Wharar LinkedIn?

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Hi you,

I’d like to add you to my professional network.




Yes, the saga continues.

We’re on LinkedIn for your linking in pleasure.  And I say “we” not as the royal we but more like the customary greeting of rural New Mexico.  When you stop in at that relic of a gas station out in the middle of nowhere on the old Turquoise Trail up north of Route 66, and the old stogie behind the counter gives you a skeptical eyeing up and down and greets you with a “Whar doin’?” – know that the NW translation for this is “Hello, tourist clearly from a place where they don’t get much sun – what are you doing?”  In turn, the correct response is “Wharar doin’?”  As in “No, my good man, what are WE doing?”   Only then can normal conversation ensue and you can ask them why they don’t pump your gas for you.

So what are we doing?  Why don’t we saunter on over to LinkedIn and get hitched.   Add us up to that sprawling list on that profile of yours.  It’s ok – VFX/PDX is a badge of honor – let ’em know where you’re coming from.

Click me.




(BTW – Linkedin is where the job posts will go, since it’s a good “push” system instead of putting up a job page on the site, which is too “pull” for me – so get up on Linkedin if you want to find out about or post Portland area VFX jobs)

An accidental late night sexy text to DPX


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So everyone gets what VFX is.  And PDX is a no brainer for anyone who’s ever gotten tired of writing out P-O-R-T-L-A-N-D and is fine enough with an airport acronym, and a cool one at that (what with it’s iconic X).  But DPX?  Who the what now?  Have I gone and scrambled my brains at the Driftwood Room again prior to posting?

DPX is my favorite file image format.  And oh how I missed it.

You’ll have to excuse me for a sec while I geek out.  But we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little geeky.

Pulling a DPX into Nuke used to mean you were working on a film.  Hell yeah.  This is something I took for granted; that those tasty dpx’s would always be sitting there, waiting for me every morning.

I’m not sure quite sure when they went away, but at some point along the way, along came EXR’s, and things got all complicated.

Now at my brand new gig, I’m the “end of the line.”  Has a nice ring to it!  And guess what?  DPX is back in vogue.  Allow me to sing it’s praises.

For live action footage, there is no better.  Nuke absolutely eats a DPX for breakfast.

And I’m not talking Portland brunch…   where you cruise into Tin Shed on Alberta, put your name down, grab yourself a cuppa the “free” Joe only it’s not really free because you’ll be billed for it in the event that you wait long enough to finally sit down and your server sees that you have the cup and marks you down for 1 stumptown special, but let’s not even go there yet because you’re still sitting there waiting but you stick it out because it’s like you brought your dog and Tin Shed is like the only place that really allows dogs because they have the outdoor seating and all that but it’s like sunny and so it’s crowded but hey it is SUNday after all so like whatever I’ll just sit here for what time is it? is that even morning anymore?  and wait until they call my name and there’s not really much else within biking distance except hey maybe Juniors is my backup plan but I’d have to tie the dog up out front and the food is good and all but it was kind of dirty in there last time I was there or at least my cup had spots on it and my water was kind of, I don’t know, dusty?  so like I should probably just wait it out but there’s like 3 other 2-tops ahead of me on the list, like when did this place turn into Gravy anyway I thought Tin Shed was like normal but whatever it is like the best thing Alberta has so I better just suck it up.

Ok, that diatribe you just went through?  That was an EXR.  DPX would have you out the door and smiling already while EXR is still loading in scanlines.  If you want to talk in brunch terms, this is like Gravy vs. Equinox – am I right?  Ok, maybe I should explain that ref for any non P-towners who aren’t familiar with our obsessive brunch scene.  Gravy over on Mississippi Ave is hands down one of the best brunches in town.  The best french toast in the city – maybe the galaxy.  But you wait for it.  It’s a mob scene even on a weekday.  In other words, it’s great but it’s the SLOW boat.  However, right around the corner from Gravy is Equinox.  Which is a damn good brunch – up on par with Gravy for sure.  The difference being it’s tucked around the corner, just enough off the beaten path where you can walk right in and sit down immediately.  You’re done and moving on with the rest of your day while the Gravy folks are still standing outside, tapping feet, shooting glances to watches, pondering how much longer before they just…  bail.

Don’t be afraid to bail on EXR when the circumstances permit.  Proof?  You want proof?  Get this – for a plain Jane little 3 node comp render of 50 some odd frames in Nuke (in > blur > out) with footage shot originally with a RED  Epic @ 4k,  here are the stats:

EXR (zip scanline) – 2 minutes 57 seconds

DPX – 10 seconds.

