Remote studio, remote rendering and Redshift

How Shomen Productions utilized cloud rendering with Conductor for this HERE Technologies city scene.

When animation production studio Shomen Productions recently took on a complex creative 3D animation project for mapping and location data platform HERE Technologies, the studio looked to leverage the latest in cloud rendering approaches.

Shomen would ultimately deliver the project—a fun city scene that showcased the application of HERE’s satellite navigation geodata maps to more entertainment-based uses—with a Maya/Redshift workflow rendered with cloud-based task management application Conductor.

A still from the HERE piece.

“What HERE was looking for,” relates Shomen founder and director of VFX & animation James Bennett, was, “Would it be advantageous for a creative studio to use the HERE geodata meshes directly from AWS, to create something in games or a commercial or in a film?” What the Shomen team discovered was a resounding ‘YES’—the HERE geodata was a tremendous time saver in a production setting.

Bennett leveraged his own experience on many animation projects, including Avatar, Iron Man 2 and How to Train Your Dragon 2, to take that brief a step further and introduce a playful photorealistic journey around San Francisco using HERE’s data. Effectively, the base-level geo was to be turned into the photorealistic scene. And yes, it also involved a dinosaur and even space marines.

Shomen Productions founder James Bennett.

The next step involved assembling a remote team. One of the team-members, CG supervisor Robb Gardner, was keen to use Redshift to render the city and vehicles—and monsters. “Robb basically said to me, ‘Redshift is way fast’, so I said, ‘Great, fantastic,’” recalls Bennett.

Then, being a remote studio, Shomen needed to adopt a remote render farm that could also accomodate the decision to go with Redshift.

Shomen’s Conductor ‘Jobs’ log.

“I had a chat with Mac at Conductor and he was phenomenal,” says Bennett. “Phenomenal. They already had all the Redshift licences. As a consequence of that, the interface between Maya and then the actual render nodes and render farm was very user-friendly.”

“In fact, we had test renders that afternoon that we’d been waiting around for a week and a half for previously.”

A city-level street scene, part of the Shomen project delivered for HERE.

Conductor now offers access to an unlimited number of Maxon Cinema 4D and Redshift rendering nodes with per-minute usage and licensing options. Users are able to scale up and down based on their own project needs.

For this Shomen project, the team chose to render in 2K anamorphic. Bennett shares that there were around 9 or 10 layers required at any one time, with scenes lasting between 300 and 1000 frames. “It was definitely a reasonable amount that was going through and Conductor, which did not skip a beat.”

The HERE piece made use of existing geodata assets.

“We were super happy with Conductor,” adds Bennett. “Aside from the actual great support that we got, we were really happy with the results we were getting.”

The project was an opportunity to try out a new approach to working, too, advises Bennett. “We’re a small, remote production studio and are always looking for ways to streamline the creative process while improving quality and output. So, we were super excited to see how the HERE DataMap’s slashed our pre-production and building phases by at least a third, and then when we combined this with the amazing experience we had with Conductor, it was a dream scenario.”

“Basically, we spent less time building stuff and more time polishing. As such, we delivered a product that would have cost nigh on a million bucks at a more ‘traditional VFX house’ for quite a lot less than a million dollars!”

For more about Conductor Cloud Rendering and using Redshift check out the Conductor website.

Brought to you by Conductor Technologies:
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