VFX Database-ing

Posted on June 18th, 2007 in Software, Technical by Marc Bourbonnais

While I am running around having business lunches with interesting people, I’m also trying to set up a decent pipeline for this VFX start-up. It will take some time to have a functional system, but it’s crucial to at least start with a practical idea. A modular approach involving a number of databases that can talk to each other is the logical first step. This is how I have split the data in separate categories:

General Production Data / Management

This is the main database with everything needed for general management.

  • Contacts (Clients, vendors, staff)
  • Projects (Shots, budgets, bids, evaluations, approvals)
  • Owned hardware and software
  • Backups and other storage


I consider assets in VFX production as something that you can point your finger at on a monitor. They are the elements within FX shots. Usually you try to re-use them (or copy the procedure used to generate them) with the least amount of extra work for the most number of shots.

  • Plates (Input, versions, set reports, LUTs)
  • 3D Assets (meshes, rigs, textures, special fx)
  • 2D Assets (generated content, 2D effects)


These are the actions using the assets. In a typical FX production they are directly attributed to shots.

  • Plate prep (De-dusting, stabilizing, timing)
  • 3D tasks (tracking, layout, animation, lighting, rendering)
  • 2D tasks (rig erasing, roto, keying, integration, color correct)
  • Final grading / output

Tasks dependencies

All this fun stuff is actually a mess of inter-dependant workloads. Some can be completed at the same time. Some have to be approved before others can start. A visual chart (Gantt chart for example) is usually necessary to manage the huge number of dependencies between all the tasks and the assets needed.

Time sheets

To keep track of working hours, staff availability and prevent over-booking.

I’d like to develop everything from the ground up, but to start things smooth it will be easier to grab off-the-shelf software and do a bit of customization along the way. There are a huge number of software solutions for project management and databases. The good thing is that a lot of them can import/export typical data, so you can build a complete solution piece by piece.