Muvizu is an animation package for inexperienced and hobbyist animators to quickly and easily make 3D animated videos. It comes with a massive library of pre-made props, scenes and characters that can be created, moved and scaled, animated, edited and finally recorded to a video.
Muvizu took off when BBC’s weekend technology magazine programme Click gave it a very positive review.
Muvizu started in 2007 and continued active development until 2017, so my roles have been many and varied.
- At the start of the project, I was one of only two programmers and was chiefly responsible for the initial integration of the Unreal 3 Engine and some of the initial architecture.
- Setting up the Perforce version control system and a CruiseControl.NET continuous integration system to generate daily builds for the QA department and inform the team of any problems with recent code check-ins.
- As more programmers were recruited to fill out the team and take on specific roles, I moved into the user interface design and development as that was the next big section that needed some attention. Several user interfaces were developed over a period of years; one in ActionScript, one in SWF (System Windows Forms), and finally one in WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation). I continued to work on the user interface throughout Muvizu’s lifetime, but also took on other tasks as the need arose.
- I designed and developed a .NET API to control and monitor Muvizu from outside the main process. It allowed C# code to communicate with the C++ and UnrealScript portions of the Muvizu application. This was initially required for the SWF user interface due to technical constraints with the Unreal Engine, but was also useful for connecting to other processes such as test harnesses, render farms, and other applications wishing to integrate with Muvizu.
- The initial concept was one of “direct, don’t animate”, where the user would act like a movie director, giving direction to the actors within a scene. While this proved to be effective and great for beginners and children, many users wanted finer control and access to better editing features so a timeline and a key-framing were later introduced. I helped to design and implement this upgrade.
- I built a suite of render farm applications for RenderDM, allowing users to render videos using remote computers on their network.
At Muvizu’s peak, Digimania were tasked with creating a professional version of Muvizu aimed at TV and film studios to integrate with their existing pipelines and take advantage of near real-time rendering. It retained Muvizu’s foundation in the Unreal Engine and introduced many new features such as FBX and Alembic importing, a project library, material editor, etc.
My main role in RDM was to resume the user interface work that I had started with Muvizu. As opposed to Muvizu’s simple and straightforward style that was designed to be accessible, the emphasis was on a clean and professional user interface with advanced controls at the user’s fingertips. Due to the scale of this task, we recruited an additional developer to assist me, whom I managed.
RDM was due to be used as the backbone of a cartoon series called “Bradley and Bee”, in collaboration with Red Kite Animation. Although an 11-minute pilot was completed, Red Kite were unable to obtain the funding needed to complete the series.