Tangent Animation Scales with Virtual Workstations on AWS – fxguide

Our AWS Creations Insights / SIGGRAPH coverage is a story specially sponsored by Greenscreen.

AWS Webcast Series on August 26th and 27th to cover content production in the cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is hosting a webcast series to demonstrate how creative studios, teams, and freelancers can use the cloud to enable remote setups, scale production pipelines, and help artists. This series will also be made available via the SIGGRAPH 2020 virtual platform. The webcast series is free and you can register right here or through your SIGGRAPH account if you attend this week. In the webcast on August 26th and 27th, you will learn how Tangent and other creative studios are using the cloud in production. We spoke to Tangent below for a preview of the event and virtualization of their animation pipeline.

Tangent, one of the teams that will be discussing the virtualization of their pipeline

When moving content production to remote models, the ability to work flexibly and easily scale is more important than ever. Together with creative studio partners, AWS developed a two-day event with five webcasts that explain how the cloud can be successfully used for visual effects and animation workflows. Registrants for on-demand viewing can not only be made available via the SIGGRAPH 2020 virtual platform, but also view the sessions after the event. (Register directly here).

Tangent Animation, developer of Next Gen for Netflix.

Sessions begin each day at 8:00 a.m. PDT for America, EMEA, and Africa and 10:00 a.m. IST for APAC, and are held sequentially. The series begins with a keynote address on the cutting edge of the industry, followed by feature presentations from Untold Studios, Hive VFX, and Cinesite, and a virtual panel discussion with NVIDIA and Tangent Studios. Scroll down for a full overview of the schedule and registration.

Tangent Studios pipeline virtualization

The Tangent Studios are part of the second day. The studio is interesting on many levels, for example as an animation studio that relies on the open source software Blender to create its animation films. The sister company Tangent Labs is the team behind LoUPE, the innovative asset and production tools that were developed during the development of Next Gen for Netflix. They also have an interactive and games sister company, Tangent Interactive Media.

For the creative team of artists and innovators at Tangent Animation, pioneering pathways have become a defining characteristic, whether it's redefining workflows with open source software, developing original content, or developing new storytelling solutions. The studio has relied on cloud-based resources for rendering since starting work on its latest Next Gen animated feature, which was released on Netflix. While Tangent was preparing his current projects like Maya and the Three, he took the opportunity to modernize operations and decided to replace a fleet of aging desktop setups with virtual workstations on AWS.

Next Gen on Netflix.

By analyzing the schedule and quality requirements for the final project results and reviewing the internal pipeline tools, it quickly became clear that the project would require a significant hardware upgrade. Given the estimated costs and logistics involved in replacing nearly 300 local workstations at the Toronto and Winnipeg plants, Tangent evaluated alternative solutions and ended up using virtual workstations running on Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) G4 instances NVIDIA T4 GPUs and Quadro technology are running.

"Given our current capacity versus work demands, it quickly became clear that we needed to overhaul our internal infrastructure," said Jeff Bell, COO of Tangent Studio and co-founder. “Instead of investing in more physical hardware, we switched to the cloud instead. All of our production data was already stored on AWS, which resulted in a seamless transition and a virtual switchover. This has saved significant upfront expenses while opening up new opportunities by moving Capital Expenditures (CapEx) to Operating Expenses (OpEx). "

Jeff Bell Co-Founder Reviewing a Shot (R)

The scalability and security of AWS were motivating factors in Tangent's decision to move from on-premises hardware to cloud-based virtual workstations, although moving from home in March 2020 accelerated implementation by the studio. "We spent several months in Toronto testing virtual workstations on AWS and installing AWS Direct Connect to enhance our network experience," said Ken Zorniak, CEO and co-founder of Tangent Studios. "When we were working from home, we increased our direct connection from 1 GB to 10 GB to enable our VPN routing, and our artists were able to continue their projects as good as normal."

Tangent artists securely access powerful virtual workstations in AWS using Teradici's cloud access software. Virtual workstations can be powered up on demand to meet specific project requirements, eliminating the need to purchase and maintain special hardware that may otherwise be idle.

When creating digital content, Tangent relies on Blender and provides virtual workstations that run on Amazon EC2 G3 and G4 instances. With the latest NVIDIA GPU Quadro technology supported by the wide availability of the AWS infrastructure, G4 instances are tailored to the high performance and low latency requirements of Tangent's VFX and animation workloads.

Bell remarked, "Buying hardware that is optimized for only ten percent of an artist's workload doesn't make sense. With AWS, we can access the hardware for the day or week that it takes and then reduce the size."

Zorniak added, "I think our artists have adjusted quite well to the new setup, but will find even greater benefits in using virtual workstations when we get back to the office as they also have Direct Connect connectivity."

With virtual workstations, Tangent also has the flexibility to scale its talent pool based on project needs and results. Because the studio's central infrastructure, including storage, is hosted on AWS, it can hire and securely integrate remote artists from anywhere, as long as they have a computer and internet access. “Ultimately, no files are transferred, just pixels and nothing is local. We also know our data is safe with AWS, which is extremely valuable to us and our customers, ”said Bell.

"Investing in local hardware can often be like throwing money out the window," concluded Bell. “Virtualizing your workstations is a smart investment and will help you optimize your budget as you can easily make adjustments and scaling based on project requirements. The boundaries of creating digital content are so tight, but using virtual workstations gives us a buffer that allows us to work more efficiently and ultimately create higher quality content. We get exceptional support from AWS and never have to worry about accessing the computers we need, no matter how much we scale. "


Day one: Wednesday, August 27th

Keynote: Creation of digital content in AWS
Learn how to scale your studio by running virtual workstations, rendering, and storage workloads on AWS, and discover tools that help studios iterate faster, hire the best talent, work remotely, and deliver to customers.

Industry premieres: How to start a new creative studio entirely in the cloud
Untold Studios describes how it pushes the boundaries of technology by working entirely in the cloud (and experimenting with Unreal Engine) so its teams can focus on creative tasks without operational distractions.

Second day: Thursday, August 28th

Hive VFX: Automate the deployment of virtual studios on AWS to enable global collaboration
Learn more about Hive VFX via infrastructure as code with AWS CloudFormation, serverless and event-driven architecture with AWS Lambda and AWS API Gateway and how you can use these services to provision an HPC environment with G4 instances, FSx Luster file systems and EC2 Spot fleets via AWS Thinkbox Deadline.

Cinesite Says It All: How Cloud Rendering Can Revolutionize VFX and Feature Animation Workflows
Learn how Cinesite uses cloud rendering tools to bring new levels of visual complexity and attention to detail in their work, meet increasingly tight schedules, and get a glimpse of upcoming projects, including the family adventure comedy EXTINCT and Scenes from "Tom Clancys Jack Ryan". ”

Virtual workstations: the new studio that you absolutely must have
Join AWS, NVIDIA, and Tangent Studios in a discussion hosted by Randi Altman of postPerspective about virtual workstations, how they work, who is using the technology today, and how remote working will evolve and affect content production.

Sessions are also made available via the SIGGRAPH 2020 virtual platform or directly here.


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