Unparalleled quality: Legendary studio Polygon Pictures Inc. chooses Redshift

Posted: January 24, 2017 by Panos Zompolas

Polygon Pictures Inc. are well-known as one of the oldest and most recognized digital animation studios in the world, contributing to an endless stream of Emmy award-winning projects.

Their expansive portfolio includes the likes of Transformers Prime, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Tron: Uprising, not to mention their many successes working in the video game, commercial and domestic television industries.

“The work is very important for us”, insists Jack Liang, Polygon’s Head of International Business Development and Producer. “Being a studio that has been around for more than 3 decades we always want to try and stun the fans and also create something visually captivating that fans will know it’s done by Polygon Pictures.”

Software that saves time

The secret to Polygon’s impressive pipeline? There is no clear border between art and technology; each supplements the other in order to create the best content possible. By constantly finding, trialing and adapting new software into their creative process, Polygon ensure that only images of unparalleled quality make it into their final products.

“Nowadays we are being asked to output more and more high-quality video content at even faster paces,” says Tohru Yamamori, Chief Technology Officer. “Sticking to only familiar, existing technologies would not allow us to keep up with changing times, so we need to be constantly building on new technologies.”

Lost in Oz

Most recently, Polygon Pictures has been hard at work on Amazon Studios’ new series Lost in Oz, which was greenlit after a tremendously well-received pilot. The Lost in Oz production studio, Bureau of Magic, searched high and low for an animation team that could handle the challenging schedule of a full season. They found Polygon Pictures.

“With the production of a TV series, we need to produce a large volume of content within a limited time,” explains Tohru. “The client was also expecting a high visual quality, and so we needed to solve the problem of how to fit those rendering costs into our schedule.”

Eager to impress their client, Polygon tested a number of renderers before the project began. They settled on Redshift, which not only met the standards for the quality required, but also offered impressive rendering times. Tohru explains how Redshift was the only renderer that fit with the demanding production schedule:

“For artists, stable and reliable technologies are indispensable, and unreliable solutions are soon discarded… This project was the first time we had used Redshift, but with the Redshift Team’s prompt support, we have been able to win the confidence of our artists.”

Speeding down the yellow brick road

In the span of five weeks, Polygon needed to render 250-300 shots. Two lighting teams worked in parallel throughout the process, facing pressure from a tight deadline. However, Polygon artists were able to deliver flawless visuals at every turn, largely thanks to Redshift significantly reducing time spent in the lighting phase of production.

“As we were able to work in GI-based lighting, we did not need to output numerous rendering passes. This allowed the artists to work faster, and enabled multiple artists to work on a sequence without noticeable variations, achieving a consistent quality level,” recalls Tohru.

Because production speed was increased, Polygon could in turn increase the number of iterations Lost in Oz went through, progressively improving image quality.

GPU genius

When rendering huge assets such as entire environments, a large GPU memory becomes necessary. Using Redshift, it was easy to optimize data sizes for the large assets created for Lost in Oz.

“I feel this is another reason that large GPU memories are effective,” says Tohru. “GI-based rendering has become easier to work with, and we have been able to improve our productivity while retaining high-quality imagery.”

“I look forward to seeing how GPU technology advances going forward.”

Integrations on demand

Shortly after first implementing Redshift, Tohru contacted the support team regarding a number of issues that Polygon had experienced when using it with OpenVDB. Redshift development responded promptly to Tohru’s requirements. Plus, a version of Redshift integrated with Houdini soon became available.

“In particular, the turnaround to implementation after making a request was very fast, and we were also surprised at the speed at which bug fixes were applied,” Tohru recalls. “This has been an enormous help to us in this project.”

Thinking of the future

Looking back to when film and television first developed, it is clear that entertainment has steadily evolved, and associated technology is adapting right alongside it. In particular, rendering has grown to encompass a huge part of the animation world, making programs like Redshift all the more vital to artists.

“The future allows new mediums of art to be achieved that weren’t foreseeable years ago and this opens new doorways for entertainment,” concludes Jack Liang. “Studios like us now have more paths to experiment to provide a new experience for people.”