New from Tangent Animation: Next Gen. Is this Bender?

@gull1ver - @Indy_logic is correct. I’m Jeff Bell, one of the co-founders of Tangent. I’m happy to answer other questions regarding our use of Blender that are not related directly to the content of the movie itself.

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Well, then I hope to see your code improvements committed to the Blender master soon. :bowing_man:

I don’t have any questions at the moment, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an extensive video featurette on the use of Blender in this movie, or at the very least a general in-depth making-of documentary. Maybe even in time for the Blender conference. I don’t know if you have any say in this, because the movie seems to be 90% Chinese-made, judging by how Alibaba Pictures and other Asian companies’ names plastered all over the posters, but know that a lot of people would love to see that happen. (The Blender Institute included I bet.)

great news, been wishing this was blender & cycles since I read that article -maybe a month ago-
was not able to see the trailer back then, it looks fantastic

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Congratulations on announcing the movie, the trailer looks great! Thanks also for all the information about what software you used and how your developers improved Blender. Thanks so much for contributing so much to Blender, as the work you are paying developers for benefits all of us. I’m looking forward to some of your Blender improvements from Next Gen getting into regular Blender one day :slight_smile:

While I’m sure your priority is to develop just the features you need to the standard required, rather than aiming in particular to get their work merged into Blender’s master branch, is there any consideration for getting all these juicy new features merged as you are developing them? Do your developers work fairly closely with the BF developers, or are they mostly in Tangent just making sure features get added so your artists can work more efficiently?

Are you planning another talk for Blender Conference this year? I’m sure we’d all love to here more about Next Gen’s development.

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Congratulations ! You assumed a great challenge and were successful.
For a development like this, they work only with their own staff or they hire freelance as well ?
Thx in advance.

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Thank you - we (Tangent, Baozou, etc) are very proud of the end result and are looking forward to everyone being able to watch the film.

We work with the Foundation as closely as we possibly can, and our intention is to spend the time checking in every feature that passes muster with the Foundation/Institute. Tangent is also active in sponsoring development at the Institute: eevee was one of the development efforts that Tangent was involved in sponsoring, for instance.

We did not concentrate on esoteric features that would only be of use for our production. For example, we looked at mechanisms to speed up Cycles and improve its reliability and performance that would be useful to anyone rendering with Cycles, whether for personal projects or for large productions.

We will definitely do a talk at some point - the film has to release in all markets before we can consider this though.

Mostly in house in our Winnipeg and Toronto offices, but we did utilize freelancers for certain work as well, in Europe, the US, and Canada.

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@twitchmedia what is your opinion for blender rigging and animation tools?
are on par with the competition?

This is fantastic work! Thank you for sharing it!

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Hi @drgci,

While I can’t speak for Tangent as a whole, and I don’t have Jeff’s in depth knowledge & understanding-- having animated on the film I can give you my opinion regarding the animation side of things.

Blender has a great animation suit. Blenders production animation workflow is comparably efficient to any other package. There are of course, pros and cons when comparing any two tools, and personal preference will come into play when doing so.

Short answer: Blender is totally capable of feature level animation, and the animation workflow has only improved with what was learned during Tangents first feature production. There are areas that need improvement, but for the vast majority those problems are not limits on creativity or quality. Some of the biggest problems (multi armature editing and limited timeline functionality) have already been address in 2.8. Many other problems were addressed by Tangent in house. There are still some lacking features and functionality (and hot key optimization) that Blender will need going forward-- but none of that will stifle creativity. Again, a lot of it comes down to personal preference and workflow.

Personally I love Blender, and feel there are many advantages it’s animation workflow has when compared to software like Maya (3D cursor, actions, GRS workflow, ect…) and I only see it getting better as more studios adopt and share their improvements.

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Thanks for the info. It’s great to see Tangent Animation studio being one of a few places using Blender in the production pipeline.
The movie looks great. I’m very excited to see this once Netflix has it available.

