering stage artist creates rendering scene with Shot Assembler, import animation and FX to the scene with Data Importer and Render Manager, creates lights, make individual tweaks in each shot and send scenes to 3D rendering process.

Rendered shots goes to compositing department as exr sequences, where artist assemble Nuke script with Shot Assembler, achieve final look by gathering 3D renders and artworks, adding different elements and FX, tweak colors and materials.

After finishing compositing stage shots are passes rendering 2D process and delivers to editing.

Management with FTrack

Management with FTrack general notes

FTrack is primary studio information database. Every action in production starts and recorded in FTrack. Through FTrack all studio departments and employee communicate one to each other by reading and writing particular data (either manually or automatically when using Animation DNA tools).

At the base level of project organization we have to deal with two substances:


This core division permeates through a project workflow and reflected in FTrack database and folder structure. Shots organization based on film structure. Asset organization in FTrack based on assets classification.

SHOTS. Whole film divided into smallest logical pieces — shots (a part of a film between two cuts). Shots grouped into the sequences — logical part of film actions, usually sequence starts and finishes in one environment, so sequence linked to one particular environment. Sequences grouped into the parts (which are called REELS for feature films) — around 25 min part of the movie. In smallest project there could be only one part and it may have any readable descriptive short name (e.g. TRAILER)

Reels and sequences are numbered sequentially, e.g. there is no reels or episodes in the film with the same number. In each sequence shot number starts from the beginning.

Representation of film structure on HDD and in FTrack:
<codePart>/<codeSequence>/SHOT_<codeShot> ( REEL_01/010/SHOT_010 )
This peace of folder structure exists in FTrack database and repeated many times in different project folders, which deals with SHOTS, for example in scenes/ANIMATION/, PREP/ART/SHOTS/ etc.

ASSETS. All assets divided into 2 main parts: what is animated, and what is not. Animated assets its characters, dynamic props and EDA, not animated assets is static props end environments. Read assets classification for more details.

Asset types in FTrack

Respectively you need to create such asset types (FTrack system settings > schemas > Asset build > Types ):

  • eda
  • props
  • environment
  • static
  • characters

Exactly as written, because this types are used by python tools so no mistakes allowed. Case sensitive also.

Representation of assets classification on HDD and in FTrack: ASSETS:

  • CHARACTERS (contain folders named as characters. On HDD there RIG and GEO folder inside each character folder)
  • ENVIRONMENTS ( contain folders with locations, in each folder with location there is folder with EDA )
  • PROPS (dynamic props, structured into a collection)
  • STATIC (static props, structured into a collection)

Creating FTrack database

First we analyze story reel. During this process we create two lists: list of all objects(assets) and list of all shots in film. Than this lists should be entered to FTrack.

Finally we link animated assets end environments to a shots. DO NOT link EDA and static props to a shots.

Refer to database setup tutorial for more information.

Publishing data to FTrack

One way of entering information to FTrack is publishing.
Publishing is a process of recording necessary data to FTrack database with a help of Animation DNA tools using FTrack Python API:

  • Data Publisher allow to write:
    • working name and version of GEO and RIG asset forms,
    • name and version of character fur file
    • name and version of asset material library
    • list of EDA, linked to environment
  • Animation Manager writes name and version of approved animation file for each shot
  • FX Manager writes name and version of final FX scene
  • Render Manager writes name and version of exr render for each shot

Workflow with outsource studios

Major part of the project will be done locally in the studio. All project data (3D scenes, comp files, script, artwork, sound, editing etc etc) stores at the studio server at network drive. To outsource any part of work (for example, animation of some sequences) we create FTP server with project copy on it with the same folder structure. Outsource company should replicate studio folder structure on their own network drive and copy all necessary data. Such setup will ensure, that everything will work properly.

Particular information about each project stores in codex Outsource. It include: mirror FTP login and password; project drive letter, name, path; instructions for cooperation.

To upload animation scenes and linked references on mirror FTP use FTP Manager. Enter shot number and press UPLOAD SCENE. Note that script does not copy environment, user have to upload it manually

Shot creation workflow

To start work on shot it should be created in FTrack, all necessary assets should be published and linked to each shot. Then in CG area for each shot should be created animation scene. Animation scene goes to layout artist and then to animator. Finished animation goes to FX and rendering. Rendered shots should be finalized at compositing stage.