No @$#% kidding.  10 seconds.  I mean, I had a feeling DPX would be faster, just from working with them time and time again…   but I’ll admit that had my head spinning.  I’m not even sure how to explain this because it doesn’t add up – there is nothing apparently different about this machine I’m on…  there’s no DPX equivalent of a Red Rocket card or anything, and no GPU accelerated nodes in my script.  I’m scratching my head – how is this possible?  This box does have an SSD but I was sure to clear the caches before rendering, so it should be apples to apples.  I ran it twice and got similar render times.  The sys admin wizards at Weta Digital might have some sort of caching enabled on Linux here that is somehow locally stashing the DPXs in RAM, but not the EXRs.  Hmmm.  That gives me more questions than answers!  Mental note:  never ever leave Linux.

Anyway, a 2nd opinion is in order, good doctor.  Let’s try something a bit more scientific and I’ll shoot this to the renderfarm.  I’ve switched shots and have a 2k shot that originated on film, not that it really matters once you’ve made a DPX and an EXR.  Kicking these off now and will wait for that juicy stats email…  looking for total time elapsed and I’ll get you a per frame CPU time (minus batch load time).

EXR (piz):  6m 53s – 7 secs

EXR (scanline): 6m 38s – 6 secs

DPX: 4m 10s – 4 secs

This was done on a Sunday – as low traffic and open of a farm as Weta Digital gets.  Different versions were rendered within minutes of each other, and those Nuke renders should have had the blades all to themselves.  The bottom line:  33% faster rendering.

You can talk all you want about how Nuke uses EXRs as it’s internal intermediary format and is floating point across the board.  Bla bla bla.  Look at the results.  That adds up to a heck of a lot of saved time over the course of the day, not to mention the interactive boost while working.  As long as your capture format is less than 16 bit, and if they are shooting digital (or even film), it is most definitely less than 16 bit – you simply cannot beat what I’ll call “integer love.”  The CPU just chews through it.  For grained live action footage shot with most cameras, DPX.  There is no substitute.

The RED Epic, with it’s claimed 11 stops of RAW dynamic range?  No problem.  The Canon 5D and it’s 14 bit sensor?  Easy money.  10bit Log DPX handles as much dynamic range as 16bit linear because, kind of like an mp3 still sounds damn good (or maybe FLAC is a better comparison), log space will put all of the image goodness where it counts.  Your highlights?  Don’t worry, they’re unscathed and intact.

File size you say?  Network traffic?  Also not a problem here.  10bit log DPX was 13mb per beautiful grainy frame in this example (2k live action plate).  EXR/Piz could only come up with 14mb.  That varies, but the time spent unpacking them doesn’t so often a small filesize advantage for Piz can be ignored in favor of performance.

Some people will scoff at a raw DPX and it’s log encoding, saying it looks washed out and unviewable.  First of all, who are these people and why are you letting them anywhere near a vfx pipe decision?  Amateurs!  Ha!  The truth is, an EXR in linear colorspace is just as strange to view in it’s dark raw state.  You’re never going to view either of them raw and are gonna have to chuck a LUT on it either way, so this is a non-issue.  Worry not, Photoshop can still open it correctly.

Don’t get me wrong, DPX is not for everything.  There’s the whole alpha channel thing.  The dpx spec can handle it (as well as rendering up to 16 bit linear) but many of the software, After Effects comes to mind, still seems to be stuck on the old Cineon spec.  Cineon was what DPX was before it was dpx – .cin – and Cineon had no alpha channel support and was locked to 10 bit log.

CG renders especially will use all of the extra range goodness that EXR can offer up.  Over in EXR land, Piz compressed is the way to go for live action plates over slow networks, or large feature film projects that need oodles of storage.  If you can afford larger filesizes, Nuke likes a good scanline zipped EXR much better.  Single scanlines for live action, and often shops will write tiled for CG out of the renderer and then convert to ZipS as a post process.

Really, the big revelation with EXR was embedding multiple passes into one file, and knocking things down to “half-float” for all of the calculation and storage advantages.  Finally, floating point was worth the price of admission.  Historically, Tiff could always do float precision but no one used it because the extra usable range came at such a rendering and disk space cost that it was overkill 99.997% of the time.  In fact, at Weta prior to the EXR revolution, we were using liff (essentially a log IFF) as our primary format for CG renders, for many of the same reasons that DPX works so well.

When EXR 2.0 is finally released, it will up the ante and you’re going to start seeing more standardization of the deep image formatting for CG without holdouts or layering problems that useless per pixel Z passes always had.

But for live action plates (in most cases*), viva la DPX!

Good times on a Thursday night!

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The Foundry's Tom Rockhill kicks us off with an intro

Just want to take a second and thank everyone who came out to our first meet-up the other night. Feedback has been good and this is DEFINITELY something we’ll do up again.

What an incredible, jaw dropping presentation from Fred Ruff @ Bent Image Lab.



