"Cookies are for closers!" This popular line from the 2017 DreamWorks Animation blockbuster comedy The Boss Baby, voiced by none other than Alec Baldwin, is a play on his famous line from 1992's Glengarry Glen Ross, "Coffee is for closers!"
Before diving into the formula-gulping sequel, The Boss Baby: Family Business, and how NetApp technology played a key role in DreamWorks delivering their longest animated film to date in the middle of a global pandemic, here’s a quick refresher on the Oscar®-nominated original from 2017.
Seven-year-old Tim Templeton is one happy kid, until his new suit-wearing, briefcase-toting baby brother arrives on the scene to steal all his parents’ attention. Tim discovers his baby brother can talk after hearing a voice coming from his brother's bedroom one night. There will be many battles before the dust settles and their brotherly love bubbles to the surface. Of course, not a second too soon, because they must work together to foil a heinous plot devised by Puppy Co.'s evil CEO.
Enter The Boss Baby: Family Business, which opens in cinemas in Singapore early September, with theatre releases in other APAC countries in the following months ahead.
The Templeton brothers: Tim (James Marsden) and his Boss Baby little bro, Ted (once again, Alec Baldwin), have become adults and drifted apart. Tim is a stay-at-home dad, while Ted is a hedge fund CEO. When uncle Ted stops by for a visit, Tim’s newborn daughter, Tina, reveals that she’s a top-secret agent for BabyCorp, whose new baby formula can turn adults back into babies for 48 hours. Once she convinces the brothers to drink up, they launch a mission to uncover the dark secrets behind her older sister’s school and its mysterious founder.
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 virtualisation 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
Optimise workflows in the cloud and in the data center
Provide unprecedented performance for artists workflows
100% Uptime = Movies Produced on Time
DreamWorks has expanded NetApp clusters, upgraded controllers, introduced new generations of storage media, and replaced components while maintaining 100 per cent uptime with Clustered ONTAP. DreamWorks even completed an all-flash upgrade in their data centre while it was still operational, with no downtime or disruption. DreamWorks was able to optimise valuable data centre space thanks to this all-flash NetApp upgrade, which resulted in significant savings in power and cooling and a significant reduction in latency, which contributes to higher performance and decreased artist wait time.
Thanks to data management and AIOps tools like NetApp ONTAP and NetApp Active IQ Unified Manager, the studio's extensive data environment is managed by a small support team. As DreamWorks expands its multimedia content creation beyond traditional animated feature films, the ability to manage data quickly and efficiently becomes 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 optimise 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% of the film's lighting, 85% of the rendering, and 95% of the FX shots were completed remotely. 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 utilising 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 localised 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.
DreamWorks' priority is to ensure that the right data is in front of the right artists at the right time. DreamWorks stays ahead of the curve by adapting to future production trends with the flexibility provided by NetApp technology, thanks to its joint engineering innovation partnership with NetApp.
“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.