For each shot:
Project management department:

  • creates shot in FTrack
  • link assets
  • setup shot length

Layout department:

  • creates animation scene with Shot Assembler
  • produce layout, makes playblasts with Animation Manager and approves them.
  • after layout has been approved, artist publish animation to FTrack with Data Publisher(PUBLISH CURRENT ANIMATION). Scene goes to pipeline department.

Animation department:

  • produce animation and approves playblasts.
  • after animation has been approved, artist publish animation. Scene goes to pipeline department.

Pipeline department:

  • open approved animation shot, save it to a next version (SNV).
  • check and clean scene, update asset versions.
  • publish animation file to FTrack
  • export animation cashes

FX department:

  • creates CLOTH simulation, export cloth cashes.
  • create FUR simulation, export fur cashes.

Lighting and rendering department:

  • create render scene with Shot Assembler
  • import animation cashes with Animation Importer and fur with Render Manager
  • setup and render shot with PREVIEW quality
  • publish render to FTrack
  • improve shot according to painted reference from art department and compositing report
  • render FINAL quality of the shot
  • publish render to FTrack

Compositing department:

  • create Nuke script with Shot Assembler
  • compose preview quality render and publish render
  • render JPG to review in art department
  • create report on 3D render errors and issues and submit this report to LR department

Art department:

  • paint over preview render
  • review goes to compositing and lighting rendering departments.

Lighting-rendering department:

  • tweak shot according to review
  • render shot in PREVIEW quality

Compositing department:

  • tweak shot according to review
  • approve shot in Art department

Lighting-rendering department:

  • render shot in FINAL quality

Compositing department:

  • render final shot
  • publish render

3D branch

3D branch include workflow with Maya (and other 3D applications, if used), Arnold and renderings from Maya or Arnold.

3D overview | 3D pipeline | Asset creation | Layout and animation | Rendering | FX

3D branch general notes

3D branch phases are:

Pipeline development and data transfer

The root folder for pipeline development phase is <rootProject>/PREP/PIPELINE/ Pipeline development root contains:

  • Wrappers
  • DEVELOPING folder with all versions of scripts and database
  • DNA folder with pipeline tools and database (for JSN version)
  • FTrack_API folder (for FTR version)

Once pipeline for the project has been developed, the main role of pipeline department is:

  • transfer data between departments
  • maintain pipeline function
  • create new tools for production by request of TDs

Main tools of pipeline department are: Shot Assembler, Data Publisher, Animation Exporter

3D folder structure

Root folder for 3D branch is <rootProject>/PROD/3D. This root folder of Maya predefined project system contain:

  • data — shots ass files for rendering in Arnold
  • cache — animation and FX data
  • scenes — main folder with Maya files
  • sourceimages — textures

Catalog scenes contain:

  • ANIMATION — Animation scenes for each shot, further divided for reels, sequences and shots(<codeRSS>)
  • FX — Root folder for FX phase
  • LOOKDEV — Folder for developing lighting and shading data,also contain material and ligth librarys.
  • RENDER — Rendering scenes for each shot, further divided for reels, sequences and shots

Asset creation

Asset creation general notes

Asset – a set of digital data (files of different formats), required for the creation, management and visualization of real-world objects in the environment of a computer program Maya. Any visible object in the scene while rendering 3D scenes is asset.

Ordinarily, the asset consists of the following elements: a polygonal model, setup (if asset must be animated), materials and textures. There are different procedures for creating the assets:

Assets classification

In order to optimize the process of creating and managing a quantity of objects, the objects must be classified, which means that the objects must be separated into groups according to the procedures used for assets creation and to the type of usage the assets in the virtual environment.

As a result, it is possible to create a set of unambiguous instructions for each group (category). The strict compliance with these instructions will let the significant part of the process be automated.

Assets are divided into 5 categories:

Static Asset – is a non-deformable fixed object.
Static asset consists of a polygonal model, an object’s proxy, materials and textures. This is the simplest, basic asset type, which involves the minimal quantity of operations to create it. Each static asset is designed for multiple copying in one or more scenes of the environment.

Almost all static assets have variations – the objects similar in the functionality but different in the details.

Example of the static asset is an apple. The examples of the variations of apple tree: young, mature, old and dry.

