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Weta Digital draws on cloud computing power of AWS to create movie magic

By Catherine Knowles
Tue 8 Sep 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Weta Digital has chosen Amazon Web Services as its technology partner to aid in advancing its visual effects and animation processes and output.

To begin, the company will use the AWS cloud to create a new, cloud-based visual effects (VFX) workflow.

This workflow includes a set of technologies for VFX artists that will underpin the studio’s global expansion, accelerate key portions of film production, and expand Weta Digital’s New Zealand operations, enabling its team of artists to collaborate on visual effects remotely, the company states.

In the past 25 years, Weta Digital has been behind significant worlds and characters in film, including Middle-earth and Gollum in New Line’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Na’vi and landscapes of Pandora in Avatar.

Over the course of this multi-year deal, the studio will migrate the vast majority of it’s IT infrastructure to AWS to support a pipeline that includes 100 proprietary tools and its LED-stage virtual production service, which creates immersive new worlds onset.

In addition, Weta Digital will use AWS to produce and render original content from the newly announced ‘Weta Animated’ and deliver on its multi-year movie slate.

Visual effects artists use a wide range of animation and compositing software to integrate computer-generated imagery with live action footage.

This imagery generates a massive volume of video and image files that can put a strain on IT resources and requires load balancing efforts to keep production facilities operating at peak capacity.

Leveraging AWS’s global infrastructure and AWS services, including compute, storage, security, machine learning (ML) and analytics, Weta Digital can spread its workloads more efficiently around the world, freeing up talent and resources to continue to create visual effects, and gain the flexibility to render VFX scenes remotely wherever its creative staff is based, AWS states.

With Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Weta Digital will have expanded access to a broad range of specialised Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) instances for better integration of ML into the VFX creation process, enabling artists to create more life-like, detailed movie creations.

Weta Digital CEO Prem Akkaraju says, “Weta Digital has been an innovator in the visual effects industry for decades. By adopting AWS’s ultra-scale infrastructure, we can implement a proprietary cloud pipeline and globally scale our production to greater levels than ever before.

“Weta established a remote collaborative workflow in March due to the pandemic to seamlessly continue work on the Avatar sequels and other films. With the power of AWS, we can now take that success to a global scale.

"Drawing on AWS’s virtually unlimited compute capacity, we can empower our artists to work safely and securely where they want without technical limitations.

"In addition, using the breadth and depth of AWS services we can more easily test new ideas and technologies as we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in visual effects today.

"AWS services, such as machine learning and data analytics, will help Weta deliver projects faster and more cost effectively, and our customers will enjoy the fruits of Weta Digital’s continuous innovation.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy says, “Weta Digital has earned fans around the world through its innovative approach of combining technology and creativity to push the boundaries of visual effects in the movie industry while bringing some of cinema’s most memorable characters to life.

“Weta Digital will rely on AWS’s unmatched portfolio of services to continue redefining what is possible on screen and at a scale that was not previously possible.

"Through its collaboration with AWS, Weta Digital is reducing technology barriers for those in the filmmaking industry, strengthening its operations in New Zealand and globally, and paving the way for immersive, new experiences for moviegoers.”

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