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Untold Studios Unlocks Creative Potential by Running Entirely on AWS

2020

Whether they’re creating and rendering realistic 3D-animated creatures for TV commercials or innovative visual effects for TV shows like The Crown, the artists and animators at Untold Studios need fast, reliable access to large amounts of compute capacity. That’s why the UK-based, independent creative studio wanted the best, most scalable technology platform when it launched in 2018. “As a startup, we needed technology that enabled performance, fast time-to-market, and minimal expenditure,” says Sam Reid, head of technology for Untold Studios.

However, rather than set up shop in London’s SoHo area, where creative studios have been located for decades, Untold Studios sought to do something different: set up in London’s “silicon roundabout” technology area to take advantage of cutting-edge technology to foster creativity. “We wanted to find a better, more flexible way to build a creative studio, where we could access talent regardless of location and the underlying technology could scale with the demands and needs of the business.” Reid says. “We also wanted to be able to hit the ground running and take on large projects right away. We knew this would require us to break the mold and be innovative in our approach.”

Untold Studios
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Our approach to technology allows artists to concentrate purely on innovation and creativity. With AWS, there are no technology-related roadblocks. They can get shots back faster and iterate more quickly as a result."

Sam Reid
Head of Technology, Untold Studios

Running Creative Workflows on AWS

To realize its ambition, the studio chose to launch its business on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. “AWS definitely offered the best cloud technology overall in terms of compute and scalability, and it seemed as passionate as we were about getting our business going,” Reid says.

Reid and his team worked with AWS to find a solution that would provide processing and rendering capabilities as well as support cloud-based workflows for visual effects, animation, and 2D and 3D design. The studio uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) G4 instances to support all workflows. “The whole promise of the cloud for me is that resources keep getting cheaper and more available,” says Reid. “That is definitely true of G4 instances, which are perfectly tailored to our needs. We were able to optimize and select the right machines for our studio and remote workers, depending on what tasks they're doing.”

Untold Studios uses the WekaIO Matrix file system on AWS to enable high throughput for large datasets, and it stores data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). A team of more than 100 designers, filmmakers, visual effects artists, animators, and photographers across the globe access the cloud to do their work each day.

Launching a Studio in Weeks Instead of Months

By running on AWS, Untold Studios went live in six weeks, instead of the months it would have taken using the traditional approach. “We started off with a few people in a small rented space, and I did a lot of the setup from my couch at home,” says Reid. “That’s the great thing about AWS—we didn’t all have to be physically together to launch Untold Studios. In this business, launching in a few weeks is unheard of. It would have taken us months just to order storage, for example, and to purchase servers and compute capacity. The fact that we could just press a button and get going on projects was a game-changer for us.”

Spinning Up Capacity in 2 Minutes

Relying on AWS, Untold Studios quickly scaled its business from six to more than 100 employees in 13 months. “We have built a fully automated platform, so our visual effects artists or animators can spin up workstations and render capacity in under 2 minutes,” says Reid. “In a traditional studio environment, we wouldn’t even be able to make the phone call to request hardware rentals in that time.”

Untold Studios has the flexibility and agility it needs on AWS, which means the studio’s artists can quickly access the content they need from anywhere they are working. This helps the studio find the best possible creative talent across the globe. “Historically, it would be challenging to find hardware for new artists to work on and to provision the right amount of capacity,” says Reid. “Our resourcing operations teams can hire someone on Sunday and that person can start on Monday because of the agility and scalability of AWS.”

Rendering Complex Visual Effects

Running on AWS, the studio can support its 2D and 3D rendering requirements, no matter how large the workload. As an example, the studio is currently engaged in a complex CGI animation project requiring significant compute and storage capacity. “In this project, animators are creating lots of water, smoke, and other effects that require huge rendering capacity,” says Reid. “We would not be able to support that without the scalability of AWS and the performance of Amazon EC2 G4 instances specifically.”

On another project, Untold Studios instantly increased storage capacity on one of its file systems to cope with increasing data sizes, a process that would not be possible in an on-premises environment, where storage has a maximum capacity. “If we had a traditional studio with old computers everywhere, our artists would be under much more pressure because the machines wouldn’t be up to the task and everything would operate too slowly,” Reid says. “The amount of storage and compute we have access to on AWS enables us to take on any project without worrying about capacity or whether outdated artist workstations are up to the task.”

Driving Innovation and Creativity

Unlike many studios that have physical offices in London, Untold Studios is 100 percent cloud-based, which enables the teams to focus entirely on their creative output rather than managing infrastructure. “Our approach to technology allows artists to concentrate purely on innovation and creativity,” says Reid. “With AWS, there are no technology-related roadblocks. They can get shots back faster and iterate more quickly as a result, so we get the best possible creative output.”

Untold Studios is planning to expand as it takes on more creative projects. “With our cloud business model, we can engage with a wider audience of collaborators, creators, and clients,” says Annie Ayres, head of music and social for Untold Studios. “We set out to create something different when we launched, and we’re doing that on AWS.”

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/ec2/instance-types/g4.


About Untold Studios

Untold Studios is an independent creative studio based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 2018, the studio works on original content, production, and post-production for the worlds of music, TV, and advertising for a range of media and entertainment customers.

Benefits of AWS

  • Launches a studio in 6 weeks instead of months
  • Provisions compute capacity in 2 minutes
  • Enables the rendering of complex visual effects
  • Drives collaboration and creativity for artists across the globe

AWS Services Used

Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon EC2 G4 Instances

Amazon EC2 G4 instances deliver the industry’s most cost-effective and versatile GPU instance for deploying machine learning models in production and graphics-intensive applications.

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