Dynamic Asset – is the object designed for animation.
In addition to the polygonal model, textures and materials the objects that must be animated require the control system to create animation – asset setup. Dynamic assets are usually unique or may be copied a very few times.

Character asset — is animated model of the hero of the film, which is able to perform the set of actions defined in scenario.
Character asset is particular case of dynamic asset. It is separated into a special category because of high complicity of modeling, setup and rendering.

Environment asset — is complex asset which consists of the variety of simple objects and static assets. Environmental asset represents separated part of the world (peace of landscape) where is happening the certain episode of the film.

Environment dynamic asset — dynamic assets, linked to environments (exist in each shot with particular env, like door or window). Publish list of EDA with EDA button of Data Publisher script to link asset to environment in FTrack.

Asset creation quality control
Asset quality control is a process of checking if asset meat pipeline requirements. Checking quality of asset mean finding technical errors in asset scene which may cause errors in rendered shots or in pipeline.

There is CHECK SCENE procedure in Asset Manger which allow to reveal some errors in asset setup.

Asset modelling

Static assets models should match such conditions:

  • Combine objects by materials (all objects with the same material has to be combined to one piece)
  • One asset – one texture (may be different if one texture used by several assets)
  • Freeze transformations and deleted history.
  • Non overlapped and non flipped Uvs
  • Proper naming and hierarchy.
  • Shading info and subdivision in attributes.
  • Cleaned scene. No extra nodes but geometry should be in scene, especially shading nodes.

See how to prepare assets for rendering for more info.

Static assets
Name and location of static asset

Name and category of each asset defined in FTrack and it should be exactly the same in Maya scenes.
Place static asset files in:
Name assets files: <assetName>_<###>.mb
Place textures for static asset files in:
sourceimages/ASSETS/STATIC/<assetNestedCategorys>/ Name assets file textures:
Source files for textures in TX format are: *.jpg for all properties and *.exr for displacement.

Static asset structure

Each asset file contains models of all asset variations inside (A-Z).
Each asset consist from 2 parts gathered in particular hierarchy — render geometry (group of objects for render) and proxy object (polygonal shape to represent render geometry with a very few polygons). Artist switches between render or proxy mode with PROXY button of Asset Manger.

Names of objects in static asset file: The root of scene contains polygonal proxy object of each asset version.
Name of proxy transform: <assetName>_<letterNumber>_<###>
Name of shape: <assetName>_<letterNumber>_Prx
The polygonal proxy object contains group with render geometry.
Name of render geometry group: <assetName>_<letterNumber>_Geo
The render geometry group contains all parts of asset. Name of parts:
Artist create asset and proxy model, gives them correct names, create asset hierarchy with SETUP STATIC button of Asset Manger.

There could be complex assets, like trees with heavy crown, which may require manually setup of hierarchy. Crown builds from instanced brunches assets, then all leaves exports as one ASS file, brunches as another and imports into the scene as a standin to solve combining objects by materials with instanced standins. See setup of complex assets

After finishing asset modeling, each asset variation has to be converted to Arnold standin asset with CONVERT TO STANDIN button of Asset Manger and this would be FINILIZED ASSET for using in ENVIRONMENT scenes. Standin version of asset model has the same structure but group with render geometry replaced with group with Arnold standins and named:

Location and name of Arnold ass geometry:
Location and name of standin forms of static assets:

Converting GEOMETRY form to STANDIN form

CONVERT TO STANDIN button export each asset part of geometry to ass file, import into the scene as standin, rename standin and copy attributes from geometry, place standins in render group and rename it to:
export all asset into:


Organizing assets to a SETS

From the number of standin assets in each category we create a sub set of static assets:

All finished standin forms of static assets could be gathered in one set of static assets in: <rootScenes>/ASSETS/STATIC/SET_STATIC_<###>.mb

Default asset condition in SET: hidden render geometry and visible proxy object.

During creation of environment assets this sets are used as source of objects for filling environments. Hierarchy in SET files should match hierarchy in Ftrack database.

