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Atomic Cartoon Gets by with a Little Help from Pipelinefx's Qube! on Rendering Beatles Music Inspired Series

PipelineFX's render farm manager keeps the award-winning studio's recreations of Fab Four songs for Netflix's animated series "Beat Bugs" on track.

LOS ANGELES – Since its foundation in 1999, Atomic Cartoons has produced a series of hit episodic animated series for broadcast networks worldwide. To get the most out of its 400-node render farm, Atomic relies on Qube!, PipelineFX's intelligent render management system, on productions ranging from Rocket Monkeys to the animated adaptation of an Angry Birds short – and now, on Netflix's hotly tipped Beat Bugs, which aims to introduce a new generation of kids to the music of The Beatles.

Set in an overgrown suburban back yard, Beat Bugs revolves around five friends, Jay, Kumi, Crick, Buzz and Walter, as they band together to explore their environment. Iconic Beatles songs, including “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Come Together,” “Penny Lane” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” are woven into the narrative of each episode, in versions recorded by artists including Eddie Vedder, Sia and P!nk.

“Personally I’m very grateful to be part of Josh’s vision,” Vedder told Rolling Stone. “[Beat Bugs] is a tremendous show for kids that combines beautiful animation with great stories and obviously some of the best songs ever written.”

Atomic Cartoons is creating the 3D animation for Beat Bugs in Maya, with NUKE used to composite the render passes. The studio estimates that it has worked on over 10,000 shots for the series, comprising more than 100,000 individual frames, some taking just 2 hours to render. To ensure that it made optimal use of resources during such intensive work, the studio relied on Qube! to divide rendering jobs between the 400 render nodes available for the show.

“I was introduced to Qube! by one of our software vendors,” says Rachit Singh, Atomic's head of technology. “What got me interested was just how easy it was to set up.”

For Singh, a crucial benefit of Qube! is the option to define custom job types, essential in a studio like Atomic, which uses its own proprietary asset-management system alongside off-the-shelf production-tracking and playback tools like Shotgun and RV. The studio also uses Flash, Harmony, and After Effects on its 2D animated productions, all of which require their own custom job types.

“Even the built-in job types are great out of the box,” said Singh. “But as these job types are constructed as open architecture scripts, they can be customized to fit the studio's pipeline needs.”

Another important feature of Qube! is its ability to centralize the management of the render farm, including both the configuration of render nodes and the logging of render jobs.

“Having the ability to manage the farm from one central location is amazing,” continued Singh. “It saves so much time in implementing new configs and debugging problems. With the logs being in one location, we can have them on a central storage system so they are accessible from anywhere and have no performance impact on the supervisor.”

Qube! also informs Atomic's decision-making process, with the studio using the information it generates to plan the rendering budget needed for demanding projects like Beat Bugs.

“After each show, we look at the database to figure out what our average render times were, and how well we made use of the machines,” said Singh. “This helps us figure out what we need for our next production in terms of render power.”

With Qube!'s combination of customizability and centralization, Atomic Cartoons is able to deliver shows like Beat Bugs on time and on budget, even under the tight schedules required for episodic broadcast animation. Singh noted that the support the studio receives from PipelineFX also plays an important role in its ability to manage productions efficiently.

“We use support on a regular basis, not just for bug fixes, but for getting clarification on workflow best practices. Qube! support is great, the engineers are very knowledgeable,” Singh concluded. “Qube! was one of the first render managers I used. But even though I've tried other alternatives since then, I've always come back to it.”

Beat Bugs debuted on Netflix around the world on August 3rd. In Australia, the series premiered on Seven Network.

Source: PipelineFX