With so many facets of production moving to the cloud, it was only a matter of time before animation made its way up there as well.
The latest platform to enable cloud-based collaboration is Artella, which lets people from around the world partner on animation, video games, visual effects, and virtual-reality content. To its founders, it’s a possible solution to what they see as the creative stagnation plaguing Hollywood.
“[Studio projects] cost so much money,” says Artella co-founder Bobby Beck, “that it’s almost impossible to see anything different, because everyone is playing it safe.”
Beck, whose credits include “Cars,” “The Incredibles,” and “Finding Nemo,” says Artella allows for the creation of a fully customizable production pipeline. “You don’t have to go to a big studio,” he says. “People can take risks with the type of content they make.”
Accessible via the web, Artella features workflow templates for a variety of project types that can be integrated with popular production software such as Autodesk’s Maya, Adobe Premiere and Photoshop, and the Foundry’s Nuke.
A creator signs up and builds a pitch page with information about the project and specifics about what positions need to be filled. Contributors apply for the positions and get hired if the creator likes their portfolio. Contributors can work on their assignments locally or in the cloud.
Beck met fellow Artella founders Carlos Baena (formerly of Pixar and Paramount) and Shawn Kelly (Industrial Light & Magic) when they were students at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in the 1990s. In 2005, they founded online school Animation Mentor.
Together they proved wrong the detractors who said 3D animation couldn’t be taught over the internet. But the geographical remoteness of many students — from Brazil to Iceland — prevented them from finding jobs with major animators or effectively collaborating with one another.
“I had to leave my family behind in Spain in order to come here and study,” says Baena, whose credits include “Toy Story 3” and “Monsters University.” “So, by doing [Artella], we’re hoping that people can still use the technology while not having to make a major cultural change.”
Artella officially launched the second week in May, after eight months in private beta testing; within three days it had gone from hosting 30 projects to hosting more than 90.
The platform isn’t being used by just small-time indies and talented amateurs. High Fidelity, a virtual reality company launched by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale in 2013, used it to stage a hackathon that resulted in the creation of 27 characters in three days.
For the first 90 days post-launch, Artella is free to anyone who uses it. After that, creators will be charged a monthly fee of $10-$30 for each member of a team working on a project, depending on their role.
But those looking to join and post a profile won’t have to pay. Moreover, Artella won’t take a cut of collaborators’ compensation or demand a financial stake in the projects.
“We’ll tier up [the fees] based on feature sets and robustness,” Beck explains. “But our entry price will remain accessible to anyone in the world.”