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Weta Digital goes all-in on AWS

New Zealand visual effects studio plans to migrate most of its infrastructure to Amazon Web Services and tap machine learning and analytics to deliver projects more quickly

Weta Digital has signed a multi-year deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to migrate most of its IT infrastructure to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in a bid to spread its workloads more efficiently around the world.

The New Zealand visual effects studio, known for creating the worlds and characters in critically acclaimed movies The Lord of the Rings and Avatar, said the move will pave the way for a new, cloud-based visual effects (VFX) workflow, enabling its team of artists to collaborate on visual effects remotely.

The studio’s AWS infrastructure is expected to support a pipeline that includes 100 proprietary tools and its LED-stage virtual production service that is used to create immersive new worlds on the movie set.

Also, Weta Digital will use AWS to produce and render original content from its newly announced Weta Animated division, and deliver on its multi-year movie slate.

Visual effects artists use a wide range of animation and compositing software to integrate computer-generated imagery with live action footage, creating scenes that go beyond what can easily be captured with film alone.

This imagery generates a massive volume of video and image files that can put a strain on IT resources and requires delicate load-balancing efforts to keep production facilities operating at peak capacity.

With Amazon EC2, Weta Digital will have expanded access to a broad range of specialised graphics processing unit (GPU) instances for better integration of machine learning into the VFX creation process, enabling artists to create more lifelike, detailed movie creations.

“Weta Digital has been an innovator in the visual effects industry for decades,” said Prem Akkaraju, CEO of Weta Digital. “By adopting AWS’s ultra-scale infrastructure, we can implement a proprietary cloud pipeline and globally scale our production to greater levels than ever before.”

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“Weta established a remote collaborative workflow in March due to the pandemic to seamlessly continue work on the Avatar sequels and other films. With the power of AWS, we can now take that success to a global scale. Drawing on AWS’s virtually unlimited compute capacity, we can empower our artists to work safely and securely where they want without technical limitations.”

With AWS services, Akkaraju said Weta Digital can also test new ideas and technologies as it continues to push the boundaries of what is now possible in visual effects. “AWS services, such as machine learning and data analytics, will help Weta deliver projects faster and more cost-effectively, and our customers will enjoy the fruits of Weta Digital’s continuous innovation,” he added.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy said Weta Digital’s move to AWS will reduce technology barriers for those in the film-making industry, strengthening the studio’s operations in New Zealand and globally, and paving the way for immersive, new experiences for moviegoers.

Nick Walton, managing director for commercial sector at AWS in New Zealand, said: “We see New Zealand as a hub of innovation, and we are proud to work with Weta Digital to leverage AWS’s leading portfolio of innovative services to accelerate the studio’s digital transformation and help them compete quicker than ever before.”

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