“Custom Software Development in Post Production” by Chapman, Brooks, Hart, Maskit and Sullivan

  • ©Andrew Chapman, Jack Brooks, David Hart, and Daniel Maskit

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Entry Number: 06

Title:

    Custom Software Development in Post Production

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Abstract:


    Panel Topic:

    Most post- production and digital effects work these days employs custom software to varying degrees. This software may be a necessity for the high- end work, and it mostly gets the job done, but from the perspective of the artists and other users, it is often poorly written, hard to use, and causes delays and frustration near deadlines when it can be least afforded.

    This panel consists of software developers and artists who have experience in creating and/or using such software and will discuss in broad terms what is wrong with it, why it is this way, and how it can be improved. 

    There seems to be a willingness to accept unreliable and poorly written software in our field because the average technical ability of the end users is generally much higher than in other industries. While it is true that many users are able to work around the problems they find with the software, it is still costing us greatly in wasted time and effort. It also contributes to the overall feeling that CG production is harder and more frustrating than it need be, resulting in longer hours and a less pleasurable experience for everyone. 

    Our industry is maturing, with a larger and more consistent pool of work. However, software development is still generally done in a fairly amateurish fashion. It is not enough that a piece of software works on one particular project. It needs to then be available as an easily accessible tool for doing similar jobs in the future. We need to provide a more sustainable foundation of tools, rather than simply starting from scratch with each new project. 

    Open Source software is an interesting avenue for improvement, as the nature of development in our field makes this model particularly suitable. Tools can be quickly written to get the immediate job done and then passed out to the Open Source community for the robustness and usability features they are often lacking. By the time they are needed again by the originating company, they may have improved greatly with no effort or expense on their part. 

    Making custom software Open Source also helps to alleviate the problems of using proprietary tools when a large proportion of the users are highly migratory. Users are often unwilling to dedicate themselves to learning or helping to improve custom software when they know they might soon be working elsewhere and those tools will be unavailable to them. 


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