Redboat speeds animation rendering and delivery with Google ZYNC Render

About Redboat

Redboat creates animation that helps leaders in business, science and government communicate complex, sensitive and important messages to generate value and impact.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Australia
Products: ZYNC Render, G Suite

With Google ZYNC Render, Redboat has reduced the time required to create and deliver high-quality animations to clients, enabling the business to excel in a highly competitive environment.

Google Cloud Platform Results

  • Reduced the time to undertake renders for an award-finalist client project from up to 400 hours in a conventional render farm to as few as 78 hours
  • Supported the operation of a distributed business with freelancers operating in several locations
  • Enabled the business to remain competitive in an environment where barriers to entry are lower than ever before

Growth in digital technologies, channels and content are transforming the way people receive and process information. Attention spans are contracting and individuals are becoming increasingly selective about the content they are willing to consume. These changes present formidable challenges for businesses and government bodies that want to create compelling animated content that resonates deeply with target audiences.

Redboat has cut the time required to complete overnight renders to 30 minutes and weekend renders to the same day.

“I move people from project to project - some of them are overseas and some of them local, but they all work remotely. Now we have Google ZYNC Render, we can all access those resources without me having to carry the overheads of a more traditional environment, which is great for us as a business.”

Adrian King, Founder and Executive Producer, Redboat

This is where Redboat comes in. Founded by principal Adrian King 11 years ago, Redboat creates animations that help businesses and government bodies communicate complex, sensitive and important messages to target audiences. “We make exciting, attractive and engaging animation, but it’s our strategic approach that makes it so effective,” King says. “The imagery might get people’s attention, but it’s the substance that makes the message work.”

King’s approach has yielded animation work that has delivered finalist positions and won coveted international awards. An animation he created for Singapore television won the Best Animated Ident at the Promax BDA 2002 Awards, while in July 2017, the Animation Effects Awards Festival (AEAF) awarded ‘finalist’ status to a Redboat animation submitted to the AEAF 2017 Awards.

Despite his success, King has kept Redboat lean and agile with himself as principal and a pool of expert freelancers engaged on a project-by-project basis. “We can provide the services that larger studios offer without the overheads of staff and infrastructure,” he says.

This flexibility has played a key role in enabling King to complete animation projects that vary considerably in scope and deliverables. “Every single project we do is different,” he says. “For example, we may complete a 2D animation in four to eight weeks, including script, storyboard, voiceover, music, animation production and delivery with captioning and transcripts. Another time we may work with an agency that completes the script and storyboard themselves, leaving us to focus on the production.”

The changes confronting animation professionals like King are not limited to the channels and types of content consumers are willing to consume. Like all animation studios and professionals, King and Redboat are facing the challenge of escalating client expectations, particularly around 3D animation projects. “The quality expected of 3D animations - resolution in particular - is getting higher and higher,” says King. “So, our business faced the issue of render times going up and up and up, affecting our costs, performance and delivery times.”

Redboat

King had relied on on-premises servers running rendering software to complete animation projects for clients. However, this environment could not meet the challenges presented by the transformation of the animation industry. For example, King and his team had to wait up to 30 minutes to render a single image before making adjustments to improve the quality or better meet client requirements. They would then need to wait another few minutes for the changes to take effect. “When we got a frame to the point we had it looking right, we would undertake a full render,” King says. “This needed to be completed overnight or over a weekend, which was a long wait and bottleneck in our production pipeline.”

“Furthermore, our existing system was expensive and noisy for a studio in the business of 3D rendering,” he says.

In 2015, King reviewed his options and decided to use Google ZYNC Render for Redboat’s rendering activities. Google ZYNC Render enables studios to burst their rendering to the cloud, providing them with access to the computational power and global reach of Google’s infrastructure. It acts as an alternative to expensive ‘rendering farms’ - racks of physical servers - used by animation studios.

The product also features native plugins to widely used animation tools and built in software for powerful rendering software.

