Image Engine’s R&D department is the backbone of the film division.
For the past 4 years, developments in R&D have defined the ambitions of the studio and positioned Image
Engine as a pioneering R&D-driven Visual Effects facility, highly specialized in creature and character work.
Under the direction of Peter Muyzers (Visual Effects Supervisor and Company Partner), a new department was established in 2006. The new team, composed of top international talent, was responsible for building a new pipeline from scratch over a period of several years. This pro-active approach formed part of the company’s vision to stand out from the crowd in the burgeoning visual effects industry in Vancouver.
The result is a robust, intuitive system, quickly adaptable for the wide-ranging scope of work coming into the studio.
John Haddon (Lead Programmer) was instrumental in developing a framework that was solid and easily adaptable.
John: “Building everything from scratch has been a great opportunity for the whole team and has given the department the occasion to work very collaboratively. Our main goal was to develop a system that could rapidly respond to new challenges as they arise. In R&D you never know what creative requests are around the corner, so it made sense for us to focus on laying the best foundations to build on.”
The underlying system is made available as an open-source project and has a growing population of outside contributors.
The hard work paid off early on, as both the basis for Image Engine being awarded the work on District 9, and a major contributor to it’s subsequent success. The pipeline was further put to the test during 2010’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which required the development of fur for the new wolves and human hair for a digital double of lead character Victoria, Bella and Edward’s arch enemy.
Peter: “Because we built solid libraries we were able to build a fur system in ninety days with one and a half people; traditionally speaking, you could easily spend six months on a fur system with two or three people.
This demonstrated the practicalities of focusing R&D development on our libraries, so that we could accelerate project-specific R&D needs.”
An important factor for the team was that the results were as user-friendly as possible for the artists, which Nigel Denton-Howes (CG Supervisor, Assets), confirms: “Image Engine's R&D department has consistently provided focused, well tested and well designed tools that artists actually want to use. The open nature of its working process ensures that the feedback-develop-test cycle is smooth and very accessible for those in production."
Peter: “Overall, the developments that have taken place over the last few years have not only increased the studio’s scope of work, they have also improved the working experience and the ability to quickly turn shots around for the whole crew. We are proud to have developed a pipeline that is the ‘latest version’ of a VFX
pipeline and which has expedited our growth as a trusted high-end facility.”