Week 8 – Shader Development, Creature, Pipeline TDs and R&D Programmer

1) Shader Development TD

Shader Development TD means Shader Development Technical Director.

First of all, to understand what this profession does, we must first understand what is a shader?

So here it is:
A shader is a piece of code, that is executed on the GPU.
The engine feeds it with 3d model vertices, textures and other information, and gets back from its pixel colours.

It can simulate how a particular surface responds to light.
It can blend together two different images according to some parameters and a formula like Photoshop layer modes do.
It can simulate depth of field and bloom and much more.

It can use what we know about physics to simulate real lighting as accurately as possible, which is what the latest generation of games is doing. It’s called Physically Based Rendering.

Simply put, for a textured model, the texture is just a pattern or colour, but this effect is not enough. For real-world materials, there are many physical properties, such as diffuse reflection, reflection, refraction, caustics, blur, and bump, gloss, highlight, displacement and many other object characteristics.

Therefore, the shader is the shading code that allows the GPU to display the real physical characteristics.

Therefore, Shader Development TD writes and adjusts shaders to determine the appearance of models, and prepare objects to be painted by the texture painters. A Shader Development TD generally requires the ability to code in C++, WPF, Java, etc.

2) Creature TD

Under the supervision of the CG Supervisor, the Creature TD is responsible for providing a wide variety of dynamic simulations and rigs for photo-realistic creatures; including clothing, fur, hair, muscle and skin.

They develop and program the digital tools for all the artists who work on digital dinosaurs, animals or magnificent beasts, helping them to be as efficient as possible. They then work with pipeline TDs to incorporate the tools into a VFX production pipeline.

The role of a Creature TD may vary from studio to studio in its scope but is almost always centred around the discipline of rigging: the process of engineering anatomical or mechanical kinematic systems that move and deform digital models, and the design of higher-level interfaces used by computer graphics animators to control the movements of those models.

The role may additionally encompass disciplines such as modeling and simulation.

3) Pipeline TD

Pipeline Technical Directors to collaborate in the development of CG tools for its TV production pipeline. The Pipeline Technical Director provides direct and daily technical support to current TV Productions. Pipeline Technical Directors work with the Software Developers and CG Supervisors to architect & develop production tools as well as supporting modules in a python scripting environment. Responsibilities include but not limited to Maya technical issues, automating shotgun workflow, Deadline/Rendering, as well as support the asset and shot production pipeline.

Through the programming of new tools and plug-ins, the Pipeline TD ensure the pipeline is efficient and up to date with new production challenges to enable the artists to be creative and deliver stunning imagery. The Pipeline TD – VFX Shows also provides pipeline technical support as well as identifying and improving the Visual Effect’s pipeline and workflow, software and tools.

4) R&D Programmer

A research and development (R&D) programmer produce the technology required for a visual effects (VFX) project. They create the systems which technical directors (TDs) can use and modify to suit the specific needs of their VFX artists. They also design new digital tools and make sure they fit into existing software systems. This enables the efficient passing of assets from one VFX process to the next.

There is a key message here: R&D is often the company’s internal attempts to study new technologies or software, and may not have actual results, but it is often advanced research and development aimed at the future or planning. This is a completely different concept from development. Development is to upgrade products or projects based on existing projects or customer needs. 

This is a research and development role, which means that it involves working out ways to improve how well digital processes work. Software developers must stay informed about software and technology relevant to their field and beyond. They find innovative ways to enable the artists within the pipeline to complete their work as fast and as well as possible.

R&D Programmer must have rich experience of other technology stack languages used (C#, WPF/XAML, Visual Studio, Xamarin, Javascript, GIT, Xcode, TeamCity)

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