Fred Ruff of Bent Image Lab


Wow. I mean WOW. I’ve seen a lot of breakdowns and demos in my day, but the depth and scope of what Fred showed us still has my head spinning. The creature work on Grimm is nothing short of incredible, especially when you take into account the limited resources and tight turnaround they’re on with that show. I know we don’t have a baseball team anymore, but if you ask me, Fred hit a walk off homer straight outta PGE Park. Bravo!


This one had me saying, "Huh? You rigged a fluid?!?"

Also a big hand for Deke Kincaid from the Foundry for some cool new software demos, keeping us up to date. Hiero (pronounced “Hee-row”) looks like a very powerful tool to bridge the gap between editorial and vfx. In a nutshell, it imports the cut and proceeds to divvy things up for us VFX’ers like no tool I’ve ever seen before. It creates the entire VFX folder structure from a predefined template and masters each shot from the cut into it’s place on the tree, complete with an editable Nuke script for the conversion. It can also use those same timeline and pipeline capabilities to run Dailies. Hiero clearly automates and mops up what could otherwise be a complete and total mess when you’re bringing a new project online or reviewing shots. This type of magic is usually reserved for the big studios with custom coded pipelines and a staff of programmers, but with Hiero it looks like the rest of us can get a taste of the “organized life” and make things a little less cowboy.  Like many of you, I’d not had a chance to check it out yet and the in-person demo was gold.

Deke Kincaid

Deke Kincaid shows off the upcoming version of Nuke

We probably didn’t give it the amount of time it deserved because things ran long, but the upcoming version of Nuke looks like it’s packing some long sought after tools. Yee haw, the viewer can finally be used to reliably flipbook shots, thanks to an improved RAM caching mechanism that clearly shows what frames are locked in memory and cached.  This is big, and has the potential to replace Framecycler in the standard comp workflow. There’s a new node for doing tastier Lens Defocus (with super easy custom shape support, no more having to make custom convolves!) and Z Defocus – looked to me like they are starting to tie the GPU in for certain ops like the Z Defocus, too!  Updates to the modeler and point cloud system look tasty… those are tools that everyone definitely wants to see take the next steps. After seeing Fred demo some really hardcore warping and morphing for Grimm, it was nice to hear the that Splinewarp node is getting an overhaul and is targeted for independent source + destination spline support. Also on the radar, they quietly have rewritten and streamlined the RotoPaint node – although there’s not much evidence of it on the surface – but it should result in smaller project sizes and less chance for a script to go corrupt. And the last one worth a mention (but definitely not least) is vastly improved Photoshop psd support: the Photoshop merge node + layer breakout scripts are going to make dealing with matte paintings and the like a whole lot smoother. That’s just a taste of what Deke laid on us, and in record time!

Red Giant

The Red Giant Software crew was in attendance, from their office in Old Town

Worth mentioning that we were a little overly ambitious thinking that we could get to so much during the meeting and we weren’t able to show off any of Katana. With any luck we can get Deke back for a future meeting and we’ll pick up where we left off.

I’ve already had requests about if the presentation was recorded or will be posted online anywhere – sorry to say that there are generally not going to be any recordings of our user meetings, since the material is almost always sensitive. You know, the usual behind the scenes, copywritten, beta software, bleeding edge type stuff. Even more reason to make the effort to come out and catch it live next time!


Loren from Laika's got the right idea - have a brew and some pixels too!

Speaking of next time, we’ll get it going again in a few months. Have a nice summer and I’ll see you all then!  Make sure you sign up for the email list to be notified of the next round up, and watch for the website to continue to develop as I get time.

First VFX/PDX meeting this Thursday, June 14th


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Fred/DekeAlright good Portlanders – many Bothans died to bring you this message so huddle up and listen close. After months of prep, the first VFX/PDX meeting is ON like Krylon – and set for this THURSDAY! Numero Uno is not to be missed.

Fred Ruff, Visual Effects Supervisor and Lead CG Artist at Bent Image Lab, will be presenting a giant platter of Bent’s recent tasty work in detail. And as if that wasn’t enough, Deke Kincaid from The Foundry is in town and is going to give us a sneak peek at the next major release of Nuke, as well as Katana, Mari and Hiero. A little something for everyone. Need I say more?

Short notice – again, all of this and more will be happening this Thursday night, June 14th, from 7:00-9:00pm, at:

The Living Room Theaters
341 SW 10th Ave

With the help of the Oregon Film Commission and The Foundry, this is a FREE event. All are welcome, professionals and students alike. The Living Room Theater lounge will be open from 6:30pm as well as following the presentation for those who want to catch up & mingle. The presentation is all ages, but 21 & over only in the lounge please – Oregon law don’t ya know.

Seating is limited and since it’s our first meeting, please send a quick RSVP to j@vfxpdx.com so I can watch our capacity. That said, don’t wait – lock in! In just a couple short days the sparks will fly. See you there.

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