Monday, December 9, 2013

Alembic Pipeline

We have come to realize the amazing potential of the Alembic format in almost every step of the process.

It can clean the hierarchy of the nodes, bake the animations, reduce scene sizes, increase the fps count in the viewport, even reduce render times!!!. So in order to harvest all this power we developed a series of tools to help the artist to manage, export and load the files seamlessly, easy and fast, while keeping them organized and consistent.

We have a standalone version and one integrated with Shotgun and Tank (Pipeline Tookit), both versions do almost the same in the guts. 

Behind the tools:

  • They first search through the hierarchy of all the objects finding patterns of whether they belong to the same character or not, so all the geometry goes in the same group in the end.
  • They search for all possible cameras in the scene finding the right ones for the shot.
  • In the Stand Alone version the user is asked for a time range and a path to save the file, in the Integrated version all this information is loaded from the Shotgun database.
  • Then the files are versioned, labeled and saved properly together with the scene where they come from.
  • The Pipeline Toolkit version is implemented as a hook in the Publish App but ours is designed in a way that versioning is recognized by the Maya Scene Breakdown App (which we also have to tweak for this to work), rather than this one.

With this method we were able to reduce scene complexity and file size to around 1% of the original way. Here is an example demonstrating the principle: (Simple scene, single character, simple animation)

Now the same scene with the same character and the same animation, but cached with Alembic: