The SE3D animation showcase aims to create a community of film-makers sharing an on-demand Maya rendering utility - an ambition that has taken a big step forward.
On October 18 the prospective film-makers, the SE3D advisory board of industry professionals, the sponsors and the HP technologists all got together at a workshop in HP Labs Bristol.
The day started with Steve Hinde, of HP Labs, explaining HP's motivation for creating SE3D. He told the audience of 40 that it was a significant and important step forward for HP in realising the company's vision of on-demand service providers.
He added that the development of new 3D animated film talent is central to HP's aims since the role of individuals and small- and medium-sized enterprises is critical to the successful emergence of public, on-demand service providers in different industry markets, from animation to engineering modelling, from e-government to finance.
Steve finished with a screening of The Painter - the animated short commissioned by HP last year from leading local production company 422 and rendered on the HP Labs utility rendering service. His aim was to show the power of the previous single-user HP Labs Maya rendering service. With SE3D an enhanced rendering service will offer a multi-user, market-based system, with cutting-edge HP Labs technology, to ten consortia of animators.
Later, Alias Wavefront, the producer of Maya, showed an impressive showreel, with short clips from all the leading film-makers showing what is possible with its animation software. Mark Cass, of Alias Wavefront UK, spoke of Alias's co-sponsorship, with HP, of SE3D, and of the grant of Maya Unlimited licences for all the participants.
Clare Reddington, SE3D project co-ordinator, explained the organization of the programme, the important dates and the process for selection.
Among the audience were SE3D advisory board members Dave Sproxton, Executive Chairman of Aardman Animations, Chair; Shelley Page (DreamWorks Europe); Paul Appleby (Director, Interactive Content, BBC); Craig Howard (CEO, 422); Mark Cass (CEO Alias Wavefront UK). The advisory board is responsible for setting the level for entry to SE3D, but at the same time ensuring that the talented participants get all the technical help and advice they need to make the best possible films from their ideas.
The real fun started when each group of animators talked about their ideas. Elroy III Potato Head Boy, followed Two Fellas, followed Getting Out, followed SolidSound followed, Grand Entrance Little Angel, followed If I had a Hammer.... All the presentations, and in particular If I had a Hammer, caused a lot of amusement.
SolidSound showed the breadth of the ideas on offer, exploring the abstract depiction of sounds using 3D objects. Elroy III Potato Head showed the level of ambition: the storyboard would fill out a feature film, but it will be compressed into six minutes.
All the animators are independently funded to make their films. For them, the attraction of SE3D is that it gives them the opportunity to create animations of detail, complexity and imagination beyond anything they could otherwise imagine thanks to the computing power on tap. It is this access to computing power and the flexibility it enables that will prove the importance of utility computing to small- and medium-sized businesses in many industry sectors.
For some of the participants this is an opportunity to realize ambitious stories they have been thinking about for several years. The value to HP Labs in SE3D is the really demanding validation of v2.0 of its service utility platform and the demonstration of the viability of the on-demand business model.
During the afternoon the film makers learned about the details of the service, how they will access it and what they can expect from HP and Alias in the way of support.
The next event is a press launch in London on November 15. Later that week SE3D will be launched in the wider media community at Brief Encounters, an international short film festival in Bristol. Then, the service will be live for the creative teams to start using the HP Labs market-based service in anger.