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Scanline VFX managed 5M+ render hours through AWS Thinkbox Deadline for “Aquaman”

With its long legacy of creating photoreal fluid effects, Scanline VFX was an obvious choice for billion-dollar blockbuster “Aquaman.” The studio was brought on board by production in early 2017 to create several water-centric sequences, including the lighthouse exteriors and surrounding ocean, the “Aquaman” title card, Aquaman’s submarine rescue, Orm’s tidal wave, and Arthur and Mera’s encounter with creatures from the Trench. Scanline VFX Supervisor Bryan Hirota oversaw the studio’s 450 VFX shots and met with Director James Wan and overall VFX Supervisor Kelvin McIlwain in-person near-weekly during post production.

  Scanline VFX. Aquaman. Cloud Rendering. Render Farm.

Behind the scenes, Scanline’s Head of Engineering, Maxx Lee, was making sure the studio’s render farm was well prepared to render its complex work, which was laden with dynamic CG creatures and layered simulations. Over the course of production on “Aquaman,” Scanline completed 5,381,615 hours of rendering (or 614 years, 123 days, 23 hours and 18 minutes), averaging 152,700 tasks per day, using 2,000 dedicated on-premises nodes, 400 virtual nodes, and up to 600 idle workstations all managed through AWS Thinkbox’s Deadline.

“Deadline is wholly integral to our business,” said Lee. “Literally, every single image we create, which ends up on the big screen, is done so with the help of Deadline. It’s flexible and allows us to quickly modify and extend the system to suit the needs of individual projects.”

Scanline VFX. Aquaman. Cloud Rendering. Render Farm.

For a deep dive on the artistic challenges of Scanline’s “Aquaman” VFX work, check out Hirota’s interview with Art of VFX.

Scanline adopted Deadline in 2013 and has since put the software to use creating work for high profile projects ranging from disaster flicks “San Andreas” and “Geostorm” to DC properties “Suicide Squad” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” with a heavy dose of “Game of Thrones” and several Marvel Studios features. Scanline has evolved its Deadline implementation along with its pipeline, which must grow and adapt for the ever-changing and varied requirements of each project, as well as a large increase in the work volume.

Scanline VFX. Render Farm. Aquaman. Cloud Rendering.

Looking to the future, Lee predicts cloud-based services will further enhance the studio’s workflow. He noted, “Cloud rendering would help us to continue to be agile and meet the demands of our projects while saving us the man-power and cost of growing and shrinking our on-premises footprint.”

Ellen Grogan

Ellen Grogan

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