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Thread: Asset Tracking

  1. #1
    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    Default Asset Tracking



    Hey Guys,

    I'm starting to write something up at work to help us keep track of assets, databases, approvals, etc in one single place and I was wondering if anyone has anything in their studios that they currently use, if you guys have any tips on what works best and what doesn't.

    How do you use it in your studio? Does it send out automated reports? How often do you refresh the data on it? So on and So forth.

    Are there any commercial tools out there that will do the job? Specifically for the game industry, I know there a few out there for movie production.

    Thanks for any help,
    Luiz

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    Technical Director jsdude's Avatar
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    Hi,

    There's some commercial solutions for task tracking (Handsoft, Jira ...) and there's some for tracking assets usually coming from the film industry.
    Here we are having the same issue we are at the point we are in the project asset tracking is mandatory.
    We've decided to go with our own solution to have better control and further more we don't want to hack existing system to fit our needs.
    Fortunately I've work on such a system 3 years ago here in Montreal with great succes the data tracking was fast and efficient and flexible.
    A good way we had was to put only the data necessary for the relations between entities in the DB and put the extra data in Xml files.
    We also had some smart class which read an Xml configuration and created the code for both the entity and the DAO ... that was pretty cool :)
    So last week I've started again to work on story boards for yet another Asset Tracking system ... funny while I was at EA some guys were also working on a similar system looks like the gaming industry has now choice to go down that road now a days.

  3. #3

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    The hot new thing in films for project management is Shotgun, it seems very flexible.

  4. #4

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    Check out Tactic too: http://www.southpawtech.com/
    All written in Python and very customizable.
    Frustration free tools to make artists feel like artists again
    http://www.75ive.com/tools

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    Technical Director jsdude's Avatar
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    Just had a look at shotgun and looks pretty flexible a really similar to what I've seen and worked on. Like any software it's all about how really easy it is to work with the Api and of course cost thx Cheesestraws!
    I may investigated it more for my studio ... will also have a look at TACTIC 2.5
    My only draw back at these solutions is the fact that it's all python which is faster then doing C++ dev but it's not .net .... ;)

  6. #6

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    They both look very interesting. Would be interested to hear how anyone gets on with them if they try them out.

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    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    Thanks guys, we're in the beta for Shotgun, waiting for them to set up our site, would be nice to get some screenshots from Tactic couldn't find anything in their website.

    Seems like we'll probably still have to write our own backend to get the information out of the assets, but if there's a nicer interface than sharepoint I'm all for it

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    hey luiz,

    shotgun + tactic are supposed to be a great combo for both project and asset management/tracking. really flexible solution...

    also check out temerity (www.temerity.us), which i believe is close to what we use (inhouse software).

    i was also looking at nexus recently, which looks similar as well -
    vfxnexus.com

    i wish i could give a demo of our inhouse software, cause its really slick. its a web interface that allows you to build assets/shots/tasks/projects/etc, which communicates with the network structure and builds files/folders accordingly. you can then assign tasks for assets, do all your approvals/notes through that task (set ready for artist, supervisor, director, etc), and all of that gets time tracked by PM's as well.

    all of that leads to other things like publishing assets, kicking off playblasts, renders, building shots, caching, etc.

    maybe next time i'm down in austin during the weekdays i could sneak a demo in for you ;)

    -josh

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    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    That sounds great Josh =)

    Yeah, we already use TFS for task management and bug tracking so we'll probably not change that side of the project, my main concern is that we're going to have over 500 characters and items on the thousands, not to mention 2 open world cities that are too big. So there's no way in hell we can manage all that stuff by hand (which is the current plan) If someone leaves an item to have insane stats it might be too late by the time we actually come across it.

    I like the idea of the db and the rest in XMLs, how do you guys do your searching though? If you need to find all characters over X polys, do you have to open each XML and store the data out and then parse it?

    Also how do you guys feel about historical data, do you it's worth keeping all that data around for historical reasons and see how fast or how slow a city was built?

    I've started building our own, slowly but surely after hours, and I'm doing the backend in python (since it can hit everything and we're a maya studio) and the website in ASP with a MySQL db. Sadly enough the hardest part of the project is convincing management we need it.

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    ah, yeah i guess for game assets, you'd want that kind of info saved out. for us, since we're just doing film/commercial stuff, our assets are only tracked by tasks involved in 'completing' an asset.

    so for any project, we can instantly get an overview of the current asset build - where each asset is along in production (modeling, tech check, rigging, skinning, texturing, published). each asset gets its own page of references, concept art, screenshots, etc, but no real 'maya info' stats like poly count. since most stuff is run via python on the server, that info is probably easily obtainable though. each asset page is linked directly to the asset location on the network, so it will know what the latest geo/rig/tex file would be, to do that kind of digging.

    i don't know how things are setup on the backend for all of that though - our web guys set all that up with our head of pipeline td.

    are you wanting something setup to track the *creation* of those 500+ characters and 1000s of items, or just keep track of their stats/info/whatever after they're created?

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    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    That makes sense for film/commercial when there's really no budgets. But in games we need to keep everything in check so we don't get surprised down the road when the game is running like ass because a new level was done way over the budget, or when designers started using FX in ways they weren't made to.

    We need all the info for different purposes... We need the creation time warnings fired off so designers know now they get more toys to play with, we need stats of said assets so tech artists and programmers can keep the assets in check, we need to know when stuff change, how is stuff being used, what's referencing what, so on and so forth.

