Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Our 4K Demo at BVE

BVE 2015 at the ExCeL London has just come to a close and we the honour of sharing a stand with PNY to demonstrate our 4K playback solution.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Who Is Batman?

The last three days have been busy. We’ve been exhibiting at the VFX Festival with our partners HP, and it’s been a great week. But a mystery has arisen. Who is Batman?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Behind the scenes of Birdman

Birdman is a unique film for both its story and its technical achievements, winning recognition from the big players as we enter the start of awards season.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015

We’ve grown. Again.

Since striking out on our own two years ago, Escape Technology has expanded rapidly.

The year has barely begun and we’re already welcoming four new members to our eclectic team – Steven Tyson, Ellen Payne, Gareth Meredith, and Mark Coleman.

Tuesday, 06 January 2015

We’re back!

2014 was a great year and we’re looking forward to trying to top it over the next 12 months.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Deadline 7 launched

Thinkbox Software has announcced the launch of Deadline 7, which includes a built in Virtual Machine Extension (VMX).

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Down with downtime

The world of the creative is centred on their technology. So are the worlds of administrators, designers, technicians, and the rest of the VFX populace.

So what happens if your technology fails?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Opening Hours

Another year has flown by; we have been really busy, primarily because you our customers have mostly had a crazy year! An amazing amount of the best work coming out of the UK again and we are thankful to play our small part in your business. We have seen our larger customers expand beyond expectation and we have been involved in helping set up many new companies. Thank you for allowing us to supply kit, consult and support you.

Thursday, 04 December 2014

IKinema Spearheads Move to Transform Simulation Systems

A look at how an IK company with a rich gaming history solved the simulation sector’s realism problem

Serious Simulations builds ambitious training systems for a range of uses, helping professionals do their jobs and save lives. Offering ‘mixed reality’, their systems combine cutting edge hardware and software with virtual reality, real world props, and real-time motion capture. The systems are among the most advanced in the world, but in the realm of simulation and training, where realism and immersion matter most to success, customers were demanding more than was previously available.

IKinema

And there Serious Simulations had a problem. They needed to push their cutting edge systems even further, introducing entirely believable characters and scenes that precisely replicated dramatic real world situations. So they turned to IKinema.

IKinema is a leading inverse kinematics company with a wealth of games and movie industry experience, and a heritage in space exploration. And they knew just what to do to help Serious Simulations – and the wider simulation space.

Here IKinema’s CEO explains what his company offered Serious Simulations, and what the potential is for others in the sector.

What was the challenge Serious Simulations was facing with its mixed reality simulations, in terms of IKinema’s relevance?

The problem they had was one of offering users convincing characters and movement, which was undermining a given simulation’s capacity to convince the user. As a tool training a user to handle real world situations, a simulation must be utterly convincing to be credible.

IKinema provided ways to make the simulations and their characters more convincing, and improved the motion capture of participants in the real world, so as to better represent them in the mixed reality simulation. We also offered ways to blend the participant and their in-simulation avatar, again making the training more immersive and convincing.

In a simulation the real-world participant needs to exist in the virtual world as if they are really taking part. Serious Simulations needed to make a tremendous leap forward in the realism of their simulations, without compromising the technology already in their mixed reality systems. IKinema made that possible.

What did IKinema do practically for Serious Simulations’ training systems?

Through real-time capture and solving technologies, we transformed the way characters looked and moved, turning stiff, awkward animations into fluid full-body motion.

The difference was substantial, and participants experienced in simulation systems reported a significant leap forward in realism. We could bring our experience from interactive media entertainment, and our work with motion capture hardware companies like Vicon. That has given us a lot of experience in bringing real-time subjects to virtual settings, and this gave serious Simulations an opportunity to take the same realism to their simulations.

Why was IKinema’s technology the right kind of tool for improving Serious Simulations’ offering in this way?

Fundamentally it comes down to the fact we could offer solving across the whole body for this very distinct kind of avatar, by providing a generic full-body engine. We could also offer the ability to better represent the motion of the avatar based on the limited data available in the motion capture volume. It was the quality and versatility of our LiveAction technology that could provide this.

