DreamWorks Animation's Apollo Animation Software

From this article:

Though the software is only shown briefly, it’s still very cool to look at. Perhaps the community can get inspired :slight_smile: Also they allude to selling it…perhaps?

People at dreamworks actually hate it because it’s super slow.

The second article is more in the vein of HTTYD 2 failing to make a profit in theaters (couldn’t even beat an R-rated comedy in its opening weekend).

I believe their last major blockbuster (Rise of the Guardians) suffered the same thing, the only thing I know that I heard they had in common was that they basically told the entire movie in the trailers and left nothing to cause surprise and suspense in moviegoers (if you know the whole movie, then why even go see it in theaters as opposed to waiting for the DVD?).

And yes, it can turn off potential viewers even if it is a fact that 95 percent of all theatrical animations have a positive ending (which that doesn’t really need a trailer to guess).

I think you mean “Rise of the Guardians”; “Legend of the Guardians” was the Australian one about owls with the gorgeous production design - also it was put out by Warner Bros, not DreamWorks.

That was the old version of the software the newer version is quicker cgtalk had an article about it the other day it talks about all the improvements the made to it.

Watching the video’s its not as revolutionary as I first thought, the first example I watched had the animators sculpting the rig with wacoms. But later examples showed that they are just manipulating controls that are hidden.

Anyone have any information about what Apollo does that is new/revolutionary? Or is it just a little bit better all over?

After reading the Verge and FxGuide articles, I was beginning to think I had the situation sussed out, but after seeing the video in the link above, it appears that I was off on a few counts (or simply mislead by the layman reporter).

The Verge and FxGuide articles basically made it sound like their old “Emo” software was a horrid old hack where you’ve got no interactive controls whatsoever (i.e. no in-viewport manipulators, no transform tools, but maybe you might still have viewport rotation if you’re lucky). It sounded like artists were forced to pose their rigs by typing in numbers in the spreadsheet, then hitting a “calculate animation” button, which would run some kind of batch process (complete with modal-blocking progress dialog, that runs for a few minutes) that goes through the entire timeline and bakes out the effect of changing those parameters on the whole shot, before finally they could play back the cached animation (or even see the new pose of their character) with the changes applied. Oh, and this baked animation was still done using low-poly proxy models, but still, if they tried to animate more than one character at a time, the system would simply crash (presumably from not having enough RAM to store all the data for both rigs).

From clips seen in the video above though, the situation seems a bit less dire. It seemed that they could in fact still move controls about interactively (see the shot where they’ve got an animator supposedly playing around with how open Hiccup’s mouth is), and the animation baking seemed to be running at about 1 frame every 1-2 seconds (unless of course, we just caught it mid-update). At one point, it also looked like some animator was actually animating/working in Maya instead (I do wonder whether it’s true that some guys animated in Maya in the past… would that mean that there was some kind of exporter/importer to get the animation back out of Maya into their system)?

As far as the rigs go, while the initial videos I saw all seemed to suggest that they had moved away from placing actual controls on any of the rigs, it seems instead that they simply have them hidden but still selectable - exactly like some of the rigs I was playing around with a few years ago, which was also inspired by some experiments from Keith Lango back in the day with his “Otto” rig IIRC.


Now, away from all the conjecture and looking more at stuff we actually know for certain:

  • This whole system is powered by a intensely multithreaded depsgraph engine, which they’ve published a paper on (I’ve posted a link to this before, but it might be paywalled), and some publicly available course notes which basically repeat most of the same (with a greater focus on what lessons they learned when trying to deploy this stuff in production). Blender’s new depsgraph draws heavily on this work, with tweaks in so that it works with what we’ve got.

  • We know that they report that they’re getting 12 fps out of their new system for interactive posing. (Watching the videos though, you’d be mistaken for thinking it might still be slightly lower, but then again, we got 12 fps out of some of the more complex rigs used in several high-profile Blender productions that I’ve come across. Of course, all this means nothing as we don’t know much about the geometric complexity of their models and also the types of things they’ve got in their rigs. For all we know, they could well be trying to run full-blown physics sims for fleshy tissue deformation + secondary motion/effects on their characters while still achieving that performance).

  • They run all this on workstations with 12-16 cores minimum. Most Blender users are lucky to work with more than 4 cores.

  • This system represents a studio-wide project involving the complete replacement of all their existing technology. All in all, that process took 4 years (though I’m not sure now whether that included the initial R&D time for the core). All rig components had to be redeveloped in C++ (absolutely no scripting allowed - their course notes PDF finally explained why this couldn’t happen in more detail than their paper did… it boils down to no interpreters being up for the job, basically), made threadsafe (even they admit this was bloody difficult, and had to be done as a “managed transition” with things tagged as being “good” or “bad” for multithreaded usage, with users actually provided with “emergency stop” buttons in the UI to kill multithreading if it just all goes to custard), and then all TD’s retrained on how to build rigs that didn’t suck under this architecture.

  • For reference (from Brecht’s writeup of last year’s Siggraph), Pixar uses a less granular but still multithreaded depsgraph (i.e. one thread per character or so), caches animation using spare CPU power (this is perhaps why you’ll notice that their timeline starts to gradually fill up with dark-green a few seconds after each change to the rig - see the Nvidia demo). A big chunk of their speed comes from simply offloading the geometry handling to the GPU via stuff like OpenSubdiv, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they also use a bunch of much leaner rigs as well. Their rigs probably have simpler deformer setups (i.e. we can safely bet that at least some of these use Mesh Deforms/Harmonic Coordinates, and that the meshes might also use some kind of statistical cache+prediction tech - “key point subspace acceleration and soft caching” are two that we know about from their papers - internal studio-only stuff and/or other stuff they only have patents on but not published otherwise). Pixar, if you’re reading this, I’d be very interesting in hearing whether my guesses on these things are correct :wink:

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this video is better to check the software

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Hate what? sorry I’m new and I’m trying to find the download for Apollo (AKA) the software that dreamwork use now

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No, you cannot download and use Dreamworks’ in-house tools…

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Just noticed that Aligorith’s post was 4 years ago after liking it. Anyway, I noticed that he said “most Blender users are lucky to work with more than 4 cores”, which is only just starting to change thanks to AMD’s Ryzen chips forcing intel’s hand on the core count (although, we’ve had 8 thread for ages).

I would be interested how much a massively multi-core CPU like the latest Threadrippers (next-gen ROME is supposed to offer 64 cores, 128 threads in it’s max configuration) can affect depsgraph performance. Even the current $210 Ryzen cpus offer 8 cores. Are all those cores going to come in handy for more than just Cycles now?

Exactly this is not good mate how can I download Apollo please tell me please please please

It’s not publicly available. If you know a sys admin from DreamWorks that doesn’t mind getting fired for sharing it I guess you could always ask though.