DreamWorks CTO: “Cloud 2.0” Will Transform, Empower Artists

Speaking at ETC’s Media Management in the Cloud conference at NAB, Lincoln Wallen, CTO of DreamWorks Animation, described how “Cloud 2.0” gives digital graphics and animation artists extraordinary new creative freedom and power. Wallen described how this vision has already been realized in DreamWorks’ CGI movie development using in-house animation software Apollo (publicly unveiled in May 2014). The Cloud 2.0 wave Wallen champions focuses on using the cloud as an agile supercomputing resource with on-demand “Compute as a Service” scalability.

dwanimationsWallen explained that the first wave of adaptation of cloud computing by M&E companies was generally focused on commoditization of infrastructure, shifting from siloed to integrated studio processes, and efficiency optimization.

In gaining much more immediate control and access to computing power from Cloud 2.0, Wallen explained, digital artists could enjoy a radical transformation of their creative workflow and capabilities.

CGI creatives no longer need to feel constrained by rendering wait-times and other pre-supercomputing technical constraints, meaning that they can move from the old “Guess and Check” workflow to a real-time continuous one, which is intuitive and immersive, more similar in its directness to pre-computing ink-and-brush creative work.

Wallen showed how Apollo allowed artists to directly intervene in a movie being played in real-time and make graphical changes with immediate and full effect.

Wallen’s talk showed how while using cloud supercomputing for “no compromises” creative design principles might seem to mean sacrificing technical performance for on-demand flexibility, the agility of Cloud 2.0 matched the unpredictability of computer rendering resources in digital animation far better, and actually led to large decreases in computing resources and spend needed.

Under this new paradigm, which can be applied across the digital film industry and beyond, technical training demands on artists, no longer required to be so conscious of engineering limitations, fell dramatically too. This frees them to focus on their expanded creative powers — which can be expected to lead to greater, more successful artworks.