Why is animation especially important for Serious Simulations’ training systems?

Virtual reality environments for training and simulation need to capture the real world as closely as possible. Not only do the lighting and rendering need to be right, but the animation has to be organic and natural to achieve a fully immersive experience.

IKinema has helped movie houses to get a high degree of realism in animation in their blockbusters, and now this expertise is exploited by Serious Simulations in bringing a unique user experience in the virtual world during training and simulation.

Will we see more of this kind of collaboration between simulation and gaming companies going forward?

The serious gaming and simulation space is catching up with media entertainment such as film and games with speed, and already they are demanding the same standards expected in the movie and video games industry. The demand for quality, realism and accuracy in simulation is vitally important, and simulation companies are now looking to the best they can take from media entertainment. That is why they came to IKinema, and I believe this is a trend we will see more from. We believe there are more opportunities for us to contribute to the technology provided by gaming companies, and we are open to more partnerships. We are helping move the simulation space forward by offering a unique solution to making immersive virtual worlds that precisely recreate the real world.

Where can those in the serious gaming and simulation space see more of what IKinema offers?

We will be attending I/ITSEC in Orlando, Florida 1st-5th December with Serious Simulations, and will be available to demo our technology at booth 2704. Ultimately, Serious Simulations were delighted with the results IKinema enabled them to deliver, and are now offering training systems at a level never seen before in the industry. “We chose IKinema because they provided us the most expertise in our specific need for real-time tracking integration to a commercial game engine, as well as the most rapid development to support our aggressive business timetable,” said Serious Simulations’ CEO Christopher Chambers. “We were hugely impressed by the difference IKinema made. We got proof of our end goal’s feasibility in the first 48 hours. The IKinema team are very fast and know this technology extremely well.”

Get in touch for more information

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Maxwell V3 Faculty & Student licenses for schools and their enrolled students are now FREE

Great news for all of you in education, Maxwell Render V3 licenses are now FREE for academic institutions and their enrolled students! This ground breaking move makes Maxwell Render more readily available than ever for instructors and students, thus nurturing more professional Maxwell users for the future.

Using Maxwell Render will help to give your students' portfolios that extra edge they need to kick start their careers in the competitive CG industries. Maxwell’s unparalleled quality and easy workflow are renowned across the CG Industry - from design and architectural visualization to animation, VFX and creative digital arts.

Please get in touch to discuss what options we have available for you:

License options:

Maxwell Render V3 Faculty (annual, Floating licenses):

  • For individual instructors, classroom seats and school renderfarms
  • License server and networking functionalities included

Maxwell Render V3 Student (annual, Node Locked licenses):

  • For at-home study on one personal computer
  • Licenses distributed to students by faculty member

Free educational licensing
Licenses have no technical restrictions but are for non-commercial use only.

Maxwell Render Faculty (annual, Floating licenses):

  • For individual instructors, classroom seats and school renderfarms.
  • License server and networking functionalities included.

Maxwell Render Student (annual, Node Locked licenses):

  • For at-home study on one personal computer.
Friday, 21 November 2014

Pixar's RenderMan 19 update

The wait is over! RenderMan 19 is out now for Commercial Customers

RenderMan 19 contains a brand new, next generation, extremely fast ray tracing architecture that has been built from the ground up. So what's so revolutionary about it? RIS.

The RenderMan Integrator System was designed to handle the extreme demands of ray traced global illumination and is now (by multiple tests) the fastest in the industry. And at the same time RIS provides unprecedented flexibility with plug-in integrators, which offer multiple light transportation solutions in one modernized, forward-looking solution for VFX and animation.

RIS allows the development of new light transportation solutions through plug-in integrators. Everything in RIS is a plug-in, from BXDFs to the uni-directional path tracer, from the new bi-directional path tracer with VCM to patterns, lights, and surfaces. Not only that, Pixar supply source code for some of these components, allowing users to develop their own plugin integrators that are specific for their productions.

