Universal partners with Microsoft for live-action and animation productions

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Universal Filmed Entertainment Group and Microsoft Corp. recently announced a strategic partnership to cloud-optimize live-action and animation productions. The partnership aims to empower the creative community with cloud-based production workflows that enable frictionless remote collaboration and content creation.

Working together, the teams will extend DreamWorks Animation’s cutting-edge production platform to include live-action production. They will bring those workflows into Microsoft Azure and ensure Universal’s ecosystem of partners can connect to them in open, standards-based ways.

This partnership will also enable the development of near-term solutions to accelerate a return to industry production during the global pandemic by engaging a broad array of industry partners to streamline workflows and remote collaboration.

“With this partnership, Universal is continuing to build on our commitment as an industry leader in transitioning to a cloud production model across our portfolio of studios. As outlined last year in the MovieLabs 2030 vision paper, streamlining our workflows will allow for a more efficient creative process, empowering the artists and storytellers we work with to make the best content possible,” said Michael Wise, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

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Jeff Wike, Chief Technology Officer at DreamWorks Animation added, “We are very excited to be collaborating with the Universal and Microsoft teams on this initiative. DreamWorks is focused on developing innovative technologies to achieve our studio’s creative ambitions, and we have been preparing for this opportunity by working with industry partners to optimize our internal solutions. Incorporating Microsoft’s Azure-based platform with our current infrastructure will enable us to provide increased and more flexible digital resources to our artists.”

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For 25 years, DreamWorks has showcased the benefits of having artists and engineers work side by side to develop new pipelines and creative toolsets. For this new platform, DreamWorks and Universal technical teams will partner with Microsoft developers to extend and optimize pipelines to take advantage of Azure’s global hyper-scale storage and compute platform to support both animation and live-action content creation. Universal plans to leverage this new capability on Azure to enable easy remote production collaboration, asset reuse, and ubiquitous compute and storage to empower creatives to do their best work.

“Together with customers like Universal and DreamWorks, we are prioritizing cloud + edge technologies to help transform workflows, increase production output and reduce friction for creatives,” said Hanno Basse, media and entertainment CTO, Microsoft Azure. “Working together, we aspire to create technology for the industry, with the industry, so they can tell stories the world loves.”

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Just over three years ago, Microsoft began its journey to help the media and entertainment industry extend their content creation workflows to the cloud. Since then partners such as Avid, Adobe, Technicolor, Bebop Technology, StratusCore and Teradici together with Azure HPC-Cache, Video Indexer and remote workstation technologies have helped customers render, edit and transform content through visual effects using hyper-scale cloud Microsoft Azure. Now, informed by these partners, customers like Universal and DreamWorks and industry bodies like the Entertainment Technology Center@USC, Microsoft is accelerating plans to help the industry optimize workflows, accelerate output with innovations like AI and deliver increased flexibility to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

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