NetApp Helps DreamWorks Animation Deliver Its Latest Bundle of Joy: ‘The Boss Baby: Family Business’

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The Boss Baby: Family Business, the sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2017 Oscar®-nominated original The Boss Baby, enters the cinemas in Thailand in October 2021. This sequel continues the story of the Templeton brothers: Tim (James Marsden) and his Boss Baby little bro, Ted (once again, Alec Baldwin), who have now become adults and drifted apart. In delivering DreamWorks’ longest animated film to date in the middle of a global pandemic, NetApp technology played a key role in making this possible.

Film Protagonists’ Teamwork to Pivot Quickly Mimics NetApp and DreamWorks’ Partnership

In every one of its CG films produced in the last 20 years, DreamWorks has made heavy use of NetApp technologies, including cloud data services, storage systems, data and virtualization software, and tools that simplify management of applications and data.

“NetApp is part of every CG animated film that’s been produced at DreamWorks,” said Skottie Miller, Technology Fellow and Vice President, Platform and Services Architecture, DreamWorks Animation. “Because we use NetApp, our engineers are able to concentrate their efforts on the needs of our creative and production teams, instead of focusing all of their attention on data management.”

Not unlike The Boss Baby brothers, the companies have battled plot twists every step of the way – latency, downtime, capacity limits, dreadful management tasks, unplanned events, security risks, etc.

DreamWorks uses a NetApp hybrid cloud to:

  • Manage billions of digital files
  • Optimize workflows in the cloud and in the data center
  • Provide unprecedented performance for artists workflows

100% Uptime = Movies Produced on Time

With 100 percent uptime supported by Clustered ONTAP, DreamWorks has expanded NetApp clusters, upgraded controllers, introduced new generations of storage media, and replaced components without affecting any users. DreamWorks even completed an all-flash upgrade in their data center while in production, without downtime or disruption. This all-flash NetApp upgrade has enabled DreamWorks to optimize precious data center space, resulting in substantial savings in power and cooling, as well as a significant reduction in latency, which contributes to higher performance and decreased artist wait time.

The studio’s extensive data environment is supervised by a small support team, thanks in part to data management and AIOps tools like NetApp ONTAP and NetApp Active IQ Unified Manager. As DreamWorks continues to expand multimedia content creation beyond traditional animated feature films, having the ability to manage data quickly and efficiently becomes mission critical.

“A single frame of a film is made up of many hundreds of small files; an entire movie can comprise half a billion. That collection of files becomes a real digital asset, not just for that movie, but for future uses to come – including sequels, television series, theme park attractions, live entertainment and more. We version the files interactively so an artist can create revisions and still keep track of everything,” said Jeff Wike, CTO, DreamWorks Animation. “Not only do we create data in the form of digital asset components for our films, but we use data about how those assets are created and combined to optimize our environment.”

The Pandemic Presents the Biggest Plot Twist to Date

With The Boss Baby: Family Business, an entirely new villain appeared in the form of a pandemic that forced everyone on the production to work from home. A monumental inconvenience for any animated film, this happened to be DreamWorks’ longest to date, consisting of 140,712 frames compared to The Boss Baby’s 125,474.

Like with The Croods: A New Age, another DreamWorks film, released during this trying time, NetApp helped DreamWorks pivot quickly and deliver the solutions they needed to keep productivity high and moving positively toward completion.

As a result, 99 percent of the film’s lighting, 85 percent of the rendering, and 95 percent of the FX shots were completed in a work from home environment. Other key numbers include: 60,241 jobs were rendered daily on average; 300 million core render hours were required to complete the film; and film is comprised of more than 268 million digital files utilizing an estimated 955 terabytes of data.

We are incredibly proud that our technology played such a key role in pulling off the impossible – to bring The Boss Baby: Family Business across the finish line. We think the Boss Baby would agree that everyone involved has definitely earned their cookies,” said Sanjay Rohatgi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, APAC, NetApp.

“With streaming services eager to acquire new subscribers through localized content, films like Crazy Rich Asians sparking demand for more crossover hits from Asia, and the successful distribution of South Korean film Parasite, which was named best picture at the Oscars last year, APAC’s media and entertainment industries now have growing platforms to not just reach their own, but also achieve international success. At NetApp, we believe that we can partner with content production companies in Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia – like we have done with DreamWorks – to bring local communities and cultural values into greater cinematic focus,” added Rohatgi.

In 2018, DreamWorks and NetApp entered a multi-year strategic alliance to advance the studio’s hybrid cloud data management environment in support of their creative and business objectives.

The key for DreamWorks is ensuring that the right data is in front of the right artists, at the right time. Through its joint engineering innovation partnership with NetApp, DreamWorks stays ahead of the curve by adapting to future production trends with the flexibility provided by NetApp technology.

“NetApp creates an infrastructure for us that is robust and stable. We trust NetApp’s people. They work side by side with our engineers to future-proof our strategies,” said Kate Swanborg, Senior Vice President, Technology Communications and Strategic Alliances, DreamWorks Animation.