“Google ZYNC Render worked ‘straight out of the box’ whereas the other products we tried all had problems around setup, interactions or accepting files,” King says. “3D animation is extremely technical so it was extremely important for us to use something that just worked.”

Redboat has not looked back since King made the decision. “Google ZYNC Render solved the problems we had been experiencing,” he says. “The main advantages of the product are that we can scale up and scale down render farm usage; there are no fixed maintenance or running costs; and I can turn around highly detailed renders in a small fraction of the time we used to.”

“That in turn means that we can collate our own internal feedback and reviews much faster, iterate work in progress much faster and ultimately give the client higher quality work sooner.”

Render times slashed

Render times slashed Renders that previously had to be completed overnight can now be completed in 30 minutes while renders that previously required a weekend to process can now be returned the same day. This is due to the fact ZYNC Render can provide users such as Redboat with access to up to 32,000 cores on-demand to complete their jobs. “It’s mindblowing - it’s completely changed everything,” says King. “This capability has alleviated the limitation we had of needing to optimise scenes to reduce render times, so now we can maximise the quality of the images.”

An agile, distributed business model

Using Google ZYNC Render has also enabled Redboat to maintain an agile, distributed business model. “I move people from project to project - some of them are overseas and some of them local, but they all work remotely,” King says. “Now we have Google ZYNC Render, we can all access those resources without me having to carry the overheads of a more traditional environment, which is great for us as a business.”

Redboat’s business model is also enabled by G Suite intelligent apps that connect its team members, who are distributed across Australia and internationally. “Using G Suite allows us to have an integrated ecosystem of apps that perform different functions for our business,” King says. “We use apps like Google Sheets, Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar and Contacts all the time to organise and share work. All the files and information related to our projects are stored on Drive.”

“G Drive is extremely stable and I’m extremely comfortable running the business on it.”

The business has started developing with Google App Maker and expects the product to feature prominently in its production workflow in future.

“Google ZYNC Render solved the problems we had been experiencing. The main advantages of the product are that we can scale up and scale down render farm usage; there are no fixed maintenance or running costs; and I can turn around highly detailed renders in a small fraction of the time we used to.”

Adrian King, Founder and Executive Producer, Redboat

A positive force for change

Looking beyond Redboat to the animation industry more generally, King views Google ZYNC Render as a positive force for change. “With Google ZYNC Render, we can all effectively access giant render farms regardless of the scale of our businesses - whether you’re a freelancer working on a project at home or a big studio,” he says. “It’s completely disruptive technology that has broken the old system.”

The contribution of Google ZYNC Render to Redboat’s success is exemplified by the project (viewable here) that achieved finalist status at the AEAF 2017 Awards. This project was completed on the Google platform and cost only $A4,679.47 in rendering time. “We had 905 frames to render, each with between 10 and 20 layers,” says King. “Some of the files we submitted for rendering were up to 1GB in size.”

“Rendering all the layers of each frame took an average of one hour and 15 minutes per frame.”

In total, Redboat submitted about 222 individual renders to Google ZYNC Render over six weeks. In a physical environment, this would have required 2,422 hours of render time (equal to 40.3 days worth of rendering on a single computer). “Using Google ZYNC Render, we completed the renders in a fraction of that time,” says King. “The Google ZYNC Render logs show that all 222 sequences were rendered in 78 hours and 52 minutes.

“If I include job submission and download times, I estimate our total time to execute all our rendering using Google ZYNC Render at about 100 hours total, spread out over about four weeks,” he adds. “If I had a 20 machine in-house render-farm that would have taken over 400 hours.”

King describes Google ZYNC Render as a core platform that will underpin Redboat’s business in future. “I expect we’ll continue to find more and better ways to use it to enhance productivity and efficiency, as well as to do things that would have previously required enterprise level resources,” he says. “That’s good news for us.”

About Redboat

Redboat creates animation that helps leaders in business, science and government communicate complex, sensitive and important messages to generate value and impact.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Australia

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