For the second season of Amazon Prime's production American Gods, the the Toronto based studio Tendril contacted us to support them in their work of creating auras for the god characters. When we joined the project, the look and methods were already established and our task was to use their tools and output the aura elements for Odin, Mamma-Ji and Bilquis.
The challenge of this show was to quickly output the FX simulations and beauty renders based on incoming animation versions for each character. Since there were 3 characters, with multiple FX elements each, sometimes together in the same shot, going through multiple versions of animation, one can see how this can quickly become a messy situation.
Stormborn Studios chose two solutions to overcome this challenge.
First we wrote a tool that would list all received animations for each character from the client and connect them to the Houdini files with the corresponding FX setup. The artist could use this tool and send the file for simulation and rendering to the Deadline Render Manager. This would automatically create a QC (Quality Control) Quicktime with the FX slapped over the plate. With this 'power' of simply hitting a button and triggering a chain of processes, a lot of data was created that needed to be sorted and organized. Therefore we implemented a second solution to keep things in oversight. Once the FX were approved, we would put the versions to a database, where the version was linked to its incoming animation and other important information.
Finally, the data was sent back to the client for approval.
These two new innovations for our pipeline allowed us to deliver 26 shots in 6 weeks with only 1 FX Artist and a bit of coding. It has taught us how to be efficient and showed us the challenges that come with scaling to a big project. This led to a number of organisational and pipeline improvements in the following months to strengthen our infrastructure.