Another significant advance in RenderMan 19 is Progressive Rendering, which allows you to incrementally refine your scene, materials, and lights, all while working with a live rendering of the scene. This is a huge boost in productivity for all artists. We recommend you watch Dylan Sisson's video that showcases the performance of Progressive Rendering:

What does this mean for users?

Simply: faster, better, easier rendering setups, and great images in just a few clicks. There are presets for production proven materials, from metals to plastics, skin to glass, and clay to hair. All built in, easy to use, and single click changes, all while interactively rendering your scenes. Any object can be used as a light source, or you can use HDRIs to create your own real-world illumination profiles.

RenderMan 19 supports the following configurations immediately:

Maya 2013.5, 2014 & 2015 on Windows, OSX and Linux

Katana 1.5, 1.6 and 2.0 (Katana is Linux only)

As for connectivity to RenderMan from other solutions, Pixar are in developing a brand new bridge for Cinema 4D, which is expected around SIGGRAPH 2015. Several 3rd party plugin developers are also working on other solutions for common 3D applications used in VFX/Animation production. We'll share more on these as soon as we can.

What about the free non-commercial RenderMan?

Pixar have decided to delay the release of the free non-commercial RenderMan until early 2015. The main reason for this decision is to allow for the development of more supporting/training materials as well as the establishment of a new community portal for non-commercial RenderMan users to share, learn, and support each other in the community.

They will be sending an email update to all of those that have registered for free non-commercial RenderMan to advise them of the new schedule. Pixar have also updated the FAQ to reflect the ongoing developments around RenderMan 19 and the free non-commercial release.

Want to learn more about RIS? Of course you do! Make sure you check out the links below:

An in-depth article about RenderMan 19 from FXGuide

Video Clips

Did you see the article in 3D World magazine about RenderMan 19? With a great "How To" guide from RenderMan Intern, Harsh Agrawal? Rendering a production quality human head. 

This tutorial, and scene files will be available for RenderMan 19 customers very soon. Click the link to see the article for yourself.

 Last but not least, a bit of fun! Please enjoy Pixar's Walking Teapot Music Video from SIGGRAPH this year. This video is also being used to develop a range of RIS training materials that will be used to teach a variety of new techniques introduced in RIS and RenderMan 19. More of this will be revealed closer to the free non-commercial release in early 2015.

Want even further detail? Here goes:

Introducing RIS Architecture

Advanced

The latest release of RenderMan, version 19, raises the bar once again with a number of game-changing innovations, including a radical new rendering paradigm: RIS, a highly-optimized mode for rendering global illumination, specifically for ray tracing scenes with heavy geometry, hair, volumes, and irradiance with world-class efficiency in a single pass. This leap in technology offers best-of-class rendering for both VFX and feature film animation. Along with key enhancements to the highly efficient REYES mode, today RenderMan is the most flexible, powerful, and reliable tool for rendering cinematic imagery.

Artistic

For visual effects artists, RenderMan has never been more accessible and efficient. Today there are many options for integrating RenderMan into VFX pipelines, including solutions from Pixar for both Autodesk's Maya and The Foundry's KATANA. For lighting and look development, RenderMan offers a state-of-the-art system for interactive rendering that is capable of dramatically increasing the throughput of production scenes while allowing artists to focus on the art of lighting. The intuitive system for physically-based rendering allows artists to create the most photorealistic imagery conceivable.

State-of-the-Art Ray Tracer

RIS was designed from the start to trace rays as fast as possible. Period. With a new framework consisting of integrators, BRDF's (written in C++), and intelligent light services, RIS is setting new standards for both speed and memory efficiency when rendering multi-bounce global illumination for complex production scenes.

Progressive Rendering & Image Check-Pointing

The progressive renderer in RIS delivers incremental feedback for an entire frame all at once, continually refining the image until it reaches final convergence. The first pass of a progressive render is fast and rough, but captures all scene elements, including hair, volumes, motion blur and bokeh. With RIS, batch renders can be check-pointed after a specified amount of time or passes, allowing the image to be reviewed. The image can be stopped if something needs fixing or left to continue. By submitting an entire sequence to the renderfarm, that entire sequence can be check-pointed allowing the animation to be reviewed at an early stage.

