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Nimble Seeks to Democratize Animation Production with New Cloud-Based Platform

Industry veterans Rex Grignon and Jason Schleifer launch cost-effective global cloud-based production and community ecosystem filled with creative tools, support and distribution.

With today’s $8.5 million funding announcement, Nimble Collective takes a major step towards bringing a “cost effective cloud-based animation production pipeline” to the masses. Led by venture capital firm NEA, the financing should bring Nimble that much closer to their stated goal of serving 10 million professionals and aspiring animators around the globe. And while Nimble’s customized end-to-end distributed production system scales up in preparation for public beta later this fall, co-founders Rex Grignon and Jason Schleifer as equally focused on integrating a true artistic ecosystem right alongside their new production platform.

Both Grignon and Schleifer, industry veterans known for their years at DreamWorks Animation, are understandably excited with the announced funding round (Nimble Collective Launches Animation Cloud Services Startup) which will enable additional staffing and development necessary to get the system to market. Notes Grignon, “We are absolutely thrilled to announce this new $8.5 million series C funding round with NEA. There has been a lot of interest since our launch and NEA jumped right in and led the round.” The new funding, according to Schleifer, will allow Nimble to get their platform fully scaled and operational. “It’s a huge amount of work to get this infrastructure built and running. This new funding lets us build a strong team and focus on getting the platform built in the right way to support the creative teams we have coming on to use the system once we have our public release later this year.”

Equally as important to Nimble is building a community platform that supports the artists both creatively as well as economically. One of their initial community-building efforts is a planned pilot program now underway with a select group of filmmakers. As Schleifer describes, “We are running a pilot program with five filmmakers we’ve invited to come work with us. We spoke with a large group of people who have film ideas they’re trying to get made but can’t for various reasons. We chose five projects that we’re going to help make while we’re building out the platform. In addition, we’re teeing up another 15 projects for the fall that will be fully created on the Nimble platform.”

The initial five projects are all short form, ranging from 3-5 minutes up to episodic series length, produced with a variety of techniques, from 2D to 3D and CG / live-action. The filmmakers are varied as well, including an illustrator, a writer and a comic artist, all without the means to get their projects done on their own.  Notes Grignon, “Our mantra is ‘Create, collaborate and prosper.’ We’re not just focused on the production side, but on helping hook these artists up with other filmmakers, animators and artists who can help them realize their vision. Getting their work out to the world is an important part as well. The pilot program also gives us the chance to validate our distribution and monetization strategy for the filmmakers. Each project requires a different approach, and we have a distribution team that is working with each filmmaker as well.”

“A huge part of what we’re doing is working to tie together creative collaborators,” Schleifer adds. “We are looking to build a community where artists support each other and continue to inspire and help each other beyond just one project. “

While a combination of experienced leadership, proper financing and creative vision have been important building blocks for the company, the biggest factor in their success to date has been the ability to integrate technology that supports true cloud-based production in a cost-effective manner, something not available until recently. “The technology is at a point now where we can do streaming applications such that interaction with the tools feels like you’re working locally," Schleifer explains. "Until now, that really hasn’t been possible at the scale we’re trying to do and the cost we’re trying to achieve. We’re just hitting that tipping point with our technology partners where the experience is the best it can possibly be. Getting that technology integrated and workable at the desired price point has been a huge challenge.”

According to Grignon, much of the cloud-computing people reference is merely cloud-based data syncing. “A lot of people talk about cloud pipelines. But really, until now, everyone has been syncing data to the cloud. That means you still have to have a local production pipeline. You still have to store data locally. And, you have to constantly sync large amounts of data up and down to and from the cloud. We’re doing everything in the cloud. Everyone works in the cloud. No syncing. I can work with people in Florida and Indiana and we’re all working on the same data. We have matching software. We all use the same pipeline. There is real power in our approach, and no one has done anything like this until now.”

Ultimately, Nimble’s goal is to build a complete creative ecosystem where artists don’t just setup up projects, but build their careers and generate their livelihoods. Says Grignon, “We want people not just to use Nimble, but to live there. To literally make a living there. To connect with other creative people, to find work, to help build and take advantage of a thriving economy within Nimble.”

Along those lines, Nimble is actively looking for people with projects to participate in the public beta starting this fall.  As Schleifer notes, “We are looking to support creators and their vision. We’re not looking for any one particular type of project. We will try to help them in whatever way we can.” Adds Grignon, “That might involve some high profile animators who might mentor on a project. There might be funding or tech support available. Our support can potentially come in many different forms. We’re just looking for great projects and great collaborators.”

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.