Canada’s Guru Studio has emerged as a global force in children’s entertainment, creating some of the world’s best known and loved character-driven animated shows, such as PAW Patrol, Ever After High and their own IP, Justin Time. Their brand new Netflix Original series, True and the Rainbow Kingdom, follows the adventures of 8-year old True and her cat Bartleby as they help to solve the problems of the Rainbow Kingdom. “When we set out to produce our next flagship show, we had lofty goals for how it should look and feel,” says Guru Studio’s Creative Director of Production, Yurie Rocha. “When you browse through the Netflix library, you’ll notice that everything shares the same shelf, regardless of budget or brand. True needed to stand out in a crowd.” In order to achieve this goal the team at Guru began looking outside of traditional rendering solutions and started looking at an array of GPU rendering products.
Guru first demoed Redshift back in late 2015 by converting existing show assets to Redshift and comparing render times and quality. Not only did they see a 10x speed improvement, but the tech team at Guru saw improved displacement quality and less noise as well. “When we first saw our initial render tests come in, we instantly realized that ray-traced GPU rendering was a commercially viable rendering solution,” explains Yurie. “It began a process of reimagining our entire pipeline, and ways we could improve the artist experience.”
Once everyone was on board, the team at Guru set out to achieve a new goal. With Redshift, ‘True and the Rainbow Kingdom’ would become one of the first TV series to be exclusively rendered on a GPU.
FAST AND INTUITIVE ITERATION
Being able to work quickly, and iterate multiple times is essential to working on an episodic series that has a strict and non-negotiable turnaround time. The speed in which an artist is able to create and iterate in Redshift has enabled the ‘gamification’ of the creative process at Guru Studio. “Because Redshift can give an artist visual feedback in seconds rather than minutes, it opens the door to more creative iterations, explorations, and an overall joy for the craft”, Yurie explains. “It’s hard to imagine a situation where I’d ever return to a CPU dedicated pipeline workflow.”
LOW COSTS HIGH RETURNS
Along with the creative opportunities offered by Redshift, the studio’s infrastructure benefited as well.
When Guru Studio had initially planned ‘True and the Rainbow Kingdom’, they determined using its existing CPU-render pipeline would require cloud rendering or building a farm off site. “Guru Studio is responsible for delivering fifty-thousand final frames a week across multiple shows. Having the internet go down is a terrifying proposition for any producer or client,” Yurie explains.
With that in mind, Guru looked at its existing infrastructure and discovered that it could fit enough render power to service two concurrent series in its existing (yet crowded) space. “We set up a dedicated render farm of 40 high-end GPU cards, and 75 floor machines with an array of different cards on the floor, depending on the types of job that they would be performing. They ranged from entry level gaming cards for light model rendering to high end workstation cards for lighting and comp.”
Aside from being nearly half the cost of building a traditional render farm, going the GPU option with Redshift allowed Guru to keep all the rendering data local and easily accessible.
With the ability to be cost effective, Redshift was already a big winner for the ‘True and the Rainbow Kingdom’ team. But what made Redshift truly exciting for the team at Guru was the new creative freedom he could give his artists, along with new features that made Redshift unique.
For example, Redshift excelled at the ability to use 2D opacity card. “Every other raytracer I have ever used struggled to deal with card transparencies in some form,” Yurie explains. “Whereas, the Redshift sprite node has allowed us to create stylized hair, tree foliage, and felt materials with a very small render footprint.”
BRUSHING AWAY GPU MEMORY ANXIETY
The out of core architecture of Redshift was another feature that the production team was enthusiastic about, allowing Guru to render huge scenes without the stress that comes with managing GPU memory.
“For anyone who’s been in the business of making games, you know that an enormous amount of resources is put into packing as much data as possible into small memory footprints. That was one of our first reservations when we were considering Redshift for TV Series work, but we quickly discovered that Redshift easily handled our large data sets. This allowed us to focus on the magic of storytelling instead of spending time on the rigorous optimization phases that you’d expect in a game workflow”, Yurie reveals.
LONG TERM VISION
Because of the speed and feedback Redshift offers, Guru Studio has committed to using it for upcoming episodes of ‘True and the Rainbow Kingdom’. Already, Yurie and his team are noticing changes in the way they spec out infrastructure to suit a GPU-centric workflow. “The scalability of GPUs allows us to easily upgrade cards, or double up GPU compute power without having to buy entirely new workstations.”
Guru Studio has embraced Redshift as its preferred method of production for 3D animated shows. “We like to imagine a future where our show is progressively rendering in real time, regardless of where a shot lives in the production. By switching to Redshift we’ve begun that process, and we feel that our infrastructure is aligning with where the future is heading,” says Yurie.
True and the Rainbow Kingdom, produced by Guru Studio, in collaboration with i am OTHER, FriendsWithYou, and Home Plate Entertainment, can be seen exclusively on Netflix.