    It's probably overkill and I don't think too many studios do any of this but in a game this big when we have to delete an asset or move something we need to know in an instant where is it being used in the game. I think it's one of those things that you didn't know you needed until you have it, much like tech artists =)

    Another big part of it is managing the outsourcing assets, because for the most part our artists are pretty good about making sure everything is kosher, but when we get a drop of 200 assets we need a way to sift through all the stuff.

    I'll keep you all posted if you guys are interested... I'm also messing with Papervision which is an open source flash project that can load up collada files and display then in a browser, I got all of our animations exported out and being read by it, so now we can see what everything looks like from the browser, it's quite neat =) I'd highly recommend it

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    cool, yeah all of that makes sense and sounds pretty doable with any of those solutions. in a way, we have a bit of all that in a different context:

    -when an asset is ready, layout gets notified and they can link it to all the shots/sequences which its needed in.
    -when a rig gets published with an update, animators working on shots that have that asset linked to their shot will get notified that the rig is updated (so they can reload references if they're currently working on the shot).
    -when a new/updated rig is published, TDs get sent a report of all new controls added, or if anything changed from the previous version, based on certain rules we have with assets.
    -at any point, someone can choose an asset and find all linked shots, where it's referenced, etc.

    so yeah, all that functionality isn't really overkill when it keeps the whole flow of the studio in check... and its easy to relate all that film-specific stuff to your needs on an MMO :)

    i'd definitely like to hear how it goes as you implement it...

  13. #13

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    Just thought would share this got a email today about it but shotgun just released a game studio version video can be found here https://shotgunsoftware.zendesk.com/.../entries/45458

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    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    I got that too, seems like a video studio making a generic tool for a game studio and thinking it's awesome (at least that's what I got from it).

    I got my think rolled out in part and it's proving to be invaluable so far, I don't even have much up, but we refer to it daily.

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    Technisch Geschäftführer loocas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lkruel View Post
    I got that too, seems like a video studio making a generic tool for a game studio and thinking it's awesome (at least that's what I got from it).

    I got my think rolled out in part and it's proving to be invaluable so far, I don't even have much up, but we refer to it daily.

    Great to hear! Can you share some of your experiences and perhaps problems you've faced and how you solved them? I'd be very interested in this as I'm too in front of this huge task of setting up an entire pipeline :)
    - loocas

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  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by loocas View Post
    Great to hear! Can you share some of your experiences and perhaps problems you've faced and how you solved them? I'd be very interested in this as I'm too in front of this huge task of setting up an entire pipeline :)
    I would like to hear also

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    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    What details would you guys like to know, I'll try to not break any NDAs. The basic setup is an ASP website that talks to the game db, and a separate crawling script that runs through all the assets and dumps it to another db. Tie the 2 together and you can do from searching a mission to finding the name of the normal map in a character

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    Technisch Geschäftführer loocas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lkruel View Post
    What details would you guys like to know, I'll try to not break any NDAs. The basic setup is an ASP website that talks to the game db, and a separate crawling script that runs through all the assets and dumps it to another db. Tie the 2 together and you can do from searching a mission to finding the name of the normal map in a character
    So, basically, you have a DB dedicated to storing asset meta data (names, poly counts, where they're stored on the server etc...) and another DB for the Web frontend?

    Also, how did you solve checkin-in and checkin-out for the assets and how did you tie it up to your apps?

    Thanks a lot, man, much appretiated! :)
    - loocas

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  19. #19
    for loop lkruel's Avatar
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    Well, games are a tad different because we have a database that is actually running in game and knows what asset to spawn where, how much health they have, how fast they move, so on and so forth. Then I have the asset DB which the script populates, and the web frontend connects the 2.

    We use perforce which works pretty well for us, I have a python interface to it which lets me talk to it from Maya. And it's integrated to the game editor by default (Unreal). Technically you could have perforce be tied to the webfrontend by we use the web mainly as a readOnly interface, not editting.

  20. #20
    Technisch Geschäftführer loocas's Avatar
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    Ah, oks, thanks for the info anyways, I appretiate it.

    I'll be building (most likely it seems) a system based on a SQL (not sure which right now) DB with direct connections from Max, PS, Nuke, additionally Maya and some other progs. we use here, plus some additional connections directly from within Windows for adding etc... assets from the local machines.

    I, under ANY circumstances, don't want my artists to touch the servers from within windows, so I'll have to design the system etc... the way the apps. will be able to access the servers, but users won't. Hope it'll work the way I want.

    Then, and that'll be the last touch, I'll have somebody to write the web interface, read only, as you have, for asset reviews and general overviews of what's happening, incl. connections to our renderfarm.

    Hopefully, if all this works, by the begining of the next year, we'll have our studio setup and ready for action. Then we shoul have at least one internal project finished on this system and see if it works as designed or if we need something else.

    Basically, all I need is a connection interface from within our apps. the rest is just sugar on top, not necessary for the production. So, even though Shotgun and Tactic both look very, very good and I bet all my fingers they're super-useful, they're also most likely way too expensive and perhaps way too robust, so, the current plan is to develop this system in-house and if it doesn't work and some larger projects come in, we'll go this way with Shotgun and Tactic.

    Quote Originally Posted by lkruel View Post
    Well, games are a tad different because we have a database that is actually running in game and knows what asset to spawn where, how much health they have, how fast they move, so on and so forth. Then I have the asset DB which the script populates, and the web frontend connects the 2.

    We use perforce which works pretty well for us, I have a python interface to it which lets me talk to it from Maya. And it's integrated to the game editor by default (Unreal). Technically you could have perforce be tied to the webfrontend by we use the web mainly as a readOnly interface, not editting.
    - loocas

    webSite | blog

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