Example of sunflower asset workflow

Asset Maya file located: <rootScenes>/ASSETS/STATIC/FLORA/ASSETS/sunflower_001.mb
Texture files: sourceimages/ASSETS/STATIC/FLORA/
Textures for render: sunflower_A_seeds_CLR_01.tx, sunflower_A_stern_CLR_01.tx, sunflower_A_seeds_DSP_01.tx, sunflower_A_stern_DSP_01.tx
Source textures(output from texture artists): sunflower_A_seeds_CLR_01.jpg, sunflower_A_stern_CLR_01.jpg, sunflower_A_seeds_DSP_01.exr, sunflower_A_stern_DSP_01.exr

sunflower setup:

  • Variation of sunflowers in Maya scene,
  • Geometry form structure of static asset,
  • Standin form structure of static asset

Dynamic assets
Name and location of dynamic asset

Name and category of each asset defined in FTrack and it should be exactly the same in Maya scenes. Place dynamic asset files in:
Name dynamic asset files:
<assetForm>_<assetName>_###.mb Place textures for dynamic asset files in:
Name assets file textures:

Dynamic asset structure

Each dynamic asset exists in two forms — RIG and GEO. Maya scene with rigged asset form contain root group named exactly as in FTrack database (<assetName>).

Inside root group there two groups:

  • <assetName>_GEO
  • <assetName>_RIG

Group <assetName>_GEO contain all render geometry, group <assetName>_RIG contain all setup nodes.

Name of objects in render geometry group:

Display layers:

  • GEOMT — layer with render geometry
  • CTRLS — layer with controls

Modelling artist:

  • creates render geometry with necessary shading attributes,
  • give names to all parts of render geometry,
  • creates asset hierarchy with SETUP DYNAMIC button of Asset Manger,
  • publish GEO form of asset with Data Publisher.
  • deliver file to rigging department (by changing statuses of asset in FTRack)

Rigging artist:

  • create asset rig and place all nodes under <assetName>_RIG
  • publish RIG form of asset with Data Publisher.
  • mark asset as ready for animation in FTrack
Character assets
Name and location of character asset

Place character asset files in:
Name character asset files:
Place textures for characters in: sourceimages/ASSETS/CHARACTERS/<characterName>/
Name character file textures:

Place FUR of character asset files in:
<rootScenes>/ASSETS/CHARACTERS/<characterName>/FUR/FUR_< characterName >_###.mb

Character asset structure

Root group: <characterName>
Inside root group there two groups:

  • <characterName>_GEO
  • <characterName>_RIG

Group <assetName>_GEO contain all render geometry, group <assetName>_RIG contain all setup nodes.

Name of character body object for FUR GROW:

Display layers:

  • CHARC — layer with render geometry
  • CTRLS — layer with controls
Setup FUR.

Name of yeti node: FUR_<characterName>
Geometry with fur node: FUR_<characterName>_body
Groom nodes: GRM_<partName>
Display layer: HAIRS

Environment assets
Name and location of environment asset

Place working environment asset files in:
Name working environment asset files:
Place finalized environment asset files in:
Name finalized environment asset files:
Arnold ass files for environments:
Sub-assets files for environments:
<rootScenes>/ASSETS/ENVIRONMENTS/<environmentName>/EDIT/ASSETS Mary, Z-brush and OBJ files for environments: <rootScenes>/ASSETS/ENVIRONMENTS/<environmentName>/EDIT/(M, Z, OBJ)
Place textures for environments in:
Name environment asset file textures:
Source files for textures in TX format are: *.jpg for all properties and *.exr for displacement.

Environment asset structure

The root of environment scene contains group <locationName>_GMT with all environments objects inside. Small assets, which are part of environment assets, but NOT static or dynamic assets can be modeled in separate scenes and then imported into environment scene. In this case place parts of environment assets in sub-asset folder

Display layers:

  • GEOMT — layer with render geometry
  • HIRES — layer with heavy for viewport display render geometry
XGen for environment asset plants population

Large area of environments covered with assets procedural with XGen module.
XGen files for environments are developed in look development scenes of environments:
Name of Maya scene with XGen:
Name XGen collection: SCT_<environmentName> Name XGen description: SCT_<environmentName>_<assetName> Name XGen geometry: SCT_GEO_<property>

After finalizing Xgen developing artist export all XGen data with EXPORT XGEN button of Render Manager. In every render shot scene render artist imports XGen data with IMPORT XGEN button.

Environment dynamic assets

EDA usually modeled in environment scenes and than necessary geometry exported as separate asset into corresponding location. After exporting EDA geometry it should be deleted from environment scene.

