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kleer001

Science Experiements and how to avoid them.

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If you've worked for more than a year or two in Visual effects you've likely seen or experienced yourself the dreaded call to get something PERFECT. But, as it is said "Perfect is the enemy of good enough."

I bring this up because it's certainly happened to me. I've only recently in the last couple years become really comfortable with saying "screw it, this is fine". But it seems like a skill I should have mastered earlier in my career. So, hopefully a beginner will find this post and read it and save themselves some frustration.

Has this ever happened to you? Has this happened recently to you? Have you been chasing down a technical solution to something when something quick and messy and by hand would have probably worked fine? Have you ever simmed and resimmed and tweaked and resimmed again and again trying to find that one set of parameters that would look great when really those few stray particles could have been deleted by hand after it was cached?

 

Edited by kleer001
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I don't work in 3d/fx for a living, but spend a good 6-10 hours a day in Houdini doing exactly this. I don't have tasks assigned to me, no responsibilities to deliver anything, no deadlines to meet. I'd love to save myself some frustration but so far I've lacked the willpower to brutally put down the need for my stuff to be better.

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Kleer, you have reached this conclusion, but I think it takes actual experience to be able to make that determination. When you say you should have mastered this earlier in your career exemplifies exactly why you couldn't at that stage, and why most beginners will not be able to apply your point of view until they get more mileage. 

I will go as far as saying that a good artist knows exactly where to put the most attention and detail, and where to leave it off. This is quite apparent with Renaissance painters. 

I think of VFX in the same way that I think about magic tricks, it's more about set up, distractions and (sometimes quite literally) smoke and mirrors than it is about the actual trick.

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two months to reach 96% of quality and two more months to polish result up to 99%. why not if you have this additional time? :]

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On 02/10/2019 at 4:15 PM, kleer001 said:

Has this ever happened to you? Has this happened recently to you? Have you been chasing down a technical solution to something when something quick and messy and by hand would have probably worked fine? Have you ever simmed and resimmed and tweaked and resimmed again and again trying to find that one set of parameters that would look great when really those few stray particles could have been deleted by hand after it was cached?

 

I have found that over the years I have developed a much better grasp on when to spend time creating the "ideal" set up vs brute force "getting it done". I guess you learn to pick your battles!

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On 10/7/2019 at 9:28 AM, Midphase said:

Kleer, you have reached this conclusion, but I think it takes actual experience to be able to make that determination. When you say you should have mastered this earlier in your career exemplifies exactly why you couldn't at that stage, and why most beginners will not be able to apply your point of view until they get more mileage.

Yea, but I'm not a beginner. I've been doing this for 20 years. I should have had this nailed down by year 5. I'll certainly give myself a little leeway since I got a traditional artist education instead of an industry-centric two year vocational, which some kids get these days.

 

On 10/7/2019 at 9:28 AM, Midphase said:

I think of VFX in the same way that I think about magic tricks, it's more about set up, distractions and (sometimes quite literally) smoke and mirrors than it is about the actual trick.

That is brilliant. Yes. These days I cheat to camera as much as I can, pare down sims to the bare minimum, etc...

17 hours ago, hved said:

two months to reach 96% of quality and two more months to polish result up to 99%. why not if you have this additional time? :]

Sure, if you work by yourself. But not at anywhere I've ever worked, ha!

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I don't have experience with sims, but I constantly finding myself falling in the following traps when developing some tool:

1- focus on efficiency in the first stages (wrong)
2- aiming at  a 101% procedural solution  (wronger)
3- fighting against Houdini's poor parameters UI and control, with the goal in mind to produce a good user experience (lot of python trickery involved)

These obsessions are very time consuming, and sucks much energy and motivation from the greater creative goal.

Edited by Andr1

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It probably depends on the environment in which you work. Big or little studios, freelancer etc...

focus on efficiency in the first stages, aiming at  a 101% procedural solution, could be a good way, especially if you're a TD in big studio.

I am a freelancer and I am in the exact opposite situation. I start all the time thinking or trying to do sophisticated, procedural etc..., then deadlines catche me and I end up doing an infamous DIY job. Haha ! Doing « Science Experiements » is just a dream for me.

The real question is : when do you decide to move on to plan B

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On 10/27/2019 at 11:21 AM, Andr1 said:

1- focus on efficiency in the first stages (wrong)
2- aiming at  a 101% procedural solution  (wronger)

I want to agree with #1, but if I don't consider efficiency early I'll usually feel like I'm building a house on mud just so I know exactly where to put the foundation after I'm done building.

This point:

Quote

why most beginners will not be able to apply your point of view until they get more mileage.

Is a good one. You don't learn to pick battles until you've lost a couple thousand.

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On 27-10-2019 at 11:21 AM, Andr1 said:

I don't have experience with sims, but I constantly finding myself falling in the following traps when developing some tool:

1- focus on efficiency in the first stages (wrong)
2- aiming at  a 101% procedural solution  (wronger)
3- fighting against Houdini's poor parameters UI and control, with the goal in mind to produce a good user experience (lot of python trickery involved)

These obsessions are very time consuming, and sucks much energy and motivation from the greater creative goal.

For me it reaaaally depends what the end goal is. (Speaking from a Gamedev perspective)

I would say #1 is not a trap, as soon as you know what you are doing, for me building something efficient right from the bat (using a lot of vex) is way faster,
than building something with a lot of nodes, only to tear it all down later and rebuild it.
Especially as you lose a lot of time, tracking all the attributes and stuff, and getting lost in a node network that is presumably larger, than it really needs to be

Edit: basically give yourself some time to think of the general process/flow of the process beforehand, instead of diving headfirst into anything.
Especially if you keep building on top of it, then it always turns into a mess I find.

for #2 this is Only wrong, if this process is a step in the process near the very end. The earlier on in the chain of processes the system is,
the more annoying fixing things by hand will be. In my experience spending an Hour of work on the procedure, that saves one second of hand edit,
is almost Always worth it, if you sum up all those seconds of hand editing (and having to completely redo all the steps after.
For example, an HDA that turns a triangle mesh into a quad mesh, has to work 100% of the time,
unless you have specific manpower assigned to fix the results every time. (and I'm not going to myself :P)

for UI, the Houdini interface can do a lot with the basic stuff. The trick is to not have too many parameters to begin with,
trying to make as many things as possible relative to each other (providing overrides for people who think they know better than you :P)
but yeah, python created dropdown menu's are very nice to have in a lot of cases.

Edited by acey195
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