MHUG at Cinesite

HOUDINI USERS GROUP, 18 May 2023 at Cinesite Montreal

Cinesite Montreal was delighted to host MHUG @ Cinesite, a knowledge-sharing event co-organized by Montreal Houdini User Group (MHUG) Founder  Louis-Philippe Clavet and Cinesite CG Supervisor Sean Lewkiw. Nearly a hundred people were in attendance on May 18th to learn more about the work of Cinesite FX TD’s Robert Mastriano and NAD’s (the School of Digital Arts, Animation and Design, at the University of Québec at Chicoutimi) graduating class representatives, France Rodrigue and William Cardinal, and their professor, François Lord.

Graham Peddie, Cinesite Montreal’s COO, opened with a short address centred on the studio’s stance on flexibility and training to support artists’ professional growth. In recent years, Cinesite has developed multiple tools to foster a healthy culture for its employees. Whether it may be through its comprehensive WFH and EDI policies or various training schemes available to staff of all levels and departments, Cinesite has doubled down on its effort to provide a positive and nurturing work environment. 

Presenting some of Cinesite’s work on Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical was Effects Technical Director (FXTD) Robert Mastriano, who joined Cinesite in 2021. Robert, who’s been using Houdini in his craft for over six years, demonstrated how he and his team used the software to animate the film’s infamous Chain Man. Sharing a series of shots with the audience, he discussed how the team developed the FX setup layered atop the animation, in which low-resolution vellum splines were post-processed to receive chain geometry and recreate chain movement throughout the character. Mastriano also shared tips and tricks with his peers while describing how the team resolved many of the shots’ tricky choreography, such as the monster’s chaotic movement effects and ability to wrap its limbs around various objects, blending between simulated and animated elements in the thrilling sequence. 

The audience was encouraged to ask questions, and guests, who came from various Montreal VFX studios and schools, were eager to participate.

“Events like these present a rare occasion for us to put aside the competition to discuss and learn as a community. I’d like to thank Cinesite Montreal for hosting and giving us this opportunity to come together.”

– Louis-Philippe Clavet, Founder of MHUG and Head of CG at Folks VFX. 

NAD students followed with an exclusive showing of their class’ final project Dents L’Temps. Watch the trailer here. The cohort’s professor, François Lord, then presented the project’s unique pipeline that allowed the 22 graduating students to achieve a level of complexity never seen before at NAD. Developed by Lord in Houdini’s Solaris with very little code (only 5 Python scripts), the fully USD (Universal Scene Description) pipeline considerably improved the students’ workflow. By providing them tools to share information with ease and work in parallel, the new infrastructure enabled students to focus more of their energy on the creative aspects of their project, tremendously improving the quality of their work.

“I am very impressed with the work Robert and NAD students presented. Immersing ourselves in the learning process of young talents is always inspiring and deeply enlightening. It allows us to grow as mentors and educators and identify tools for our and their professional development.”

– Sean Lewkiw, CG Supervisor, Cinesite Montreal.

“Fostering young talents and providing continuous training opportunities to our staff is part of Cinesite’s DNA. Therefore, it was a pleasure to host the MHUG for this fantastic event. I’d like to thank Sean and Louis-Philippe for this initiative. We hope to host more of these meets in the future.”

– Graham Peddie, Chief Operating Officer, Cinesite Montreal. 

Learn more about Cinesite’s culture, upcoming events and opportunities on our careers hub

Want to know more about Houdini? Join the MHUG here

Cinesite Montreal would like to thank Sean Lewkiw (Cinesite) and Louis-Philippe Clavet (MHUG, Folks VFX) for organizing this event. Special thanks to Robert Mastriano (Cinesite), France Rodrigue, William Cardinal and François Lord (École NAD) for their presentations and to SideFX for their support.