As artists and general users, we are used to interacting directly with what’s commonly called the User Interface. We have panels and windows, buttons and sliders, and similar onscreen controls. When we use these controls, we see an on-screen result – sometimes it might be the immediate final effect, and other times it might be a number that represents a change in the final result later.
For many scenarios, that’s exactly what’s needed. But what if we wanted to automate part of this? What if we wanted to do a process that involved hundreds, thousands, or even millions of individual interactions, but those interactions were based on a large set of data such as something in a big spreadsheet? Or to build on that even further, what if that list of actions was based on the result of a similarly large number of operations done in an entirely different piece of software?
To do this by hand could take many hours, days, weeks, or even more. But that’s why we have computers!
This is one of the uses for an API, which stands for Application Programming Interface. Essentially APIs act as a doorway, through which it is possible to control the application in an automated fashion. Not every application provides one, and every different API will have its own specific way of being accessed and controlled.
In the world of Visual Effects - one of the subjects we teach at Escape Studios - most of the major applications provide an API. A common language used in them is Python, which is an accessible yet very powerful tool. Even knowing a little bit of Python will really open some doors and make you stand out from the crowd when applying for roles.
So, this allows us to automate the busywork where possible, limited only by the speed of the systems and what’s possible with the software involved. The process will still need to be created by artists/pipeline engineers but the time savings once that’s done can be immense.