Exclusive: FLIX – the newest tool in The Foundry’s arsenal

FLIX has been described as a unique collaborative visual story development tool, but that sounds far too boring for this new product from The Foundry. FLIX lets you make a film in pre-production – and make it in such a way as to speed production. It is a cross between a productivity tool, previs, layout and workflow. Some of the key aspects of FLIX are so blindly useful it is hard to believe someone has not done this years ago.

FLIX continues the long tradition that The Foundry has established of adapting key production tools from major effects and animation companies like Weta, DD, SPI and others and turning it over for the rest of us to use. FLIX is the in-house animation tool of Sony Animation and it has revolutionized the way animators, directors and artists work together to make films at the pre-production stage for almost six years.

Mike Seymour talks to The Foundry’s Yiotis Katsambas about FLIX.

On those productions it is used by all the artists, 2D, 3D editorial and directorial.

How often do people need to adjust a shot in pre-production? Because of the full history function – in the case of a shot on a Sony feature that fxguide looked at – when finished from the workflow pipeline, the shot had had literally 812 versions. These were done by multiple artists, editors, assistants, supervisors and the director, sometimes within minutes of each other. Yet the edit was always correct and up to date. Imagine trying to track that on every shot, all the time without FLIX?

Anyone with browser access and correct approval can use the system from anywhere. All the names and files are all managed for you and it provides an automatic tracking system (this alone would seem worth the price of the system). This is especially true of modern productions with teams distributed around the world and directors often in different cities or on location.

Officially the product allows directors, editors, cinematographers, storyboard artists, and previs artists to create and easily collaborate on the shared visual story development of a film. Collaboration is achieved through a common web-based tool suite, which supports direct communication between Maya, Photoshop, Nuke, and Avid software. FLIX streamlines and manages this process by centralizing and preserving the changes happening to the pre-visualization in real time. It merges different techniques and media, provide new avenues for the filmmakers while improving both the quality of pre-visualization and the story itself.

So how is it different?

  • it runs off a web server
  • it links pitch reels, editorial, lighting, audio, directorial, production, layout and more into a live online system
  • it requires little or no training as most normal tools are used for all common functions, FLIX just manages and maintains everything while also maintaining the edit

What does it do?

You can start with a storyboard and it will move the production from storyboard to layout to color keys / lighting and a full previs edit of the film.

It is designed to work with a range of products – rather than replace them. eg. to see the edit you are viewing – the edit not a rendered out QuickTime – you access the actual edit. If you want to adjust a storyboard frame, it will automatically load Photoshop. When you save it, the file is returned and placed in the edit and manages all the edit, so immediately after hitting save you can play the edit in context. No export, no editing, no rendering, no outputting QuickTime.

If you mock up some layouts in Maya, the camera and files move into FLIX, and in FLIX you can edit the mark in mark out points, or lift the camera and blocking out so that when a story board frame is approved, the camera metadata is stored and travels with the storyboard frame. It encourages you to mix 2D and 3D storyboards/shots, so even if that still is painted over or filtered, the layout team just has to click the Maya button to get the original camera layout. Since this is a Foundry (ex Sony) product those Maya cameras can export all the way to Katana for pre-lighting by the lookdev artists.

If you want to tweak in Nuke, you can move into Nuke and back just as easily as one does with Photoshop, but with the added advantage that inside Nuke you can add moving filters but while still maintaining the edit and all the handles.

It has a ‘connect or chat’ function to allow screen sharing function with drawing functions, and either side’s additions are saved back into the timeline, but with a full history in case you change your mind. If the director adds a new shot, FLIX will automatically name and insert the shot and manage the assets, virtually instantly and non-destructively.

When you click the ‘to Editorial button’ it exports to the master edit, and sends an email to the team letting them know what you did, what shots are new, who did it, what they did and what the deleted. If your VFX producers want help keeping track, they can get an automatic PDF summary (highlighting an new clips or shots).

What starts as rough drawings become pitch reels, become layout, then staging and lighting and the edit just rolls on into full production. If someone is not on FLIX you can still output QuickTimes and all of these are also logged. So if sound wants a ‘studio review’ copy, you will have logged what they got, what was in it and you will have a copy.

Of course for the system to work you would need to commit to it at a project wide level, and for some people such a shift would take some getting used it. The product is shipping in limited licenses very soon – it should be publicly launched next week. Contact The Foundry directly for pricing.

1 thought on “Exclusive: FLIX – the newest tool in The Foundry’s arsenal”

  1. It is impressive how seamless FLIX appears to be at integrating lots of data and various software programs in an intuitive interface.

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