Image of Virtual Production Set
June 9, 2023

Automate Virtual Production with Perforce: APIs, Server Extensions, & More

Version Control
Virtual Production

There are a lot of moving parts in a virtual production pipeline that Perforce Helix Core can help you automate. In this blog, we cover how to use the Helix Core (Perforce) APIs (including the Perforce Python API) to automate some of the manual processes in your  virtual production pipeline. 

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Working with multiple tools and large teams involves a lot of manual processes. That means the typical virtual production workflow leaves a lot of room for human error and inefficiency.   

That's why version control systems like Perforce Helix Core have been revolutionary for M&E teams. Helix Core in particular offers many ways to automate within the virtual production pipeline using custom scripts, extensions, and visual tools. TDs and pipeline teams can streamline the production pipeline further thanks to Helix Core’s freely provided APIs and the ability to add custom triggered events and custom tools.  

Read on for a breakdown of the Helix Core features that enable you to automate your virtual production pipeline. 

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Helix Core (Perforce) APIs for Virtual Production 

In addition to having access to a vast library of plugins and integrations, Helix Core users have access to the API (Application Programming Interface) library. The Perforce Helix Core API allows you to extend Helix Core to work with any piece of software your team is using.  

Perforce provides APIs for Python, PHP, Ruby, Java, C/C++, .NET, and Perl. These APIs make it easier to write powerful integrations and scripts that function within other programs, allowing you to make tools catered to your existing workflows.  

Perforce Python API 

ThePerforce Python API can be used to automate commonly used tasks, build custom integrations into existing DCC tools, or even to build full graphical applications or plugins with libraries like tkinter and PyQt 

If a task needs to be performed repeatedly, it can save a huge amount of time and avoid errors by automating the process. For example, a university may need to create hundreds of new users, groups, and depots on their Helix Core server each semester. Instead of taking an admin hours of time, this can be automated to the point where they can load up a single spreadsheet of new students and get them all set up on the server in minutes. 

Other Perforce APIs 

Through the APIs, it is possible to do anything that you can do using P4V or the P4 command line. As a real-world example, the Perforce integration in Unreal Engine was created by the Epic team using the publicly available C++ API. Their integration fits seamlessly into the Unreal Editors interface and allows users to do almost all of their daily version control without ever needing to leave the editor.  

With APIs for C/C++, .NET, Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, and Perl, along with JavaScript support built into P4V, there are a huge range of ways you can incorporate Perforce into your existing tools and workflows. 

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Automating with Server Extensions 

Another way to automate within a virtual production pipeline is using server extensions. Helix Core offers the ability to run custom actions based on events. Example: a script could be triggered every time a file change is submitted to your Helix Core server. This script can send a Slack notification, or it could update a task status in your project management tool based on the user, the files being changed, or a custom description provided with the submission.  

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Automating with Custom Tools and Panels 

Helix Visual Client (P4V) is a free add-on for Helix Core that can be used to help automate your virtual production pipeline. This add-on provides an intuitive graphical interface for your Helix Core server, offering creative teams and other users who are less familiar with version control an easier way to version assets. It is highly customizable, and it gives you the ability to add your own functionality through custom tools and HTML panels.  

Behind the Scenes of the Production of a High-Profile Animation Series Built with Custom Tools & Perforce

An international animation studio was halfway through the production of a high-profile animated series when they needed to migrate their project to Unreal Engine. To meet their deadline, the studio turned to ICVR, a vetted digital production studio known for developing cutting-edge tools and pipelines within game engines, and Perforce. Take a deep dive into their process in the webinar below.

Custom tools are similar to server triggers in that they can execute any type of program that can run on your client computer. Instead of being triggered by events on the server, they can be run by users through context menus directly inside of Helix Visual Client. For example, a short script could be added to a right-click menu on a changelist that will check the total size of the files to submit and give an approximation of the time it will take to upload to the server. A custom tool could be used to create custom reports, alert other users, or any other automation.  

In addition to custom tools, it is also possible to create custom panels for P4V that display information from Helix Core visually. For example, you could create a panel to bring up a custom HTML page whenever a user is submitting changes so that they can link them to their task tracking software, log hours, or provide other information. 

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Try Perforce Helix Core for Free 

You can add Perforce Helix Core to your virtual production pipeline for free. Download it free and use it for up to 5 users. 

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