Taylor James Renders Photoreal Rides with AWS Deadline
Selling cars is not a task to be taken lightly in today’s increasingly competitive and ever-evolving automotive industry. Not only do companies need to design technological wonders that balance powerful engineering with sleek aesthetics, but they need to continually find new and innovative ways to sell these vehicles to the public. Through artistic campaigns brands seek to find ways to communicate not just the look of a car, but also an emotion that will resonate with their audience and connect them to their latest offering.
Taylor James is one of the most in-demand agencies currently delivering that work, thanks to a mastery of animation and 17 years of industry experience.
When the London and New York-based creative powerhouse produces a photoreal car for a project like this, it's essentially indistinguishable from the real thing – but going digital allows this start-to-finish production studio to explore exciting new perspectives, showcasing vehicular technology in a variety of exciting and attention-grabbing ways. Just ask Ford, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, or KIA; just a few of Taylor James’ biggest clients in recent years.
For several years, Taylor James has relied on the depth and delivery of Thinkbox’s Deadline to power these impactful campaigns. With Deadline powering the team’s rendering capacity, Taylor James is able to stay atop of multiple concurrent projects, delivering each to its sky-high quality benchmark.
"Deadline really is a critical tool at Taylor James; it reduces our cloud computing costs and helps us to meet our client's deadlines"
Case in point: a recent campaign for the Ford Fusion 2017. Read on to learn how Deadline served as the driving force behind this complex project.
EXTENDABLE & DEPENDABLE
Taylor James has been on the Deadline bandwagon for nearly seven years, having implemented the software into its pipeline in 2009.
The agency was looking for a render management solution that could help scale the farm as the studio grew, while ensuring that the studio setup remained stable and energy-efficient. The results were clear to see right from the off.
"On tight-turnaround projects, it's an absolute priority to make sure we have 100% uptime. Deadline allows that to happen."
"Deadline paid for itself in six months, even just via electricity-saving,” begins Dan Marshall, Group IT Director “Just simply turning off the render farm when idle made us huge savings that immediately impacted on the bottom line.”
Since those first days of Deadline, Taylor James usage of the software has expanded considerably. Deadline now manages Taylor James’ on-site render farms across both its London and New York studios, although the agency is looking to merge both farms into a one global compute cluster. Cloud rendering services will be tapped as needed for increased scalability.
“Today, Deadline has grown to be an integral part of our production pipeline," says Mark Knowles, Executive Creative Director. “We use its solutions on a daily basis to automate, thus greatly reducing repetitive tasks for our artists and technicians. This also consequently removes any chances of human error!"
The Draft plugin for Deadline is a key tool, he says: "Draft allows us to stitch images from tiles, artists to automatically create QuickTime MOVs after rendering, and producers to create movies with full slate information without having to use up artist time.”
Taylor James has also worked with Deadline’s customisable tools to extend the software’s offering and integrate it into the studio pipeline. “This might be automating the creation of layered PSD files, or providing dependency management for complex car configurations,” says Keith Jeffrey, Head of Automotive Division. "We have developed advanced submission tools to enable artists to create thousands of unique tasks in one click."
Dan Marshall affirms that the ability to extend and customize is Deadline's greatest asset: “Adding functionality is incredibly straightforward due to how extensively documented Deadline is, If there’s ever an issue, Thinkbox is always been there for any assistance. Deadline support is just consistently amazing – emails are answered at all times of day with detailed responses, bug fixes, and suggestions."
“Just simply turning off the render farm when idle made us huge savings that immediately impacted on the bottom line.”
Luckily, that's rarely been an issue. "Deadline is incredibly stable,". "The support is there, but we spend less time worrying about getting Deadline to work, and more integrating it into our pipeline to better suit our needs."
The reliability of Deadline is crucial when it comes to delivering automotive projects at Taylor James. For the Fusion project, for instance, Taylor James was approached by an agency due to its strong reputation for the creation of incredibly photoreal 360-degree models of cars. The deadline was tight and the project complex, but with Deadline on its side, the studio knew it could tackle the challenge in the timeframe.
“Today, Deadline has grown to be an integral part of our production pipeline,"
"Automotive has always been a key sector for us as we are known for photorealistic CGI – a skill that automotive clients demand," asserts Keith Jeffery. "Last year, we created a dedicated division specifically for auto clients and staffed with experts who are passionate and knowledgeable about the arena. We have also developed a proprietary software, hydraGen®, that allows us to produce automotive assets with volume, quickly and affordably, and our pipeline is highly tuned towards this kind of work. Deadline plays a big part in that.”
The Fusion project was a particular challenge because it was not only a 360-degree car animation, but also one that required a wide range of lighting scenes due to its day-into-night-into-day theme – and in multiple colors, at that. This added layer of complexity ultimately required a great deal more passes added to the render queue.
“There were other elements to consider too,” adds David Worthley, Group Technical Director. “The environments were very creative: the foregrounds were fully CG and we used time-lapse HDRs and backplates that were shot on location in Denver.
"Being able to quickly fire up preview renders and have looping QuickTimes with frame-counts via a custom Draft script from both software saved lots of time," he asserts. "We went through several iterations of this project and had lots of render passes to manage. On tight-turnaround projects, it's an absolute priority to make sure we have 100% uptime. Deadline allows that to happen."
Of course, Taylor James delivers does much more than just automotive campaigns: other clients include Canon, Progressive Insurance, MasterCard, to name but a few from its impressive and ever-growing roster.
Across these clients and more the studio handles full, integrated production for multiple forms of media, start to finish. This includes work with 2D and 3D, CGI, photography and live-action, virtual and augmented reality and VFX. Keith Jeffery notes that one other recent project included more than 6,000 unique renders, along with print and motion assets. In order to deliver it, Taylor James wrote bespoke plugins using Deadline's API.
“Adding functionality is incredibly straightforward due to how extensively documented Deadline is”
"The studio is constantly busy, but our internal development on software enables us to handle multiple projects in parallel," says Jeffery. "We often bolster our core team with specialist freelance staff, many of whom have worked with Taylor James for many years. The systems we have in place enable us to ramp up the team at short notice, and then use Deadline to manage our render farm for us."
Truly, whatever Taylor James is working on – no matter in which medium or quantity – the studio is at its best thanks to Deadline's helping hand.
"Deadline really is a critical tool at Taylor James; it reduces our cloud computing costs and helps us to meet our client's deadlines," says Mark Knowles. "Frankly, it’s key to achieving the same high-quality work, in a shorter amount of time, and on budget – that’s what makes clients happy."