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Brown Bag Films Goes HD with Smoke

17 September - Dublin-based Academy Award nominated animation studio Brown Bag Films has installed an Autodesk Smoke HD editing and finishing system along with 15 seats of Autodesk 3ds Max 3D modelling and animation software. The investment is part of a facility upgrade carried out by Autodesk reseller Eurotek. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern recently opened the newly upgraded studio.

Brown Bag, which employs more than 50 animators, directors, designers and production staff at its state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Dublin, specialises in children's animation programmes and television commercials.

As the demand for HD content increases, the team at Brown Bag found this presented its own challenges; especially when it comes to editing animation. Brown Bag’s Brian Gilmore explained: “The decision regarding the Smoke wasn’t made lightly. We knew we needed to upgrade our edit suites to HD. We’ve been using Final Cut Pro HD for the last year or so but found it a bit slow and unreliable for online editing large volumes of full HD 1080P. With the amount of HD projects in the pipeline we need something that we can depend on.

“We spent the time looking at the high end suites out there and it made sense to go for Smoke as it ties in nicely with our pipeline of 3ds Max and off-lining on the Final Cut Pro suites. We’ve seen the Smoke in action and it’s very impressive. It’s very fast at handling uncompressed HD files, it allows us to master to NTSC and PAL, and has a huge tool set available for doing post production and final finishing on our projects. But the most important thing is its reliability and having a support team behind it should we run into problems,” added Gilmore.

The new Smoke system along with Brown Bag’s 3ds Max software will be put to work on Olivia, a 52 x 11 min 3D children’s animation series produced for Chorion UK and Nickelodeon US; Grabby Bag a 12 X 5 min series for RTE/BCI; and Teenology for RTE.

As well as the TV production department Brown Bag has a very successful commercials department delivering 3D and 2D commercials to the likes of the Irish National Lottery (DDFH&B), Guinness (IIDDBO), Coca Cola & Sky News (Rothco) and UTV Weather (Navigator Blue).

“The integration of Mental Ray rendering and the free license for render nodes in 3ds Max is a big factor for us,” said Gilmore “The Hair and Fur tools are very good now and we’ve used them on a lot of projects, notably the Irish Lottery commercials. Advanced modelling tools are a must for our studio and 3ds Max is known for them. The customisability and flexibility of max scripting – for rigging, automating tasks, writing our own utilities, etc - are all extremely useful. The Subscription service which gives us new updates as they come out, plus other tools and updates such as the Productivity Booster are another plus point for us.”

The company’s newly upgraded high-end picture and audio post set up comprises the Autodesk Smoke HD edit suite, Autodesk 3ds Max software, Autodesk Combustion desktop compositing software, three HD Final Cut Pro suites and a Media100 finishing suite. Clips are layed out to Sony DigiBeta SD Pal and NTSC and HDCAM SR decks.

Commenting on the benefits of an Autodesk workflow, Gilmore says, “Every project comes with its own set of problems but we’re happy that we can tackle any situation that comes up with our Autodesk pipeline - from 3ds Max to Combustion for compositing and then on to final delivery with Smoke and Cleaner for other encoding.”