Tools Developer – Planet 51

After working at various video game companies, I landed a dream job at an emerging CG production studio in Madrid, called Ilion Animation Studios.



They were ramping up the hire of an army of technical staff (were 50 developers, artist, directors, admin and the such when I got in, up to 300 people a year later) to begin the production of a secret film then called Area 51.



The movie script was still in continuous process of review, there was a bunch of storyboards along its lines, and some very detailed preproduction assets consisting of locations and characters. Everything was secretive and confidential. We had no access to Internet in our workstations (there was a computer with Internet access at the end of the room, for research purpose, isolated from the rest in a different network), the USB and external ports were disabled by design, and we all signed long confidential contracts with penalties in case we leaked information.



I worked from the Tools department, at the 3D and Graphics division. Our task was to develop whatever application was needed by the art and production staff to accelerate their work. There was an endless list of requests and the goal was to make them all available, in different priorities and stages, throughout the production.


Can you spot me? Solution at the bottom.


Our day to day basis was putting down whatever fire was raging, such as critical bugs, broken scenes or corrupt render pipeline data, then meetings with the appropriate departments for kick-offs and followups, then more meetings with supervisors, and finally coding sessions. We had not a second to spare, long days of work from dusk till dawn, and well, the dream job turned out to be a feverish frenzy.



In the end the production went well and, as far as I can tell, the movie still holds, at least technically wise. Check out the props on screen (characters, plates, guns, toys), the hair on Chuck, the wheels on the rover, the moving trees, the panning cameras… those are there thanks to my C++ code (and of course a throng of other people’s work).

Heres a bunch of tools we made, my supervisors at the time Gonzalo Rueda and Alberto Arenas are the narrators:


Solution to picture footer: I am the fourth from the (front) lower left, standing and wearing a striped polo t-shirt.

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