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It’s no secret that the animation industry is going through big changes. What once was an industry centered around brick and mortar studios, is now becoming more fluid and decentralized. The problem is that the fluidness of the industry isn’t in lockstep with the adoption of the technology needed to support it. Animation houses pop up and shut down, but are still anchored to hardware under desks. Ultimately, the artists themselves are feeling these growing pains. When a big studio like PDI gets shut down, whole families have to be uprooted from the Bay Area to wherever the next locality is offering subsidies to studios.
The good news is that cloud technology is gaining momentum and wide adoption will greatly improve the health of the industry overall.
When a studio is cloud-based it means that producers can engage remote artists. This means that an artist can lay down roots for her/his own family and work on productions all over the world. Artists will be able to choose where they want to live, not based on the availability of work, but on preference. Through the cloud, they will be able to have a steady stream of jobs or be employed full time by a single studio – either at home or at the studio.
VFX / Animation production tends to be a low margin business. This is part of the reason why Academy Award-winning studios, like Rhythm and Hues and PDI, are forced to shut their doors. What is the answer? Lowering overhead. This, in turn, can greatly increase margins. Each person in a studio requires real estate space, a desk, supplies, tech infrastructure, energy, heating and cooling. All of this adds up to nearly double what a studio would pay them in salary. The cloud represents the ability to reduce all that brick and mortar overhead dramatically. Why not pay employees 50% more, allow them to work from home, and still save a ton on overhead! This is what the cloud promises – efficient, on-demand infrastructure. Only pay for what you use. Eliminate wasted overhead expenses.
Successful VFX/animation companies, both large and small, require a steady stream of income-producing projects. When those projects don’t get awarded, floating the cost of a workforce can be fatal. Lots of money going out and no money coming in. This is what keeps studio owners up at night. Moving to the cloud represents a sort of new world order that could potentially solve this. Cloud-based studios will have access to a remote talent pool to quickly staff up productions as needed. But what about stability for the artists? Well, an industry based in the cloud allows artists access to many, many jobs from wherever they live. With the constant growth of the animation industry (movies, TV, games, VR/AR), there isn’t a shortage of work. Through the cloud, any artist would have access to all of it! Idealistic? Sure. But it’s also completely viable. Maybe even inevitable.
Anyone who has worked in different studios knows – the same problems are solved over and over again in various ways. There once was a time when how you solved these persistent problems gave you an advantage in the industry. Now, not so much. It’s time to move past such antiquated notions and move toward standardization and sharing. There have been some great steps toward this, with USD and Alembic as good examples. But moving to the cloud represents a whole new era of problem-solving. It represents the potential for unity across the industry where pipeline and workflow can be iterated on and improved globally. A globally accessible, standardized way of working.
Putting creation tech in the cloud means that it will be accessible on demand. No need to invest millions in starting up a studio. It’s all right there for the taking. This means that there will be an explosion of new studios. New voices and new ideas. Right around the corner is a whole new generation of brilliant creators. The industry moving to the cloud will empower them to be prolific!
Yes, the animation industry is going through some pretty monumental changes. Cloud technology opens the door to many exciting opportunities that will truly change the face of the industry for the better. Studios who choose to embrace the cloud will lower their margins and be in a great position to succeed. This is great for business and great for the artists. And what could be better than that?