Being at the forefront of digital creativity, CGI film companies have long depended on continual digitalization to stay innovative and resilient.

Animation film producer DreamWorks’ The Boss Baby: Family Business is slated to be released in the Asia Pacific region in the months ahead.

The sequel, touted as the firm’s longest animated film to date in the middle of a global pandemic full of work disruptions, was able to meet release schedules due to heavy support from technologies such as cloud data services, storage systems, data and virtualization software, and tools that simplify management of applications and data.

Using a hybrid cloud platform, the firm has been able to manage billions of digital files, optimize workflows in the cloud and in the data center, while providing high system performance for their computer generated imagery (CGI) artists.

The biggest plot twist to date 

With their latest CG film, DreamWorks crew came face-to-face with a new villain: a pandemic that forced everyone on the production team to work from home.

As a result, 99% of the film’s lighting, 85% of the rendering, and 95% of the FX shots were completed in a work from home environment. Considering that the animated film comprises more than 268m digital files utilizing an estimated 955 terabytes of data, the crew had to pivot quickly and deliver on schedule through their already digitalized hybrid cloud platform.

According to the firm’s Senior Vice President, Technology Communications and Strategic Alliances, Kate Swanborg: “NetApp creates an infrastructure for us that is robust and stable, (and their people) work side by side with our engineers to future-proof our strategies.”

100% uptime needed

To put this into context, DreamWorks and NetApp had been in a multi-year strategic alliance since 2018 to advance the studio’s hybrid-cloud data management environment in support of their creative and business objectives.

The key for DreamWorks has been ensuring that the right data is in front of the right artists, at the right time. Through its joint engineering innovation partnership with NetApp, DreamWorks has stayed ahead of the curve by adapting to future production trends with the flexibility provided by such technology.

According to Skottie Miller, Technology Fellow and Vice President, Platform and Services Architecture, DreamWorks Animation, the NetApp platform has been part of every DreamWorks CG animated film: “Our engineers are able to concentrate their efforts on the needs of our creative and production teams, instead of focusing all of their attention on data management.”

With the assured 100% uptime, DreamWorks has expanded NetApp clusters, upgraded controllers, introduced new generations of storage media, and replaced components without affecting any users. The firm even completed an all-flash upgrade in their data center while in production, without downtime or disruption. The all-flash upgrade has enabled DreamWorks to optimize precious data center space, resulting in substantial savings in power and cooling, as well as a significant reduction in latency, which contributes to higher performance and decreased artist wait time.

The studio’s extensive data environment is supervised by a small support team, thanks in part to data management and AIOps tools. As its talented teams continue to expand multimedia content creation beyond traditional animated feature films, having the ability to manage data quickly and efficiently becomes mission critical.

Commented Sanjay Rohatgi, Senior Vice President and General Manager (APAC), NetApp: “With streaming services eager to acquire new subscribers through localized content… APAC’s media and entertainment industries now have growing platforms to not just reach their own, but also achieve international success,” and advanced digitalization can be leveraged “to bring local communities and cultural values into greater cinematic focus.”