Posted Nov 19

Fur-tile workflows and rendering: automated presentation of furry characters using Hydra

by The Focus
Fur-tile workflows and rendering: automated presentation of furry characters using Hydra by The Focus

Lead Software Engineer Curtis Andrus and Software Developer Natchar Ratanasirigulchai talked about MPC Film’s new in-house tool Furtility, which automatically displays grooms in animation dailies using Pixar’s Hydra.

This provides better context to Animators when posing characters or presenting their work. MPC also adapted this tool to allow its Technical Animation department to quality-check their fur dynamics results.


Furtility is designed to work only on the final renderable geometry. So, finding a way to integrate this into an Animator’s scene involved several challenges:

- Groom expansion is too slow for Animators to work with effectively.

- Setting up groom information on a character requires a high level of expertise in MPC’s Grooming pipeline, making it impractical for most Animators to work with.

- Furtility’s GL rendering was developed years ago and is notable to hit the quality of preview expected in Animation. The following sections explain how we addressed each of these challenges.

Workflow automation

To make this tool easy to adopt in production, the team wanted to require as little input from the artist as possible. The team used MPC’s Renderflow technology internally to automate the setup of the Furtility and Hydra Maya objects. The setup process consists of the following steps:

  1. Identify characters in the artist’s Maya scene.
  2. Create furtility / hydra objects to display the grooms.
  3. Gather lights and cameras for the shot.
  4. Save a copy of the scene with the full hydra setup (for de-bugging).
  5. Hardware Render.
  6. Release a daily of the result.


Supervisors configure the tool at the sequence or shot level, and this is used to build a scene to the desired specifications. Individual Animators do not worry about specific configurations and can launch a preview render with a single button click.


This tool can generate high-quality previews of furry characters on a large volume of shots with minimal setup. For fur-heavy shows like Detective Pikachu, this can significantly reduce the burden on the renderfarm software, as well as bypassing the pipeline overhead of pushing shots all the way to the Lighting stage.

This project is still in active development, focusing primarily on automation as we roll it out to other shows. Visually, the hair shader is still fairly basic, so the team would like to explore using improved shader models. The team also intends to fully integrate this with Furtility, so that Groom artists work entirely with Hydra-drawn grooms. –

To learn more, read the full article here.

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