SceneTrack: Democratizing The Animation Pipeline

Back in October of 2015, one of dotBunny’s favorite contractors (Dan Gies) reached out about an idea.  He needed our technical backing to bring the idea to life. Dan’s studio E*D Films had grown into a well-known boutique animation studio in Montreal. They, however, were a little short on technical expertise. The plan was to apply for pre-production funding through the Canadian Media Fund, for what would eventually be called GCAP, and then renamed SceneTrack (again).

Research & Development

When the CMF gave the go-ahead the excitement in the air was palpable. A chance for dotBunny’s rarely talked about “advanced development” side to work on a fringe-industry project. Within a month, we had completed a prototype of the concept. It recorded the entirety of a scene’s gameplay in Unity and then dumped it out to a Maya file. The idea was that an animator/movie director could puppeteer a scene in Unity. Take the output, tweak it, and then render it out in Maya at a higher quality. This, however, is not where the story ends, as the idea caught a few people’s attention, and it became clear that there was a viable market for the product.

Production Funding

E*D Films applied for another round of funding from the CMF, again listing dotBunny as the technical backers of the project. The plan was to really push the technical side of the project. To create a unique backend system to house the data real-time, while simultaneously creating a disk copy, without any performance impact. We are very ambitious when it comes to creating new things. Always striving to make greatness. One of the major hurdles we all faced this time around was the timeline. Trying to get a product to market, in a field where new things are popping up daily, delays are your enemy. The application process took far longer than expected. We started to see competitors making gains in a similar space. Either way, when the application was finally approved (October 2016) it began an incredible journey of architecting and developing one incredible piece of technology.

At first, I wasn’t sure about how incredible what we were making was. When every animator who saw the tech working had that light bulb moment, it became infectious.

The team spent 4 months re-developing SceneTrack into what is now formally called GCAP (Gamifying Cinematic Animation Production). It was a happy, yet sad day when we checked off our final milestone. We had poured our heart and soul into the project. We created something that fundamentally changed the way data gets written to disk. Yet, it was time to hand the project over to E*D Films. Our team had created a multi-platform, multifaceted system which used an open-source model for its input plugins (so users can easily write their own), a centralized threaded data store system, and multiple exports (FBX, MIDI, XML, MP4, etc.). We felt like surrogate parents, handling over the child that we had loved and cared for since birth to its future parents.

The dotBunny team wishes our very best to E*D Films with their new GCAP baby.

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