Interactive Lighting and Look Development

For lighting and look development, the raw power of the core ray tracing engine delivers fast interactive sessions for artists. Artists can now quickly light scenes and construct shader networks with immediate feedback. In combination with single pass workflows, lighters and shaders can super-charge their productivity.

Check out this video on interactive rendering:http://rendermansite.pixar.com/view/26132

Light Transport & Integrators
Integrators allow RenderMan to support arbitrary methods of light transport and are a key feature of RIS. Integrators take the camera rays from the projection and return shaded results to the renderer. By supporting multiple integrators, RenderMan is capable of rendering the broadest range of effects, and with a comprehensive API for the development of custom integrators, the possibilities of the RIS system are vast.

Out-of-the-box, Pixar provides two production-quality integrators:

The Path Tracer

Ideal for outdoor lighting and large direct light sources, this industry standard unidirectional path tracer combines information from the materials at the hit points with light samples to estimate direct lighting and shadowing, then spawns additional rays to handle indirect lighting. The path tracer ships with source code for further customization.

The VCM Integrator (Bi-Directional Path Tracer)
For scenes problematic for unidirectional path tracing, the VCM integrator can save the day. In addition to tracing paths from the camera, bi-directional path tracing sends paths from the light sources and tries to connect them. VCM can resolve complicated indirect paths and caustic effects that may be prohibitively slow to converge with unidirectional path tracing. Ideal for rendering interiors with complex lighting setups and caustics, VCM is a valuable tool to have at your disposal.

Global Light Sampling
Global Light Sampling is an advanced method of pooling lights samples for all sources in a scene, dramatically increasing the number of lights that can be used at any given time. In fact, with Global Light Sampling 1,000s of lights can be deployed in heavy production scenes at a high level of efficiency. Lights are automatically allocated samples depending on their importance in the scene determined by their size, intensity, and placement to the camera.

Ray Traced Subsurface Scattering
The result of cutting-edge development with Disney Research Zurich, RIS delivers a fully ray traced solution for subsurface scattering with a sophisticated shader capable of producing photorealistic results, such as human skin. Fully compatible with interactive rendering, it's easy and intuitive to dial in complex looks.

Shader Libraries
You don't want your shaders to limit your creativity, and that's why RIS ships an advanced shader library for creating the widest range of physically accurate looks possible. Better still, the shader libraries leverage the full power of the RIS ray tracing engine, with BRDFs optimized for computationally expensive global illumination effects. The only limit is your imagination.
Daylight Simulator

Using an analytical physical model, create realistic skies using RenderMan's Daylight Shader.
Additional Features:

• Multiple Importance Sampling

• Adaptive Sampling

• C++ BXDFs

• Geometric Area Lights

• Global Sampling

• Gobos, Blockers, etc.

• Emissive Geometry

• Camera Projections

• Open Standards: OSL, VDB, SeExpr, WDAS BRDF, OpenSubdiv, Alembic …

Find out more about RenderMan

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Tweak Software release RV 4.2.1

The team over at Tweak Software have just unleashed the latest update to their RV image and sequence viewer for VFX and animation artists.

This is a maintenance update and is free to users with current maintenance. If you need to renew please contact us.

Highlights of 4.2.1:

  • Custom 3D LUT Interpolation improves accuracy, especially for CSP LUTs with high dynamic range output.
  • Explicit Retiming Support: RV's Retime node now supports retiming with an explicit frame to frame map. This will support any kind of retiming including looping, reverses, and holds.
  • Pixel Inspector Update: Additional options for pointer style and more.
  • CSP LUT files can specify "conditioning gamma" to improve accuracy.
  • RVSDI (Nvidia SDI Only) More specific control of output SDI color transformations, including range control for RGB output.