Technology Blog: A Letter From Hank Driskill, CTO

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Blue Sky at 2018 Siggraph Conference

Blue Sky at 2018 Siggraph Conference

On August 11th, a day after Blue Sky announced its premier membership to the ASWF, and a day before this year's SIGGRAPH Conference, the studio released its first ever Technology Blog to further commit itself to open source in-house technology. The first post, "A Convergence of Unselfish Concerns," written by Chief Technology Officer Hank Driskill, drives home Blue Sky's new philosophy and why we're excited to give the technology we make back to the community. It all comes down to making movies that matter.

A Convergence of Unselfish Concerns

By, Hank Driskill, Chief Technology Officer 

When I started at Blue Sky in January of 2018, I spent my first several months learning a lot about what Blue Sky had been, and thinking a lot about what I want Blue Sky to become.

In recent years, the industry has seen an upswell of open source projects, from USD to OSL to OpenVDB to PTex, to name just a few. Many of the major studios have either initiated open source projects for the good of the industry as a whole, or have incorporated those written by others, then contributed to those efforts. There is also serious movement toward a common reference platform of vendor packages, operating systems and libraries, so that all studios are living on the same foundation.

Likewise, recent years have seen much more of a professional contribution in talks at conferences, and a general move towards openness about how we all make our movies. This has been incredibly well-received by both our peers and by those looking to enter the industry. I’m a tremendous fan of these efforts, and I think this combination shows the possibility for a convergence in our industry.

To me, this leads to a simple conclusion: the studios making animated films don’t have to act like they’re in competition with one another. Each of us gets a moment in time to put our stories out into the world, to hopefully touch people’s hearts and help make the world a little bit better. I genuinely believe there is no shortage of space in people’s hearts to hear stories that matter, even in today’s world of crowded release schedules.

We compete as studios only insofar as awards season and recruitment are concerned. It’s my heartfelt opinion that, more than anything else, it is the quality of the stories we tell that is the driving force behind our standing in both of these arenas.

Every last person working at Blue Sky contributes to the movies we make. It’s our passion to make movies that matter. Each of us brings our talent and training to some facet of the process, but the overall goal is always to make movies that matter. It’s what makes us excited to come into work each morning and what makes us line up on opening weekend to see our movies with audiences and hope they love what we’ve created. We’re not here to make technology — no more than we’re here to make the perfect camera move or model or character moment or lighting setup or material or effect — except in service of the stories we’re telling.

We are designing a new workflow that leverages various open source technologies, and along the way we will be contributing to those technologies in meaningful ways. We’re excited to be joining other studios in these endeavors.

Our difference is this: when we create new technology in-house that we’re particularly proud of — technology that helped us take a step forward in the stories we’re telling, technology we want to keep using — we intend to open source it. There are also technologies we create that are just for one film, technologies we don’t necessarily intend to continue to use; we’re going to release those for free, for others to pick up and evolve if they think those will be beneficial in their work.

It doesn’t hurt us for another studio to make an amazing film. Quite the opposite; we’re all fans of film, and seeing movies that matter will inspire us to work that much harder on our own. If a piece of technology we created helps someone else make a better movie in some way, then we’ll feel genuinely good about that.

We’re going to give the technology we make back to the community that inspires us, and hopefully some of the technology we make will inspire them as well. We’re going to focus our efforts on making movies that matter. I believe people will want to collaborate with us in this endeavor, and I truly believe we’re going to help our industry along the way. This is gonna be fun.

For more Blue Sky Technology, visit The Technology Blog