fxguidetv #121: The Bakery & Engine

We talk to Engine who recently completed a fun spot for local telco Telstra. Increasingly we have seen a shift to improving productivity in lighting by speeding up the responses to the artist, rather than just trying to speed up renders. Enter The Bakery, which has an end-to-end solution for interactive lighting design.

We also have a further Q&A with The Bakery’s CTO Arnauld Lamorlette.

fxg: Bakery Relight is a totally new kind of software, one that aims to make the pipeline more efficient by improving the artist experience rather than just speeding up the render. Could you comment on this approach please?

Lamorlette: Lighting a scene is making it look beautiful, the same way a good director or a photographer makes a scene beautiful with the appropriate light placement. With the conventional 3D approach, the lighter changes a few parameters of lighting, submits a render and waits for the result. Most of the lighter’s time is actually spent waiting for the picture. With Bakery Relighting technology, each time a lighting artist changes a parameter of a complex scene, he can see the result of his changes within seconds. The lighting process becomes interactive, and the artist can do thousands of iterations in a single session, compared with only dozens of operations with previous technologies. The artistic goal is achieved much faster.

Progressive refinement in action

fxg: Can you also discuss progressive refinement?

Lamorlette: In addition to our extremely fast re-computation, we recently added a more classic “progressive refinement”, where we display the resulting image 1 pixel / 128, then 1 pixel /64. The image appears coarse initially, and then becomes progressively sharper. This is useful when you want to feel the overall “color” of the lighting, but it’s not the core of our technology.

fxg: Can you discuss how multiple lighting setups can be brought into one master file?

Lamorlette: Our scene description allows the notion of “reference” or “include”, where we can aggregate ‘libraries’ of characters or sets. In layman’s terms, this means that once you have defined the lighting / surfacing of an asset, you can call it in your shot and change it just for the shot, without modifying the original library. This is the best way to set-up pipelines for feature films or TV series.

fxg: What built in compositing tools does the product provide?

Lamorlette: We provide a separate 2D compositor called ‘Comp’ with Bakery Relight.

fxg: What tools are there for IBL /GI/Environment lighting etc.?

Lamorlette: With our proprietary point cloud technology using pre-computed spherical harmonics, we provide very fast computation for IBL/GI/Env lighting. Very much like what was done on a recent film with blue CG characters – and I’m not talking about the Smurfs! We have GI lights/Env Lights/Glossy Reflections/Area lights/Occlusion using this technology. Compared to what you find with other products, we separate point creation and shading, with the possibility of combining point clouds in any way you want – making it extremely flexible and optimization-friendly.

Screenshot from Bakery Relight

fxg: Are there any color correction / LUT or grading tools to help integrate CG with live action?

Lamorlette: We can color correct image information all along the rendering pipeline, input, output, display, or any intermediate computation. You can import custom 3D luts at any step in the process.

fxg: What controls are there for project and file management as you have the capability of multiple users accessing the same data simultaneously – what stops them overwriting each other?

Lamorlette: We have a very flexible scene description that allows an easy integration in any existing pipe-line. We can reference data that are from different departments on different servers, the resulting scene can be modified and only overrides of the original data are saved locally, leaving the original data untouched.

fxg: What is the Bakery’s scripting language?

Lamorlette: We have a language called Qslang (very close to Java Script), but we support Python with the same functionalities.

fxg: In terms of rendering you have your own renderer and now you support mental ray?

Lamorlette: Yes, we are now able to load some .mi2 files and work on these inside Bakery Relight. We anticipate that this version of Relight will be available to users in Q4 2011.

Still from 'Maelynn', by Dwarf Labs. See the fxguidetv ep for footage from this film, which relied on Bakery Relight.

fxg: Will you support Pixar’s RenderMan?

Lamorlette: This is something that we are currently working on, using the same technology, which we are using to support mental ray. Further details will be announced in the next 2-3 months from now.

fxg: Bakery Relight does not currently support the Mac platform – any intentions to change this?

Lamorlette: We used to offer support for Mac, but as very few people appeared to be using this, we re-directed our attentions to other areas where the demand was higher. However, if we feel that there is enough interest, we can certainly review this.

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