We had a chance to talk with Tangent Labs’ founder and CEO Jeff Bell about LoUPE, his company’s complete cloud-based CG production pipeline tool. Developed during the making of sister company Tangent Animation’s work on Netflix’s acclaimed animated feature NextGen, LoUPE was first revealed to the public at SIGGRAPH 2019. Here is what we found out:
Animag: Can you tell us a little bit about your company and when you started developing LoUPE?
Jeff Bell: Tangent Labs grew out of our company Tangent Animation, as we set out to package up our hard-won knowledge gained during the making of Netflix’s NextGen and share it with the community. Our goal is to always ensure we put as much as we can on the screen for a given budget, so we made the decision to go all in with Blender and reallocated the resources that we would’ve put towards purchasing commercial software licenses into sponsorship of the Blender Foundation, and into our own developers to add features to Blender to suit our production needs. With a challenging delivery date after the sale of the movie to Netflix we embraced the cloud to increase our rendering capacity: the lessons learned and code developed during this timeframe were then incorporated into LoUPE.
What are some of the main advantages of LoUPE compared to other animation asset management tools available on the market?
The core of LoUPE is our Asset Management, which is tightly integrated with Project Management and Media Review into one seamless package — this combination of features is not common in the marketplace. By eliminating the need to cobble together a project management system with bespoke in-house asset management tools, we free up your technical resources to focus on development that makes a difference to your final look of picture. LoUPE was designed with a modern UI and ‘nice touches’ like easy drag and drop playlist creation from anywhere you see media, and the ability to view and sort your data in a listview simply by dragging column headers, to name a few. Additionally, LoUPE has a fully featured and documented REST API, enabling easy development of custom tools against the LoUPE Asset and Project management features.
What does Tangent Labs offer in terms of technical support and training to its customers?
We offer email, telephone and videoconference support and we’ve created a series of videos that highlight the various features of LoUPE, with more to follow in the coming weeks and months. Our documentation is available online, and bespoke training is also offered to individuals and studios that have unique requirements or need a customized curriculum.
What software is LoUPE compatible with?
Based on extensive customer feedback, LoUPE will launch with plug-ins for major Digital Content Creation (DCC) packages including Blender and Autodesk Maya, allowing artists to select their tool of choice. Additional support for SideFx Houdini, Epic Games UnrealEd and Pixar Universal Scene Description (USD) will follow in upcoming releases — our goal is to migrate all workflows to USD to enable cross DCC workflows, enabling our clients to deploy packages as best suit the needs of their projects.
Where is the animation data kept and how secure is it?
All project data is securely stored on AWS Simple Storage Service (S3). You have full access to, visibility of, and control of your data always. We’ve partnered with Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), a leading security consulting firm to ensure the utmost security of your data, and have successfully completed the AWS Well-Architected Review process.
Who are your partners on this venture?
Tangent Labs is a big supporter of the Blender Foundation; we see it as the future and will always work to contribute to the Blender community, and to the code base of Blender itself. To that end we’re working with Intel in order to create additional performance improvements in Cycles, providing reduced iteration time and improved production efficiency — we have already incorporated Intel technologies into Cycles such as the Embree path-tracing core. We’re aligned with Teradici as their PCoIP solution is a natural fit for LoUPE, and of course we have a collaboration with AWS and are offering LoUPE as a SaaS product in the AWS Marketplace.
Have you felt an increase in demand due to the new stay at home regulations around the world?
LoUPE was developed during the production of NextGen, with our offices in Toronto and Winnipeg requiring distributed production long before the pandemic struck. Our goal as a Studio is to be as mobile and flexible as possible, enabling remote production work across multiple facilities, and to enable remote contractors to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the production teams. We believe that this will be the future of all animation and VFX production going forward, and have developed Loupe to address the needs of distributed asset and production management. This has been supported on various validation tours and discussions we’ve done over the last couple of years when talking to clients – there is a real want for the type of distributed production that Tangent performs in-house, but in a more simplified and cost-effective manner than forcing each client to develop these technologies themselves.
What would you like our readers to know about LoUPE?
LoUPE was created For Artists, By Artists and is a platform that was built for our creative community, so feedback is of paramount importance to us. We have big plans for the future and commit to maintaining a close connection to our peers in the industry to solicit feedback to shape the future of LoUPE. This is only the beginning of the LoUPE story, and we look forward to sharing this journey with you.
Tangent Labs will be presenting two livestream demos this week to detail LoUPE:
For more info, visit tangent-labs.com.