At Industrial Brothers (IB) we are very proud of our team and the work that we do, and some of that great work happens very much behind the scenes.
In the following article our Head of Pipeline, Mike Aquino (pictured above) gives us a look into the unsung technology team that supports the artists at IB in doing the amazing creative work that they do, and outlines why NOW is such an exciting time to work at Industrial Brothers.
Written by Mike Aquino, Head of Pipeline
This is really a great time to join the Technology Team (Tech Team) at IB. It’s an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a small, but growing, team that is making big things happen.
The part of the IB Tech Team that focuses on developing all in-house custom software for the production pipeline (i.e. the Pipeline Team) has built pipeline tools code-base around a foundation of the leading edge open source USD (Universal Scene Description) technology, Maya animation software, Houdini’s new Solaris context, and the Redshift GPU renderer. This new pipeline is in full production on an exciting action/adventure series for Netflix (Daniel Spellbound) that’s based on Industrial Brothers’ own IP (Intellectual Property).
With IB putting a brand new pipeline through its paces there is, of course, a lot of room for growth and improvements, and with that there are a lot of juicy software development tasks and projects to work on for Pipeline TDs joining the team at IB.
Right now IB is looking for talented Pipeline TDs to join our team! The job posting can be found here.
On the systems infrastructure (computer hardware, network, storage, and off-the-shelf software) side of things, IB had recently (about a year ago) completely re-designed and re-built their internal network from the ground up to provide an extremely solid technical foundation for the studio. As part of this initiative, the IB Systems Team built an extremely solid and reliable centralized file storage system into the new network topology, and a sweet render farm with a number of dense, multiple-GPU render nodes.
As well, tools deployment and render farm submission frameworks are well established and very easy to use.
All of this foundational technology infrastructure provides Pipeline TDs at IB with a solid base to work on top of so that they can just focus on being inventive and creative in their software development for the pipeline tool-set.
They don’t have to fight against legacy systems, or struggle against complex frameworks when doing their work in delivering great tools for the production floor.
One factor that really makes it great to work on the Pipeline Team at IB is the company culture of openness and communication. In a lot of my experience in the industry, the tech teams were often siloed, with very little real and direct communication between them and the artists and production teams; where everything would be “discussed” predominantly through ticket system comments. Sometimes even the Pipeline Team and the Systems (aka IT) Team would be siloed from each other, making it difficult to deliver cohesive technology solutions to production problems.
At IB, we have what I call the “Technology Trinity” (or just Tech Trinity), which is a leadership team made up of a Head of CG (Sumira Dhawan), a Head of Systems/IT (Jean-Paul Godmaire), and a Head of Pipeline (little ol’ me!). We are a tightly integrated team that is in constant communication with each other and that works very closely together to triage issues and collaboratively develop and provide solutions. It has proven to be extremely effective in providing fantastic solutions and tools that meet technical requirements but that also solidly meet user experience and work-flow needs.
With this leadership structure in place, we have been finding that the culture within the Technology Team (Pipeline, IT, and CG), and even the culture between the Tech Team and the production floor (CG artists and the Production Management Team) to be extremely collaborative.
But company culture does, for sure, start at the top – and what I’m very thankful for, in working at IB, is that the Executive Team here really cares about their people and also really cares about the creative energy in the company. The very cool thing is that they don’t even really talk about this caring so much; they just actively demonstrate it.
As well, I have found the Exec Team here to be very collaborative to work with. The Tech Trinity meets with the Exec Team regularly to ensure solutions fit within budgets as well as fitting in within technical requirements and user work-flow requirements.
A big part of the culture at IB is a focus on not overworking their crews. My team (the Pipeline Team) has worked very little overtime and I, personally, focus on my team working smarter and being sure we actively make adjustments often to meet production needs within a regular work week. Having the support of the Exec Team in this has really made it easier to keep my team working very effectively without overworking them.
Another big up-side to working at IB is that we are a studio that creates shows based on their own intellectual property; we create the stories, characters, ideas, and art in all of our productions.
For me, I find that the creative energy in a studio like IB is amazing and that’s something I am very drawn to in the work that I do.
The studio has produced really great kids’ shows like Remy & Boo, Dino Ranch, Kingdom Force, and Top Wing (among others), which all look fantastic. And the new Netflix show now in production, Daniel Spellbound (that I mentioned earlier), is really looking amazing – thanks to IB’s new USD-based pipeline, created by the Pipeline Team at IB in order for the studio to meet the very high level of quality that everyone wanted for the show.
From my perspective, it’s a really exciting time to be part of the Tech Team at IB, and I’m finding it a great experience working here. We are looking for some great Pipeline TDs to join us in making our production pipeline even more awesome, so if you are interested (or know someone who might be) please get in touch or pass it along!