Post Magazine

July 2013

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Township used Zync cloud rendering to help post the 4K/stereo film Inside the Mind of Leonardo. Dawnrunner is drawing on Nvidia's Grid VCA to empower its post pipeline. Pictured is their own fantasy film Terra. TOWNSHIP & COMPANY Toronto's Township & Company ( is a twoyear-old studio that's home to a team of directors with experience in design, animation, live action and visual effects. Andres Kirejew is a partner and VFX supervisor with the company, who brings a background in VFX, finishing and CG to the studio, having operated an Autodesk Flame system for 15 years. Fellow partners — creative director Ron Gervais and animation director Dave Greene — have experience in design and motion graphics. "We started with the mentality of being diverse," notes Kirejew. "You can't be just one thing. My background is in VFX.Their background is in design and animation. [Today], you can't be just editorial or just a design place. You need to be able to do a little bit of everything." The studio is set up to take on commercials, broadcast and even print work. But a recent beta program introduced them to resources that allowed Township to expand into feature work too, as was the case on a very demanding 4K/stereo 3D project titled Inside the Mind of Leonardo. The dramatized documentary stars actor Peter Capaldi and is based on the private journals of Leonardo da Vinci, which date back to the Italian Renaissance. Some 6,000 pages of handwritten notes detail the artist and inventor's work. "Ron and Dave met director Julian Jones, and he said here's an idea," says Kirejew of the project. "It's basically his drawings that had never been seen. He wanted to grab that — along with his journal — and package it into some form of a documentary. He wanted to go through the history of his thought process, how he came up with these inventions, how he came to the creation process. And along side that are his personal feelings about certain things at the time. It's kind of a documentary, but there is also a narrative that runs through it. It's not just information based. There's a little bit of drama." The project would be produced in 4K and in stereo 3D. At 90 minutes in length, it would be entered into festivals for theatrical screenings. In addition, the high-quality would allow it to be considered for IMAX presentation as well. "I had done a little bit of stereo in the past, but it was never that big. It was HD," says Kirejew. "We went, 'Sure, we can do it.' And then when we got it, we went, 'Oh shit, how do we figure this out?' There was a lot for us to learn." As a new studio, Kirejew wasn't sure if Township's pipeline could handle a 4K job, including the 30 minutes of animation they needed to create. "It ranged from bringing in a scan of his artwork or sketch from his journal, and we would have to cut it out and dimentionalize it," he explains. Some of the imagery was brought into After Effects and animated. In other instances, the studio had to create fully-3D versions of da Vinci's inventions, showing how they might work. "There were experts on board who knew his work really well, so we would build something and send it to them and they would send notes back saying, 'No, this screw spins this way.' The funny part is that in doing this, [we found] some of his inventions clearly don't work." In addition to After Effects, Townships relies on 3DS Max and Nuke. Knowing the demands of this 4K/3D stereo job led them to discover Zync (, a cloud rendering solution designed specifically for studios working with Nuke (and Maya too). A studio selects the number and type of CPUs they need and then launches the job. Zync analyzes the script and uploads any required elements from a studio's server automatically. Rendered files are then sent back upon completion. "They are the most collaborative company we've ever worked with," says Kirejew of Zync and their beta program. "If they gave us a plug-in that didn't work, they'd rewrite it." Township would render its 3D locally, but would use Zync for Nuke composites. "We use [Thinkbox] Deadline for local rendering," says Kirejew, "so instead of saying submit to Deadline, you submit to Zync. Through the interface [it asks], 'What's the name of the script? What's the frame length? What machines do you want to use?' Once it uploads, it starts rendering and when it's done, it starts sending it right back to wherever your local path is." For a young studio like Township, which had already invested in its pipeline, Zync is a powerful alternative to ramping up with additional workstations. "There was no way we would have gotten it done in time," says Kirejew of Inside the Mind of Leonardo. "Because we were a start-up, we had already spent the money that we had on the machines. We couldn't have gone out and bought more machines. Having the ability to use it for the short term is awesome. It's a cost that you are going to spend regardless, but if you buy a machine, you know that in a year or so you are going to have to upgrade." DAWNRUNNER Production and post house Dawnrunner ( recently decentralized its San Francisco location, thanks in part to Nvidia's Grid VCA and a vision that studio owner James Fox has for the facility of the future. Dawnrunner creates its own original content. The studio recently completed work on The Darkest Matter, an entirely self-funded and crewed feature that was accepted into a number of festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival. "It was a big deal," says Fox of the effort. "We were in production for six weeks and then we had three months for post for a film that was shot 99 percent green- Post • July 2013 25

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