Tuesday, July 5, 2011

End User Excitement 2011

If you have missed the news, I have a new job!

As of June 20th, after 7 years, 6 months and one week as Technical Director, I am officially employed by Thinkbox Software.

"New" might not be exactly correct, because I have been spending over 50% of my time at Frantic Films/Prime Focus co-developing Krakatoa & Co. in the last few years. For all users who felt uneasy by the fact that my name was missing from the Thinkbox' About page, breathe freely now! As Product Specialist located in Vancouver, I will be involved in the development of documentation, tutorials, customer demos, user interface and tools, as well as participate in feature planning.

I spent the last week in Holland where I participated with two one-hour talks in the End User Event 2011. I was lucky to get the opening slot on the first day, ensuring the 90-seats hall #1 was full for my "Krakatoa and Frost" demo. It was meant as a quick introduction to the power of the two products used together, including MagmaFlow control over Radius, Color and Orientation channels; Procedural particle placement using ray intersection and nearest point queries; Fast collision detection using Krakatoa operators in Particle Flow, increasing particle count using Frost and PRT Volume; Dynamic filling of closed volumes using PFlow and Krakatoa Collision; Creation of rivets using Krakatoa, Frost and MAXScript to sample control maps on complex structures; Cloud modeling and rendering using Sphere Gizmos, Frost, PRT Volume and MagmaFlow, including a quick preview of some Krakatoa 2.0 goodness. I intend to post some new tutorials based on these demos on the Frost Tutorials page later this month. (EDIT: First tutorial is now available here)

Image by Master Zap
I heard some people mentioning that I was talking too fast, but this was necessary in order to fit 6 practical examples created pretty much from scratch in front of live audience within 60 minutes. Each time I finished a topic I looked at my watch and was amazed to see exactly the minutes I hoped to see - 10, 20, 30, 40, 50... done! I had executed these demos dozens of times at home, but never timed the complete presentation to make sure it fits in the time slot. Turned out my internal clock was pretty precise, nearly as precise as the Dutch railways that also impressed me a lot ;)

My second talk was an overview of the software development at Frantic Films and Prime Focus leading to the intellectual property now owned by Thinkbox Software, in the context of the visual effects projects that made the tools necessary. In this light, I tried to explain how applications like Deadline, Krakatoa, Frost and Flood came to be.

Despite my jet lag I managed to listen to a lot of presentations by others. My general impression was that all studios, big and small, have to fight the exactly same problems when it comes to pipeline and artist friendly tools, and there is a lot of wheel reinventing going on. I loved the Planet 51 pipeline presentation which reminded me so much of the Prime Focus pipeline it was spooky! Great minds (read: Laszlo Sebo and Gonzalo Rueda) think alike! I was also positively shocked to see Neil Hazzard spend time demoing the script I wrote for Nitrous/Quicksilver NPR mode customization.

Both my talks gave me a short opportunity to show some internal W.I.P. development for Krakatoa 2.0. My impression was that these upcoming features will make a lot of people happy, but I won`t discuss them here yet in hopes to make the upcoming Siggraph 2011 in Vancouver even more exciting. You know me, I like teasing as much as my new old boss Chris Bond does ;)

Stay tuned, there's just a month left until Siggraph!