There’s a bit of both. Obviously, the production has priority and that’s where the main development happens. Then again, getting patches into master is more than just altruism: Having the studio build and the “official” Blender as close as possible makes it easier to debug custom patches (since then you have a baseline to compare to) and to cherry-pick individual patches and fixes from master to the studio version. Submitting a patch to master also means getting some extra code review by other Blender developers, which improves overall quality for both standard and custom Blender builds.

Personally, when I had a fix or improvement that I felt was quick and safe to submit to master, I did that. To name a few, these patches are a direct result of this production:
https://developer.blender.org/D2650
https://developer.blender.org/D2730
https://developer.blender.org/D2937
https://developer.blender.org/D3024

Not quite ready yet for master are the branches with texture caching, Embree and Cryptomatte on git.blender.org, which were also developed for this production.

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Thanks for that info. I guess getting the code reviewed by experienced Blender devs is a huge bonus of working with the community, as it means your artists are less likely to waste time encountering bugs. I’m looking forward to seeing your branches get to master one day; Your presentation at bconf last year was very interesting, with Cryptomatte looking especially cool.

I guess another small advantage of getting all these features into master is that artists the studio might hire may already be familiar with the tools you are using on your productions, instead of having to learn how to use them once they arrive and find a slightly unfamiliar super customised Blender.

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JUST WOW!!!

This is so exciting to see what could do with Blender and to read that you will help BF to re-incorporate your changes into Blender where possible! So the wheel is rolling you get the advantages of using a free software with unlimited free licenses for your render farm too and you give back by re-incorporating features that you develop for it! I hope many other major productions will do the same and then Blender will become a must for everyone in the industry.

I hope you can add the VDB import and rendering features in Blender that’s one of the most missing feature in my opinion.

Thanks for sharing and can’t wait for the movie!!!

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I bought Ozzy just to support Blender in the movie industry. I’m glad it’s paying off. The trailer has Big Hero 6 vibes.

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I do have a question actually, what do you guys use for render management and do you use GPU at all?

Well holy shit, I was impressed by this trailer - animation is snappy, rendering looks flawless, direction seems generally good too, even though there’s not much to go on - and that’s a lot of good news here. :slight_smile: Impressive work !

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Currently, we utilize Deadline for render management, both with our in-house farm, and with Amazon. We have our own manager that we’re currently developing that we are utilizing to manage renders on Alibaba, but that’s not ready for prime-time yet.

We did not use any GPU rendering on this show - the scene sizes, textures, etc were too large. That said, we do have big plans for eevee in future, which is one of the reasons we helped sponsor its development - it’s a fantastic technology, and the Blender Institute should be very proud of where they’ve gotten it to.

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sidenote:

Hi
If you like to take a look, there is a free render management very similar to Deadline. Currently we are testing it for future productions.

https://prism-pipeline.com/pandora/

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How long would it need to render full movie in Cycles ?

We averaged 3.76 hours per frame on NextGen - some sequences rendered a lot more quickly, some took a lot longer (think: water effects via Alembic caches, 20-30 VDB’s in a single shot for smoke, fire and explosions, etc). There are obviously many redo’s and artistic retakes involved, but if you eliminate those, here’s a rough breakdown:

  • 93 minute movie == 133920 frames @ 24 FPS
  • We rendered 5 different versions of the movie: English mono, English and Mandarin Stereo (for the Chinese market), so this is 669600 frames
  • Each frame took 3.76 hours on average
  • One machine would take 2517696 hours, or 104904 days to render the movie. We had around 2500 nodes working on it, which equals roughly 42 days

In reality, the Mandarin lipsync was only done for the shots that warranted it for facial animation, which was about 350’ish shots. Those renders were done by using an animated render region, targeting just the mouth, so those renders tended to take 1/4 to 1/2 the time of the full renders. These regions were then composited on top of the English renders to replace the lipsync.

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