Demand for streaming content and games is exploding due to the global pandemic, which spurred massive changes across the media and entertainment (M&E) industry. Studios were scrambling as film shoots stalled and teams were confined to their homes. The industry was already showing signs of moving to cloud long term, but out of necessity, years of planning turned into weeks of execution. Teams connected in the cloud, and production continued from home.

This shift to the cloud presents an excellent opportunity to do things differently, and to build a more resilient future. Autodesk’s vision is to help accelerate that transition by unlocking new levels of collaboration, creativity, efficiency, and insights. Today, at Autodesk University (AU) 2021, we’re announcing the ways we’re driving the industry forward through our data-fluent cloud-based workflows and industry partnerships.

Our vision aligns with the 2030 view of production outlined by industry think-tank MovieLabs.

Underlying our vision is a foundation built on open standards such as USD (Universal Scene Description) for 3D data exchange, and OpenColorIO for color calibration and management. Working with customers and the Academy Software Foundation, Autodesk is actively involved in helping create these standards as well as integrating them into our products to further their adoption.

Thanks to an extensive collaboration with Pixar, Animal Logic, Luma Pictures and Blue Sky, Autodesk is helping to refine the multiple ‘flavors’ of USD into a common standard, as well as implementing support for USD in Maya and 3ds Max. USD enables artists to load and edit massive datasets at lightning speed, increasing pipeline efficiency and improving collaboration, so that teams can more easily handle the high-volume data workloads of 3D scenes.

Cloud-powered workflows increase production speed and creativity

Autodesk’s vision for the cloud spans across industries with similar challenges taking a unified approach. We invested in building an extensive and extensible cloud platform, Autodesk Forge. Forge will provide the capabilities needed, from security to scalability, for us to connect teams to their projects more efficiently than ever before. And by centralizing on a single platform, we can bring to bear more research and development resources and expertise than would be possible when focusing on a single industry.

Autodesk is also investing in the future of M&E, including the transition to cloud-based workflows. We are building out a new, open, and secure cloud-based environment for M&E production on Forge. We are investing in our industry-leading portfolio of products, Maya, 3ds Max, Flame, and ShotGrid, keeping them competitive as we prepare for the transition.

As entertainment projects get larger and more complex with more teams collaborating from disparate locations, it is essential that producers have an accurate, real-time view of production. An upcoming Generative Scheduling service will enable customers to run projects with smarter business insights powered by Forge. With new collaborative review capabilities, teams can synchronously review material whether they’re in studio or not, to streamline review and approvals.

Lee Griggs creates sophisticated simulations and effects with Bifrost. Image courtesy of Lee Griggs.

As Autodesk moves toward production in the cloud, we are investing in content creation tools, like Bifrost a low-footprint, low-code, visual programing environment for creating sophisticated simulations and effects. By bringing this technology to the Forge platform we can provide greater performance and scalability, new types of services such as simulation wedging, as well as future, cloud connected workflows with third-party tools like Unreal Engine, Unity, Blender and Houdini.

We are also investing in AI assisted workflows for media and entertainment. We have recently added several such tools to Flame, helping artists automate complex compositing and retouching tasks on image sequences. Going forward we will seek to combine our powerful machine learning tools with the massive compute power and scalability of the cloud. This will allow artists to automate repetitive tasks, work faster and focus on the artistry of their craft.

Virtual production is becoming accessible to a broader range of production budgets. Image courtesy of Silverdraft.

The pandemic has also led to rapidly growing interest in virtual production, an area Autodesk helped pioneer with Joe Letteri and Lightstorm Entertainment on “Avatar.” As performance capture technology becomes more affordable and real-time game engines like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine continue to improve in image quality, virtual production is becoming accessible to a broader range of production budgets. To drive this, Autodesk is partnering with Epic Games to build more robust workflows between our creative products and Unreal Engine. This includes live-linking between our content creation tools, as well as ShotGrid integrations to streamline production management between virtual production and visual effects.

Autodesk industry partnerships open new possibilities for artists everywhere

As the M&E industry looks toward the future of production in the cloud, amazing new opportunities to drive innovation and change are emerging. Our customers see powerful ways in which they can help shape the future of the industry for the better – and we are delighted to help them do so.

For example, take Weta Digital, the company behind “Lord of The Rings,” “Avatar,” and “Planet of the Apes.” Autodesk and Weta recognized the need to help artists boost creativity and introduced WetaM, a cloud-based production pipeline toolset that seamlessly integrates with Maya, delivering Weta’s signature artist tools and next-generation procedural workflows to raise the bar for production for all artists. WetaM productizes Weta’s proprietary VFX tools built on Maya’s open API, and will be commercialized by Weta Digital as a subscription cloud service.

With WetaM, artists everywhere will gain access to the unique visual design and workflow automation that Weta Digital used to create some of the signature moments in “Game of Thrones” season 8, and to bring giants to life in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “BFG.”

As film and television production evolves, and flexibility is required to thrive, Autodesk is proud to help creators adapt to new pipelines, workflows and creative demands across mediums.

By unlocking the capabilities of powerful content creation and production management tools, and bringing them to the cloud, we are paving the path for a more efficient, scalable and sustainable entertainment production future.