Granny O'Grimm courtesy of Brown Bag Films

Brown Bag Films is a multi-Oscar nominated, multi-BAFTA nominated, and Emmy Award winning animation studio that creates some of the world’s best loved shows: Vampirina, Peter Rabbit, Doc McStuffins, and The Stinky and Dirty Show to name just a few.

With studio locations in Dublin, Toronto and Manchester and an office in LA, Brown Bag Films creates cutting-edge animation for the international market. Founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1994 by Managing Director Cathal Gaffney and Creative Director Darragh O’Connell, and acquired by 9 Story Media Group in 2015, the studio remains 100% creatively-driven with a focus on producing the highest quality, cross-platform animation with strong stories and engaging characters.

We chatted with Head of Pipeline at Brown Bag Films, Darren Hyland, to discover what keeps Brown Bag Films at the top of their game.

Bridging the gap between artists and technicians

“There is so much that the public does not see. But, if all they remember are the beautiful visuals, then we are doing something right in our pipeline!”

“The studio focus is creativity, that’s our bread and butter, but technology feeds it.”

The Shotty Award that Brown Bag Films received was a rare and valued acknowledgement to pipeline excellence but being in the ‘shadows’ is part of the job. According to Darren:

“When people come into the Brown Bag Films for studio tours, they expect the old school of drawing: more desks, more drawings by hand, more pencils! We have a place for that, of course, but our technology releases our artists to focus on one thing – what they want to create.”

A pipeline for producers and artists

“Our pipeline collects data over long periods of time and we feed this into our bidding systems: how long does a shot take to render or an asset to build. That information is crucial for ensuring that our production pipeline is accurate and sustainable and can meet the broadcaster demands.”

Even so, best laid plans can sometimes go awry, especially when producing long form animation constantly.  The pressure to output a certain amount of animation on a weekly and monthly basis can be extreme.

“There is a huge amount of work going in to create shows that people love; the main benefit of using YellowDog, as we have in the past, is it enables us to hit points within our schedule when we couldn’t meet the demands of the production,” reveals Darren.

Having several high profile international clients means that deadlines are fixed months in advance.

“One delay impacts everything,” Darren explains. “All deadlines are hard deadlines, so we don’t always have the opportunity to adjust our schedules. You can’t just expand your on premise render farm on demand.

“But with YellowDog, we can render on hundreds of multi-thread Oracle bare metal machines, tracking progress along the way and reducing our retake percentage because we have full visibility of render logs, preview frames, and support from the YellowDog team. Suddenly, seemingly impossible deadlines can be met.”

We have an appetite to include cloud rendering in our pipeline budgets

The landscape of rendering is changing, and Brown Bag Films are at the forefront of the industry.

“In the past, we didn’t include cloud rendering in our budgets or schedules; it was only during those ‘fires’ or panics that we would start to look to that solution to resolve our issues,” explains Darren. 

This is the view of most studios today, but Brown Bag Films are ahead of the game.

“Based on brilliant experiences with YellowDog, Brown Bag Films are now putting contingencies for cloud rendering into production budgets at the beginning of a series. Rather that just reacting to fires, we include cloud rendering to turn on overflow facilities like YellowDog in times of need.”

This is the future of rendering, but industry fears over security, speed, and costs have decelerated progress. Just as animation has evolved so too will cloud rendering become the norm.

Outgrowing our physical landscape with Cloud

Brown Bag Films are confident in cloud and YellowDog; so much so that they are exploring not just cloud rendering, but operating the entire creative studio in the cloud. The advantage given would be the ability to replicate the Brown Bag Films pipeline across all their studios whilst also acting as an overflow for times of pressure to scale quickly.

Darren admits, “People are nervous about it. We’ve only considered cloud rendering in the last few years but the industry is finally more accepting of pushing data through the cloud. We’ve dipped our toes in and, owing to our ambition, we have to accept that it is getting more and more difficult to expand within the walls that we have here; cloud is the natural progression.”

Brown Bag Films have benefited from the flexibility, dependability, and scalability of YellowDog’s cloud rendering for animation.

If you liked reading this, you might also be interested in what Tom Box at Blue Zoo likes about YellowDog too.

Angela's Christmas courtesy of Brown Bag Films