Name and location of environment dynamic asset

Place EDA files in:
Name EDA files:

Asset modelling quality control

Finalized model should fit such requirements:

  • Freeze transformations and deleted history.
  • Non overlapped and non-flipped UVs
  • Proper naming and hierarchy.
  • Shading info and subdivision in attributes.
  • Cleaned scene. No extra nodes but geometry (and rigging nodes for RIG forms) should exist in scene, especially shading nodes.

Use CHECK SCENE button of Asset Manger to check scene for the quality requirements consistency.

Asset texturing

Each color texture should be presented in *.jpg and *.tx formats.
Source files to create textures: <rootProject>/PREP/MISC/SRC_TX/

UDIM workflow. Texture: <textureName.1001.jpg>
In mColor: <textureName>
In shader token: <attr:mColor>.<udim>.jpg

Asset rigging

Rigging (or setup) — is a process of creating a system which allow to animate assets and characters. The main requirement to the rigging task: correct behavior with ABC caches (parent constrains not supported).

Asset look development

Refer to look development and rendering phase description.

Layout and animation

Layout and animation general notes

Layout — is synergistic cycle between modeling and animation. It is the first step of animation process, where we define and test environment space, cameras, characters basic actions for each shot.

To start layout it`s necessary to have rough models of environments (basic objects in their positions: land, buildings and other objects, which interact with characters) and rigged characters.

As result of layout stage we get rough model of environment tested in particular shots, positions and basic characters motion, cameras. Also we got first 3D renders (playblasts) at this phase.

Creation of layout and animation file:
Layout artist creates animation scenes for each shot with Shot Assembler.
Each animation file consists from referenced environment, characters and props, camera.
Layout artist set camera lenses with Animation Manager, place characters assets and cameras in necessary positions, add very rough motion with stepped keys.

After finishing and approving layout, layout scene should be delivered to animators.
Animation and layout scenes has the same name and location, animation scene is next version of layout scene.

Animation — is a process of adding motion to characters and props by setting keys on control elements.
Animation produces on shot basis, for each shot there is animation file on hard drive. Each animator handle whole shot with all characters and props inside. Each animation file can be handled only by one animator at the same time.

Creation of animation scenes

Layout artist creates layout scenes with CREATE ANIMATION SCENE button of Shot Assembler

Location and name of animation files:

Animation files located in:
Name of animation files:
References for animation department:
Sound location:
Sound name:
Playblasts location:
Playblast name:

Animation process:

  • animation starts at frame 101
  • camera should has lens defined with Animation Manager (12-180 buttons)
  • animators receive scene after layout approve, setup camera and lens, set keys, makes playblasts with Animation Manager.
  • during the work animators may save other version of file with SNV button in DNA shelf or in Animation Manager. No file name changes allowed!
  • animation can be done ONLY ON CONTROL ELEMENTS in scene, no geometry should be animated or moved.
  • animators should not add objects, characters or props by themselves manually. Use only CHECK SCENE, ADD CHAR, ADD ASSETS, ADD ENV and FIX ALL procedures of Animation Manager to check and fix animation scene.
  • animators could create constrains for space switching, also using only control control objects.
  • if render camera required special rig, than Pipeline TD creates rig for the camera and add it to animation scene.
  • no hierarchy changes allowed, parenting can be done only with constrains.
  • add service keys for each character.
  • create playblasts only with PLAYBLAST button of Animation Manager

After animation has been approved:

  • check quality of animation file
  • publish animation file with PUBLISH button of Animation Manager
  • select frame which describe shot, press JPG button of Animation Manager

Service keys

For the dynamic cloth and fur simulation two additional keyframes for each character are required:

  • in 90 frame set character in T-pose,
  • in 1 frame move it to default position (Main control translate and rotate set to 0)

Animation quality control

Before exporting animation data scene should be checked:

  • for consistency of asset and scene with FTrack
    (CHECK SCENE button of Animation Manager)
  • intersections of assets and asset parts

Refer to cinematography tutorials for tips and techniques.

Look development and rendering

Look development and rendering general notes

Rendering, by general definition, is a conversion of vector data to a raster images.
In terms of pipeline organization, rendering shots its last phase 3D branch, where data from all 3D departments assembles in one scene for each shot and outputted as a sequence of EXR files to be transferred to the compositing department.

