Annotating the Draft Way

Version: Deadline 8.1

Introduction - A New Way to Annotate

Compositing images or movies through the Deadline pipeline has been made easy through the use of Draft, a lightweight compositing and video processing tool that automates post-render tasks. Adding annotations to the finished compositions has also been possible through the use of the Draft Scripting Cookbook. However a new feature has been created that lets you visualize the outcome of these annotations and lets you modify them on the spot - the Draft Annotations window! This feature will be introduced in Deadline 8.1, which is currently in beta, so join the beta testing program if you would like to get early access!

This article is going to dig through all of the annotation options that have been made available through the Draft Annotations window. Hopefully in the future we can expose even more of these options that are within Draft for your ease and convenience.

How Do I Start?

If you're worried about licensing, don't be - Draft is free for all users on an active Deadline subscription. However if you're planning on using multiple nodes you will need to make sure you have a license for each one individually. Please contact Thinkbox Sales if you need to renew your subscription or require additional Draft licenses.

The annotations window can be opened a few ways including through the integrated Deadline submitters. For this article I'll be using the Maya and Deadline Monitor submitters, but don't let that stop you! The Draft annotations window can be opened anywhere a Pipeline Tools button can be found (aka in nearly all of our integrated submitters). Note that this Pipeline Tools button is new in Deadline 8.1.

When using the integrated submitter in any supported application (making sure it's been installed first), simply select the Pipeline Tools button and navigate to the Draft tab. This Pipeline Tools window is a way for Deadline to connect our integrated submitters with such tools as Draft, NIM, Shotgun, and FTrack. Once you've opened this tab you can then check Submit Draft Job on Completion, check the Add Annotations checkbox, and click the Edit Annotations button.

The other two ways to open the Draft Annotations window are both through the Monitor. The first is by a regular Draft submission via Submit > Processing > Draft Submission. The other way is through the Job submitter which has the added benefit of automatically detecting the output files and using them within the window, but I'll cover that feature in more detail later. For now the Job submitter can be opened by right clicking a job and going to Scripts > Processing > Draft Submission.

Both of these options open up the same Draft submission window. Here you can specify your options - three important ones for this article are Input File, Output Folder Name, and Output File Name. After that select the Draft tab, check the Add Annotations checkbox, and click the Edit Annotations button.

Creating a Simple Annotation

Welcome to the Draft Annotations window! This is what you'll initially see when you click the Edit Annotations button.

This viewport works similarly to Jigsaw with panning, keep fit, zoom - the major difference here is that the boxes have set positions. For your first annotation simply click one of the 6 boxes and start typing in the Text field below the viewport - it's as straightforward as it gets. Clicking the Update Annotations button will save your changes (the Enter key is a handy shortcut to use here).

There, your very first annotation! You can move an annotation by clicking and dragging where you want it to go (this will switch any two annotations that are in the selected positions). Or if you want to remove all of your annotations you can use the Clear All button.

Using an Image for Reference

Now comes the fun stuff: being able to preview your annotations on your output images. This holds an advantage to pure Draft scripts in that any issues can be seen immediately and changed on the fly - no more repetitive miniscule edits to scripts to achieve what you want!

In the Draft Annotations window, select the Usage Image From File option in the Preview section and use the [...] button to browse for the image you want to use. If this is the first time rendering a particular image sequence, you can render the first frame locally first and use that as the background image. Or alternatively, you can use a blank background and specify the resolution and background color. An added bonus here is whatever image/background you choose will be saved for the next time you open this annotation window. Such a lifesaver when using custom resolutions.

If you're using the Job submitter in the Monitor, the Draft Annotations window will attempt to automatically pull the first frame image from any output it can find in the completed job, and use that as the background image. This is a Job submitter exclusive since we use the Deadline Monitor to find where the output is for the job you've selected.

Tokens, Tokens, Tokens

Tokens are used as placeholders for data that's added onto the image once it's rendered and they can be added with the Insert Token button. There are four different types:

  • $frame: Shows the specific frame number for the current frame.
  • $time: The current time.
  • $logo: Adds a logo image to the frames (with the path to the logo in brackets). The logo will be resized appropriately.
  • $dimensions: The overall dimensions of the frames.

To add a token in your annotations you have to select the box you wish to add it to, press the Insert Token button, and select the token from the dropdown that appears. Adding a token automatically updates the annotation so you don't even have to press Enter after.

Submitting the Job

Once you're satisfied with your changes press the OK button which will save all changes made and add the new annotations to the Draft job. Now just submit the job as normal and you're done! Your annotations will be added on your Draft output (once your original job has finished rendering of course).

Here's the final rendered image from our example:

Bonus Features!

There are some additional features in the Draft Annotations window I'd like to highlight.

Pad Those Frames

There's an option to adjust the frame padding manually for the $frame token. This can be done in the Monitor's Draft submitter by changing the amount of # symbols in the output file name.

This functionality hasn't been added to the integrated submitters yet since it requires fine-tuning for each piece of software. It's still fully possible to do for your jobs by first submitting to the Deadline Monitor and then creating a Draft job from the Job submitter.

Sharing is Caring

What if you need to share your annotations across the office, is that even possible?

Of course! By going to the File menu in the Draft Annotations window there can be seen two options: Load Annotations and Save Annotations. Both of these options save/load to/from a simple text file that contains all of your annotation information (including color, position, tokens, etc). This makes it easier when sharing between individual people or even when copying annotations over from the Monitor submitter to an integrated one.

Wrap Up

That's it! You now know everything you need to for creating annotations within your Deadline workflow.

Of course since this is a new feature we couldn't include everything we wanted in the first release, but we have quite a few ideas on where we want to go next (font type, more shortcuts, adjustable boxes, etc). If you have any suggestions or feedback we'd love to hear from you on the Deadline beta forums. Once Deadline 8.1 is released, you can use the regular Deadline forums for feedback.

Finally, If a feature you want hasn't been added yet you might even be able to do it yourself by using the Draft Cookbook, and this blog post can walk you through some useful recipes.