Hey all,

Was just wondering if anyone else was at the Pixar Experimental Shorts talk about Smash and Grab at the Houdini booth at SIGGRAPH today? Need to share the hype with someone 😂
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Pixar Post - T.J.
I was really hoping someone else that saw this had attended - we'll throw a word out in our next podcast to see who might reply. Please, share what you saw...we wish we could have been there. How was the short? Ahh!
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Pixar Post - T.J. wrote: I was really hoping someone else that saw this had attended - we'll throw a word out in our next podcast to see who might reply. Please, share what you saw...we wish we could have been there. How was the short? Ahh!

The talk was only half an hour long and they were only allowed to show a trailer (and I asked when they would be releasing the full short but no word out yet on a date) but I am excited for the future shorts coming out of this programme!

So the short itself, Smash and Grab, is 6 minutes and 51 seconds long and seems to be about 2 robots working on breaking these crystal-like materials on a train then seemingly trying to escape the train. From the looks of things, the train is on some sort of mineral planet. The team had 6 months to complete the project and around 20% of the budget a usual short film at Pixar would have. They also only had 6 full time staff working on this - they said everyone else could be taken off the project at any time.

What's most surprising is that they used Mocap for the performances of the robots, with just 49% of the short being animated - the rest was either pure motion capture (which was integrated into Presto) or touched up mocap.

What's great about this programme is that they have very little executive supervision - according to the guys, they could do whatever they want and so they essentially changed their pipeline almost completely. If I remember correctly, instead of the usual iterative process of story <-> storyboard then layout -> animation -> fx -> lighting -> rendering -> editing it was more story <-> layout <-> editing then animation -> fx -> lighting -> rendering. And in terms of the software used, that changed almost entirely to having lighting,lookdev and shading in Houdini rather than the usual Katana with rendering being done with Mantra in the place of RenderMan RIS.

Exciting stuff! 😄
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Pixar Post - T.J.
Wow - I can understand why this stood out so much to you and you wanted to talk about it. That's awesome! I think it makes sense how they changed the pipeline because they probably had to be so much more flexible working around the schedule and availability of the staff and computers. Rendering it in Mantra is a big surprise - I figured that would have been a go-to being RenderMan RIS. Did they expand on that reasoning at all?

Side Note - I'm also thinking that since we're talking about Smash and Grab, I may move this to a different topic surrounding Pixar Employee side projects...but I'll do that later.

That is also really awesome that they used motion capture for so much of it. Not because I want Pixar to ultimately go that way, but I like shaking things up. They've done some motion capture on The Blue Umbrella and Inside Out, but it was always from the camera's standpoint rather than a character being motion, did they expand on what they captured to track the movements?

Overall, this gets me even more excited about this program because if they have 20% of the normal budget, that means they can put approximately 5 different shorts into production at the cost of one theatrical short...and what could come of it would pay way higher dividends. For instance, what if they use some of this new pipeline organization to pave the way for all feature films. Even if they didn't take everything from the changes, they may be able to take a piece which could speed up a process somewhere else.

Love it! Would you be interested in coming on the podcast to chat about this at all (to talk about the panel)? I know you highlighted it here, but I think a 15 minute segment on this could be worth sharing and it would hit a wider audience on the podcast by pairing it with this forum post.
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Yeah! It was just so.. different compared to their usual measured approach so it most definitely peaked my interest. They used Mantra because of it's deep integration with Houdini - so they could use procedural shaders to shade the models and see immediate results in the viewport and then also modify the lighting and render the scenes all under one package, which as you said, would've helped them tremendously under their time constraints. 

I did not know they used motion capture for the cameras in The Blue Umbrella and Inside Out! That's very interesting.. Sounds like their integration of Mocap into Presto has been in the works a long time then.

Yeah, I'm excited for what else comes out of this - particularly the people who wouldn't normally get a chance to lead a project. I'd be very excited to see who comes out of this programme and goes on to take on bigger projects. That, and hopefully the issues they highlighted with Mantra will get fixed in the future for the betterment of artists everywhere [Big-Grin_zps23ec4c40]
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Oh, and I'd be delighted to hop onto the podcast and chat to you guys [smile_zpsf797a80b] I'll recall as much as I can [Laughing_zpsee77b0c4]
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