Look development — is a process which define physical behavior of surfaces and volumetric in conjunction with lighting. The result of look development process is materials and lights.

For each character and environment asset should be created material library which include materials for all objects in the asset scene. To create library for each environment we use base material library (which include number of common materials like wood, metal, grass etc and called SET GENERAL) as a starting point and during look development of environment tweak materials to achieve necessary appearance.

Final set of materials for each environment exported as environment material library to: <rootScenes>/LIBRARY/MATERIALS/ASSETS/ENVIRONMENTS/<envName>/

All materials for SET GENERAL are created in certain lighting conditions, in common for all assets scene with a lighting template — LIGHTROOM located in:
This ensure that all materials will work fine together after assembling a render scene.

Look development scene is a fabric for materials production. These scenes located in:
When you setup Melony tree you enter GEN_BARK_A and GEN_PLANT_A material names in mMat attributes. This mean, that there should be such materials in a library.

Rendering pipeline

For each shot of the film should be creating individual render scene with CREATE RENDER SCENE button of Shot Assembler.

Shot Assembler:

  • creates Maya scene located in:
  • reference GEO forms of all assets , linked to a shot in project database
  • import published materials for each character and environment
  • setup scene playback range

Render scene contains all data from 3D branch which should be rendered in 3D:

  • assets
  • props and environments
  • animation
  • camera
  • fur
  • FX
  • materials and lights
  • AOVs

Each finalized scene should be export to ASS sequence with RENDER SHOT button of Render Manager to be rendered on render farm.

Output data of 3D rendering process — sequences of exr files which contain beauty image of shot spitted into passes (direct diffuse, indirect diffuse, direct specular etc) and extra data for compose, such as AO, IDs, normal, depth etc.

Rendering shot elements separatly

If you need to render any element of the shot separately (for example render character apart from background) you need to create and setup render scene for each element. This elements commonly named render layers.
Location of render scene for each render layer:
Name of render scene for each render layer

location and names of 3D rendering outputs

Location for single BEAUTY layer:
Name for single BEAUTY layer:

Location for FX layer:
Name for FX layer:

Location of rendering output for other layers of shot:
Name of rendering output for other layers of shot:

Codes for layers (<coleLayer>):

  • Environment = BGR
  • Characters = <assetCode>
  • FX = <fxCode>

location and names of look development output files

Location for characters turntables:
Location for dynamic assets turntables:
Location for static assets turntables:
Name for assets look development file:
Location for environment assets files:
Name for environment assets files:

Rendering shots workflow

After animation has been approved for each shot should be created animation, cloth and hairs caches.

In each sequence artist need to choose master shots(one or several), setup lighting for this shots and export light group named LIT_E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot> to lighting library in <rootScenes>/LOOKDEV/LIBRARY/LIGHTS/<codeRSS>

Then rendering artist could create and setup rendering scene for each shot of the sequence:

  • Create rendering scene with Shot Assembler
  • Import animation and cloth with Animation Importer
  • Import all references
  • With Render Manager:
    • Import FUR
    • Import XGen
    • Assign Materials to objects
  • Clean up scene
    • Delete objects invisible to camera
    • Delete unused nodes in hypershade
  • Prepare lighting:
    • Import master shot light group from lighting library
    • Rename group to LIT_E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot>
    • Connect volume shader in Environment > Atmospher if volume lighting used in scenes.
  • With Render Manager:
    • Create depth of field system (DOF button)
    • Create IDs and passes (skip for previz stage)
    • Setup render settings
  • Switch proxy to rendering mode
  • Tweak lights, setup focus point and aperture to get final look of the shot
  • Publish shot
  • Export scene to *.ass sequence(RENDER SHOT button)
  • Create job in deadline monitor

Rendering pipeline scheme.

Prepare assets for rendering.

Rendering starts from modeling.
Obvious setup assume custom material for each asset in scene. Sometimes different objects can share same shader but never the less, the more object exists in scene, the more shaders should be used which increase difficulty of scene setup and tweaking. Main idea of optimization Lighting rendering process is reducing general amount of shaders in project to a very low number.

One way to perform this is to organizine materials by physical types (metals, woods, glass, stones etc) so amount of shaders become limited and not connected to amount of objects. Varying of individual characteristics for each asset can be achieved through custom MtoA attributes with individual parameters (such as material or texture name) on each asset.

