Bellyfant and Anchorpoint
How the Bellyfant team creates animated videos for kids by using Unreal Engine and Anchorpoint.
Bellyfant is a YouTube channel dedicated to kids, with around 30 million combined views. It shows the funny adventures of a small orange elephant named Bellyfant and his best friend Toaster, a blue hippo. Whether they're swinging, chewing bubble gum, or holding races in the children's room, each short video is sure to make us laugh.
The team behind Bellyfant is a collective of several artists who work remotely from all over the world. In this interview, we speak with Jason Gagnon, the Technical Director behind Bellyfant, about their workflow and how Anchorpoint is used in their production.
Jason, could you tell us more about yourself?
I started in VFX in 2009 where I worked as a hard surface modeler, lighting and lookdev artist. I’ve worked at various companies such as MPC, Method and most currently Double Negative where I work as a lookdev Technical Supervisor based in Vancouver.
When I'm not at Double Negative, I'm working as a CG supervisor on the Bellyfant series, building the pipeline, constructing assets and shots in Unreal and lighting and rendering the shots for the episodes.
Tell us about the pipeline at Bellyfant
Our small team is based around the world, we have animators in India, Turkey and France, our director Pete Dodd is based in England, and myself and Rebecca are based in Canada where we deal with texture, lookdev and rendering of shots.
We use Maya for modeling, rigging and animation. For texturing we use Substance Painter, and all our lookdev and rendering is done inside Unreal Engine. We make use of Houdini for creating FX elements and also use it for caching out our animation done in Maya into alembic format. We have our own tools for dealing with data management between Maya and Unreal Engine.
When did you start using Anchorpoint?
We started using Anchorpoint around January 2022 when we started using it on our Bellyfant YouTube episodes.
Was it easy to get started?
Yes, it was easy to get up and running. The support from the Anchorpoint team has always been great and quick in responding to our questions and feedback.
Our actions were pretty straight forward to setup with the help of the documented API. We built scripts to help construct folder structures and tools for approving shots and assets
What problems does Anchorpoint solve for you?
Having people working in the same drives and folder structures was a big challenge when we utilized Google Drive to transfer files back and forth. Each person had different naming conventions and drive letters, making referencing very difficult and time-consuming.
Being able to utilize a Cloud Drive within Anchorpoint really helped gain consistency and keeping everyone working under the same structures, which in turn reduced time dealing with file distribution.
We also started to implement approval processes on our assets and shots which helps with being able to automate things like our caching system, file referencing and keeping our shots in the edit up to date.
How difficult was it to develop your custom Python tools?
Having extensive Python experiences over the years made this a simple task for us. Having the option to load our tools via GitHub in the workspace also made it very simple to distribute scripts and tools to the team. The Anchorpoint team have made it quite simple to easily create UI’s that work with their user experience and makes things feel more integrated.
Which features do you use the most?
We make heavy use of the Cloud Drive as it’s the main driving force of keeping our team working together on the same data. The attribute system has been great to keep track of asset and shot status and keep notes on each approved asset or shot.
Actions are a big part of our workflow to help create consistent folder and file structures and to deal with approving assets, shots and playblasts.
How did you hear about us?
We heard about Anchorpoint from Dylan Sisson when we did a presentation of our workflows at the View Conference in Torino, Italy back in 2021.
Would you recommend Anchorpoint to your friends?
Yes I would. It’s especially useful for Indie teams looking to work together from around the world without having to be in an office setting.
Thank you so much Jason for taking the time.
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