Founded in 1996, LIPSYNC Post has amassed over two hundred award nominations and wins in their trophy cabinet. The tri-location Soho studio boasts Hurricane Heist, Churchill, The Nice Guys, and The Limehouse Goalem as recent productions.
We sat down with Uel Hormann, Head of VFX at LIPSYNC Post, to chat about Show Dogs – and how YellowDog’s Cloud Render Platform helped to bring it all together in the end.
“When we landed this job, we knew the rendering would be heavy,” Uel explained. Sometimes, it really is that matter of fact. “It’s a film about talking dogs so the finish is slick and simple but the work that goes into that much fur is very complex.”
Show Dogs is released in cinemas in May 2018. The main character Max, voiced by Ludacris, is a Rottweiler going undercover in a prestigious Dog Show with his human partner, Frank, played by Will Arnett to bring an international animal smuggling ring to justice.
With a supporting cast of Shaquille O’Neal, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, Natasha Lyonne and more, it is fair to say that this isn’t a pack of actors you’d normally line up together. Anything is possible when it comes to casting voices for CGI and we love it!
Much like Max in the film, LIPSYNC wanted to avert a potential disaster when it came to creating the dogs before they made the big screen. They relied on the quality of Yeti from Peregrine Labs to create and realistically render all that dog fur and got the leverage from the YellowDog platform to achieve high quality final renders.
Yeti is a powerful tool for top class studios all over the world. But, for powerful VFX tools, you often need powerful render solutions to get the most out of them.
“We knew we would hit a crunch because we were pushing Yeti so hard. We planned for that crunch with YellowDog: preparing the setup and running tests so that we were all ready when the madness arrived,” Uel explains. “I spoke to YellowDog ahead of time and planned for them to help us,” said Uel. “I liked the people there and liked the simplicity of what they were doing.”
Studios carefully build their infrastructure to the exact specifications of what they need, making it a challenge to expand when those specifications evolve – and that is exactly what the YellowDog Platform is built for.
“We talked with YellowDog every day: making tweaks and customisations together to optimise the workflow, and it just worked,” Uel says. “When things got busy, we spun up extremely powerful Oracle Bare Metal machines with YellowDog on demand.”
The way to render is changing but it is fair to say that some studios still fear expanding their infrastructure beyond their own physical network.
“If we had decided to expand our own infrastructure then we’re talking machines, racks, air conditioning, finding space in the building: even navigating Soho’s power limitations.”
As Uel puts it: “Imagine pounding your own workstations and dedicated nodes at 100% capacity during a render crunch. You know that it is more likely to fail. It might not fail straight away, but if it does, it could be a disaster. With YellowDog as an extension of our infrastructure, we could keep running as fast as we needed to.”
Uel and LIPSYNC had already been investigating cloud rendering for several years whilst continuing to manage in house until YellowDog came along.
“To do what YellowDog do, and on a scale like this, I know that we would have to employ someone to do the setup, make sure all the plugins and connections were working, try to keep it up to date all the time, and be relatively unclear on the cost of all that as it could just get buried in production,” Uel says.
When studios use YellowDog, we are there to take away those complexities, delays, and costs.
“We didn’t have to worry about that: that sort of risk becomes their problem and we trust them,” Uel says, although he did have one concern with YellowDog. “With YellowDog, we just need to worry about whether our internet was working!”
“It went extremely well,” Uel says of the Show Dogs production with YellowDog. “The results were identical to our own renders: we finished on time and with great results – it was excellent.”
By having YellowDog on hand whenever they needed, LIPSYNC’s heavy Yeti renders were unleashed to a powerful platform to be downloaded back in record time.
“With a regular cloud provider, you’re responsible when things go wrong. With YellowDog, they take care of it. If you don’t want risk, go with YellowDog.”
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