Cloud-based collaboration has transformed the world of digital content, and the technology now extends into animation. One company at the forefront of this change, Nimble Studio, aims to provide high-level tools while eliminating high-cost infrastructure, allowing collaboration all over the world among artists who can work from their homes or even at the neighborhood Starbucks.
Nimble began five years ago as Nimble Collective, a platform built for creators by creators as a pipeline to make the animation process easier for amateurs and professionals alike. In fact, the initial plan was for Nimble to be used in schools.
“The idea for Nimble Collective actually came out of education,” explains co-founder Rex Grignon, former head of character animation at DreamWorks Animation on such films as “Shrek” and the “Madagascar” trilogy. “I was teaching at the university level, and I saw that the educational experience was not very good because these art schools had to build their own pipelines. I thought that these kids should have the same kind of [tools] we have at the big studios.”
Grignon talked with DreamWorks Animation colleague Scott LaFleur, another Nimble co-founder, who showed him that an application could be streamed from the cloud. “I said, ‘Wow, if you can stream one application, you can stream many. And if you can stream many, you tie that together into a workflow. Then any school in the world could have a complete professional pipeline.”
The epiphany sparked a series of meetings between Grignon and his co-founders that resulted in the formation of the collective. “In 2014, we got enough validation that this was a good idea for a business that we left our jobs and founded Nimble,” he says. “We realized that if we could solve this problem for education, we could put a pipeline in the cloud and any studio could use it. I could help independents start their own studios, help big studios cut their costs and facilitate opportunities for artists around the world to more easily connect with studios without having to move their families around.”
Now, says Grignon, Nimble Studio is capable of serving hundreds of artists, terabytes of data and “all kinds of cool enterprise-level functionality.”
Nimble has partnered with a number of companies to make the pipeline work, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Toon Boom, Houdini, Technicolor, Adobe and Zerply. And it just acquired RGB Notes, a cloud-based suite of collaboration tools.
The Nimble community has been growing in popularity among independent animators and small studios. The company has been talking with the Hollywood majors about taking their operations into the cloud, but no deals have yet been signed.
One of the biggest perks of the Nimble pipeline for big studios is being able to pull from a pool of animators anywhere in the world. “Studios are very interested in being able to cast a worldwide net for talent,” Grignon says.
But the main focus for Nimble is the talent that makes up the collective. “The Nimble Collective, the enterprise and the studio release are all about giving artists the opportunity to connect with their jobs, with work, wherever they live,” explains Grignon. “It’s really about how do we give greater access to these studios and projects to artists around the world, whether they’re doing their own little thing or whether they’re working with a big studio. That functionality is in the DNA of Nimble Collective.”