Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I'm working from home this afternoon because my four year old is running a temperature and I've had to pick him up from nursery. He's pretty listless and I think he may be having a reaction to the pre-school booster injection he had yesterday. He may be on the mend though as he just replied, "If I am does it mean I have to go back to nursery?", when I asked him if he was feeling better.

It is really quite easy to telecommute these days given a broadband internet connection and the raft of services such as VPN connection and VOIP conferencing that you can run over it.

Having just caught the credits of Monsters Inc, before sliding in the Incredibles DVD for his viewing pleasure, I have realised that the RenderMan software that Pixar use to make their animated movies may - by keeping my boy diverted - be as significant as any other technology in giving me the chance to get things done today.

One of the most wonderful things about software (and the software market) is the way that features that were originally available exclusively - and at great cost - to specialists trickle down to the province of the man in the street. According to Empire Online, this is about to happen with RenderMan.

Normally with this kind of thing, it's flash bulbs and red carpets. Last night though, there was nothing of the sort. It wasn't glamorous, and it wasn't star studded. What it was, was very informative and bloody good news. Those wonderful geniuses at Pixar trekked all the way over to Blighty to announce that their world beating animation software, RenderMan, will be available for public purchase in just a few months.

To be more specific, they're releasing a new version of the program, that can be used in conjunction with Alias' popular animating programme, Maya. While the Pixar lads talked and explained some of the easy to use (no doubt they use that in the context of one already being a decent computer animator) functions and nifty tricks, employing terms like 'occlusion', 'ray-tracing' and 'Deep shadow technology', Empire just sat quietly, trying to translate this into layman's terms and looking at the pretty pictures getting prettier.

Basically, all you need to know is that this is the beans. When the program is released this summer, we will have reached the point where for �500 and the price of a decent computer (Mac or Windows based) with Maya on it, anyone with the patience to learn the artistic side of animated movie making will be able to create moving images the quality of a Pixar film. But it should be noted that this is the smaller, semi-professional version of RenderMan (the pro version is already available to be licensed out), but damned if what we saw wasn't the bee's knees.

What does this mean for the industry? In our estimation, the effects could be enormous. We expect something of an avalanche of young talent (especially if this is placed in schools) to spring up certainly within the next ten years, and probably sooner. When we had a word with Dylan Sisson, Technical Artist, he agreed. "Absolutely, this is just going to make things explode." Kids and technology � what can we say? It's not so much the programme itself, it's the (seeming) simplicity, and accessibility that's going to change things. It's another great contribution to the world of animation from Pixar, and it can only be a good thing for the future of movies.

Maybe it won't be too long before he can make a movie rather than watching one when he is off school. Update: ssshhhh he's asleep now.

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