Having one common material library we can use it in any rendering scene.
Character assets is an exception — each character has its own material library.

To provide this workflow all assets should be prepared in certain way to fit rendering pipeline requirements.
In general this mean:

  • each asset should contain basic shading information (names with paths and required material) stored in custom MtoA attributes on the objects shapes.
  • Maya scenes with assets are clean from all nodes but geometry.
  • all assets uses the same material library. But each character has its own material library.
  • all materials should be assigned to assets in render scene.

There are 3 main tools for lighting-rendering phase:

Look development and rendering process

Look development of assets

Overall workflow for look development phase:
In <rootScenes>/LOOKDEV/ASSETS/ with a lighting templates from
you create material library for assets and environments for the whole project and save it to

Depending on project there could be several set types (for example set for materials with UDIM textures etc). Each character has individual material library developed in
and finally resaved in

Lighting and rendering of shots

Lighting and rendering artist:

  • create shot scene
  • create lights
  • submit and publish preview render
  • execute
  • submit and publish final render

Look development and rendering quality control

Render frame with low quality settings half size, submit to comp department.

Refer to rendering tutorials for tips and techniques.


FX general notes

FX — is special type of assets, which could not be created with regular polygonal modeling techniques, or special type of animation, which could not be created with rigged asset.

Fluids, hairs, rigid body simulation are common examples of FX. There are two types of FX existing in each shot — CLOTH and FUR, so they has their own categories, tools and procedures, separated from the others FX.

Formulating FX brief and FTrack setup. FX TD with VFX supervisor analyze story reel and create list of FX for each shot. There could be several different FX for each shot. Each FX task receives unique for particular shot name (<codeFX>). For each FX in particular shot in FTrack project manager using list of FX creates a task (task type = FX) with a name equal to FX code (Note that all names are case sensitive!) In each task should be brief of FX from a director and art of FX.

FX Manager is a main tool of FX phase.

Creation of FUR FX scenes

To create scenes for fur simulation: enter reel, sequence and shot number, press CREATE FUR SCENE. For each character in noticed shot Maya scene with all data and connections will be created.

FX Manager procedure: name and save fur scene for each character for particular shot, Import fur file and ABC cache, connect ABC animation to fur geometry, setup output cache file name.

To export cache: open scene for each character, setup dynamic behavior, press WRITE CACHE FOR CURRENT SCENE. You don’t need to set Reel, sequence and shot values to export caches.

Creation of common FX scenes

To create scenes for common FX (all FX excluding FUR and CLOTH simulation) : enter reel, sequence, shot number and , press CREATE FX SCENE in FX Manager.

FX Manager procedure: create Maya scene with proper name and place into proper location. Create empty group <codeFX>_E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot> where FX artist should place all data required for rendering.

FX artist place to the scene all data required to produce particular FX:

After FX scene is finalized, FX artist should publish FX scene by pressing ANALYZE CURRENT FX and PUBLISH FX

ART for FX:

Cloth workflow

Location of cloth scenes:
Name of cloth scenes:
CLT_ E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot>_###.mb Location of cloth caches:
Name of cloth caches:

Fur workflow

Making with Yeti. Location of scenes with fur models:
Name of scenes with fur models:

Location of scenes for fur simulation for shots:
Name of scenes with fur simulations:
<codeChar>_ E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot>_###.mb

Location of fur simulation caches:
Name of fur simulation caches:

Common FX workflow

Whatever technique and software used for FX creation the final data for transferring in render scene located in:
Name for Maya scenes with FX:

Version of FX file, cleaned up from unnecessary for the rendering process data, has to be published with FX Manager.

Paths for cashing simulation data. NOTE: Need to change ABC path to alembic/SHOTS+ASSETS/ ASS/SHOTS+ASSETS and VDB/SHOTS+ASSETS

Location of ABC output:
ABC Name:
<codeFX>_ E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot>_v<###>.abc
Location of VDB output:
Name of VDB output:
Location of ASS output:
Name of ASS output:

If for any reasons FX need to be rendered separately from the master layer, place renders:
Name FX renders:

Playblast of particular FX in each shot could be done with PLAYBLAST button of Animation Manager.
Location of FX playblasts:
Name of FX playblasts:
<codeFX>_ E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot>_###_###.mov

Importing camera to scene with FX could be done with IMPORT CAMERA button of Animation Importer

2D branch

2D overview | Procedure | Output

2D branch general notes

2D (compositing) branch is last stage of VFX segment where all shots gets their final look before being graded.

