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World’s First Redshift GPU Workload Running in the Cloud – Featuring Blue Zoo

Blue Zoo is a BAFTA winning UK animation studio producing episodic children's animation, commercials and short films for international audiences.
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We chatted to Blue Zoo Co-founder, Tom Box to find out more about their early adoption of GPU rendering in the animation industry and how we helped them to scale with confidence. 

About Blue Zoo

Blue Zoo is an award winning CGI animation studio based in London, UK.

They have created a successful studio making TV series, commercials and short films focused on character animation. They have produced content for the likes of the BBC, Nickelodeon, BBC Sport, Disney, Lego, and more.

Early Adopters of GPU Rendering

Blue Zoo were early adopters of Redshift – a GPU render engine.

Rendering is a crucial stage of production and historically has required significant volumes of CPU, in order to process the calculations necessary in the creation of computer generated imagery.

Blue Zoo’s Tom Box explains: “Ultimately, renders are what people see; otherwise animation without rendering is just data. Rendering changes the data; without it you have nothing. It’s the culmination of all your hard work and it really can make or break a project when it comes to crunch time.”

Tom continues, “It can kill your reputation if you don’t deliver the right quality to the deadline, as it leaves you only as good as your last project. Encountering rendering problems or not enough power can mean you don’t deliver, and this could be the end of your business.

Blue Zoo invested in Redshift for Maya for their pipeline and moved to GPU rendering before most studios were considering it as a viable option. The move afforded them faster render times, whilst still enabling them to produce work to a quality fit for award-winning broadcasts.

With faster render times and high workload output, Blue Zoo reaped the rewards of having to invest less in on-premise CPU infrastructure than other studios – in the UK and elsewhere.

Scaling Early Adoption for Competitive Advantage

Despite this, they recognised that in order to scale, there would come a point in the future where it would be necessary to increase their GPU capacity. This brought its own complications: whether that was increased capital investment in new infrastructure, limitations of the available space in the studio, or increased overheads to manage power and cooling.

Blue Zoo wanted to investigate the viability of GPU workload management: specifically cloud rendering.

Our GPU and Cloud Innovation

The Blue Zoo team met us at a community meetup in Manchester, UK. As Blue Zoo revealed their own achievements running a GPU pipeline, we believed that we could help them to deliver the cloud scalability they were beginning to investigate.

After an initial discovery call, Tom recalls: “I was very impressed with YellowDog trying to fit and accommodate our needs, rather than us needing to fit into a standard package service. The team will do everything they can to ‘get you’ and fully understand your requirements. It’s this personalisation and care that really sets YellowDog apart.”

We expanded our existing infrastructure agreements with cloud providers to include GPU nodes. Our operations and commercial teams engaged with Redshift so that licensing would also be provided as part of the solution.

We delivered the world’s first Redshift powered GPU cloud rendering solution. Blue Zoo were the first studio worldwide to take advantage of this capability.

GPU Workload Outcome | The ‘No More Stuff’ Short Film

As an early adopter, Blue Zoo decided to use their short film initiative as a test bed for innovative technologies and solutions. Our YellowDog Platform was used to manage the GPU rendering for Blue Zoo’s ‘No More Stuff’ short film.

The primary advantage of our  YellowDog Platform was additional speed for the GPU pipeline at a predictable cost. Blue Zoo delivered their short film on time and on budget.

Tom was impressed with the accuracy and cost of the technology:

“YellowDog are surprisingly cost efficient for cloud-based rendering, especially when other options are priced out of budget. Rendering in the cloud worked for us first time.”

The Cloud Landscape for Media & Entertainment

After two decades of working in the industry, Tom concedes that rendering has changed a lot, especially when it comes to cloud rendering: “A few years ago, cloud wouldn’t have been a consideration for the majority of studios when you compare the costs of doing it in-house. But with improving internet speeds, decreasing costs, and more service providers arriving on the scene, it will allow us to render at an affordable price.

Beyond the innovative capability of our workload management technology, what Blue Zoo really value is something more human.

When asked what he values most about YellowDog Tom concludes: “Trustworthiness. I know they are there for me and the team, always on hand to help get things working and they’re around when it comes to crunch time. It’s really nice knowing they’ve got our back.”

Navigating the changing landscape to gain competitive advantage is now at the forefront of most top studios’ minds. Our Platform continues to innovate to help studios find the Best Source of Compute – whether that is CPU, GPU, low cost, low latency, high performance and so on.

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