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Animal Logic builds real-time workflow with Amazon Nimble Studio

Award-winning animation studio Animal Logic is recognized as one of the world’s top production companies, with credits including Happy Feet, The LEGO Movies and Peter Rabbit 1&2.

Alongside working on a slate of feature animation projects, the company recently released a trailer for “Unhinged,” a short film that Animal Logic created in Epic Games’ Unreal Engine using Amazon Web Services (AWS) with assets initiating from ALab, its open-source Universal Scene Description (USD) project.

Animal Logic’s ALab is an entire production scene that the studio developed for exploration by the education sector and the wider creative community. ALab features more than 300 detailed USD assets, including two rigged and animated characters, Goggles and Hinge, all designed by the studio’s world-class creative talent. Available as a free download for creators to use in their own workflows, ALab “Phase 2” rolled out in August 2022 and is now integrated into the Academy Software Foundation Digital Production Example Library.

Showcasing Animal Logic’s unique style and playful storytelling approach, “Unhinged” centers on the adventures of manic ferret Dr. Goggles McPherretson and neurotic robot Hinge in an abandoned workshop environment. To bring the tale to life, the production team built a cloud workflow using AWS, enabling them to work in a Windows-based Unreal Engine pipeline exclusively in the cloud without impacting their local Linux-based production pipeline.

“‘Unhinged’ is the culmination of research we’ve been doing with Unreal Engine, and we wanted to experiment with using it in a real production to see how it’d impact our creative process,” explained Darin Grant, CTO at Animal Logic. “It made far more sense to spin up workstations in the cloud than displace physical production workstations, especially with the ongoing supply chain issues. Once we decided that we were going to work on the cloud, AWS was the obvious choice for us.”

The primary project goals were to understand how USD production assets fared in a real-time environment while exploring early storytelling and character performance potential. The team also wanted to experiment with using Unreal Engine for virtual production on an animated project, which meant using effects, dynamics, and compositing tools in-engine while operating in the cloud.

Building a new cloud-based infrastructure from the ground up, the team created a separate network and services to support this Windows-based workflow, leveraging Amazon Nimble Studio. To accommodate different use cases, including previsualization, mocap performance capture, and real-time review, Animal Logic built three Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) with varying GPU power in AWS. Artists chose the appropriate virtual machine based on the assigned task for the week and streamed it to their end device using NICE DCV.

“Using virtual workstations with NICE DCV, we’ve had zero detectable lag, even when we used it on an airplane, as I discovered, which was an amazing feature, especially on a real-time project,” said Animal Logic VFX Supervisor Stephanie Pocklington. “From there, artists would load assets through Perforce and then begin work in Unreal Engine. The whole process of connecting to a pre-launched machine and getting straight to work took 15 minutes on average. As a supervisor, it was incredible to be able to distribute a variety of powerful custom virtual machines with our particular flavor of software almost instantaneously. Whereas normally, you may have to wait several months to get comparable physical machines in your studio.”

Check out the “Unhinged” trailer here and discover more about ALab here.

To learn more about using AWS virtual workstations and other Media Services on AWS for content production in the cloud, visit:

Ellen Grogan

Ellen Grogan

Ellen Grogan is a senior product marketing manager, Media and Entertainment at AWS.