Compositing — is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single image.

Folder structure for compositing branch

The root folder for compositing branch is: <rootProject>/PROD/2D

All compositing data (Nuke files and compositing python scripts) exists in this folder. Inside compositing root we have folder COMP — folder with Nuke scripts for whole project, organized according to film structure:

For each shot Nuke script file has name: E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot>_v###.nk

Folder with python scripts, gizmoz, plugins and templates: <rootProject>/PREP/PIPELINE/DNA/2D

Compositing tools

compositing tools

Compositing procedure

After 3D preview render of key frames is done (FTrack Lookdev task switched to pending review, Compositing task — to Ready to start ) compositing artist assemble shot: creates Nuke script with loader and write nodes with a help of Shot Assembler. Compositing artist has to check rendered frames for errors (visible defects, masks and passes ), make rough compositing, render JPGs and publish shot. If mistakes in render found — create Error report in Ftrack (note to Compositing task) addressed to Lighting and Rendering TD.

After 3D render of sequence is done (FTrack Rendering task switched to complete) compositing artist finalize shot using artistic review as a reference, render sequence of MOV, JPG, DPX, publish shot in Ftrack, switch compositng task from ready to start to pending review.

Output from 2D branch

Rendered shots from Nuke for color grading process:
Rendered shots from RENDER_2D for editing process:
<rootProject>/PROD/RENDER_2D /MOV/<codeSequence>/SHOT_<codeShot>/
E<codeSequence>_S<codeShot> _v<###>.mov
Rendered shots from RENDER_2D for ART department:

Compositing specifications

MOV = Quick Time Pro res 4444
DPX = 10 bit Cineon colorspace


Art general notes

ART root folder is: <rootProject>/PREP/ART/
Concept art for assets: <rootProject>/PREP/ART/ASSETS/
Color KEY for shots: <rootProject>/PREP/ART/SHOTS/<codeRSS>/CLR_E040_S005_001.jpg

Editing and grading

Editing and grading general notes

Editing and grading process combined into one brunch. Editing and grading root folder:


Editing is the art, technique and practice of assembling shots into a coherent sequence.

Folder with Adobe Premiere project files: <rootProject>/PRO
Folder with SRC sound: <rootProject>/EDIT/SRC/SOUND
Render sound for 3D department: <rootProject>/PROD/3D/sound/REEL_01/050/E050_S010_001.wav
Folder with editing preview: <rootProject>/EDIT/OUT
Editing preview by episode : <rootProject>/EDIT/OUT/REEL_01/150/R01_E150_v003.mp4
Editing preview by REEL: <rootProject>/EDIT/OUT/REEL_01/REEL_01_v001.mp4


Grading is a process of changing color of a motion picture (film) for enhancing and adopting to a cinema screen. The source materials for grading process:

  • Compositing branch output renderings of each shot as *.dpx sequences
  • Movie editing information as .edl or .xml files

Input data for grading

Final rendered shots from COMP department in 10 bit DPX cineon color space:
XML of movie edit:
Reference MOV with corresponding to XML version:
Brief for colorist (color key etc.):
Sound: <rootProject>\EDIT\SRC\SOUND

Location of MOV to be converted to DCP:
Name of file:

Output data from grading

Video files for TV and Internet : <rootProject>/EDIT/GRAD/FORMATS

Project with shooting materials

SRC from shooting: <rootProject>/EDIT/SRC/MATERIALS/<codeRSS>
Convert SRC for production needs: <rootProject>/EDIT/OUT/PROD/JPG/<codeRSS>

Stereo conversion

Output data for stereo conversion from compositing department

Location of files for passes (depth, IDs etc):
(version = .exr 3D render version!)
Name of files for passes (.tif 32 bit float):

Passes code reference:

  • depth = DPT
  • depth aliased = DPS
  • ID AOVs = I<##>


Input data for DCP

Location of MOV to be converted to DCP:
Name of file:

Output data from DCP

Location of DCP package:
Name of DCP file: