Weta Digital Pacts With Amazon Web Services For Cloud-Based Visual Effects And Animation

Weta Digital has forged a deal with Amazon Web Services for the tech-giant’s cloud-based setup for visual effects and animation.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the strategic incentives on both ends are clear. In reaching terms with Weta, AWS gains a high-profile, blue-chip client to demonstrate its capabilities. By securing AWS, Weta gains a foundation to support a pipeline of 100 proprietary effects tools and the company’s LED-stage virtual production service. The latter was announced in July.

Weta, formed by filmmaker Peter Jackson, was the engine behind the visuals in major blockbusters like The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and Avengers: Endgame. The company has been in expansion mode. In June, it launched Weta Animated, which produces original animation for large-screen and streaming projects.

Talks between Weta and AWS were under way well before COVID-19 completely reshaped the entertainment business this year. Nevertheless, generating work during the pandemic requires a much higher degree of remote co-ordination and a heavy level of volume, making the arrangement timely. Universal Filmed Entertainment Group last month announced a similar cloud services pact with Microsoft.

AWS revenue in the quarter ending June 30 totaled $10.8 billion, up 29% from the same period in 2019. After launching in 2006, it has been a growing part of Amazon’s overall business and has dramatically expanded the company’s reach as it has branched out from its origins as an e-commerce website. AWS powers major websites like LinkedIn and Facebook as well as the offerings of entertainment players like Netflix, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting.

“Weta Digital has been an innovator in the visual effects industry for decades. By adopting AWS’s ultrascale infrastructure, we can implement a proprietary cloud pipeline and globally scale our production to greater levels than ever before,” Weta Digital CEO Prem Akkaraju, CEO of Weta Digital. “Weta established a remote collaborative workflow in March due to the pandemic to seamlessly continue work on the Avatar sequels and other films. With the power of AWS, we can now take that success to a global scale. Drawing on AWS’s virtually unlimited compute capacity, we can empower our artists to work safely and securely where they want without technical limitations. In addition, using the breadth and depth of AWS services we can more easily test new ideas and technologies as we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in visual effects today. AWS services, such as machine learning and data analytics, will help Weta deliver projects faster and more cost effectively, and our customers will enjoy the fruits of Weta Digital’s continuous innovation.”

Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, praised Weta for its “innovative approach of combining technology and creativity to push the boundaries of visual effects in the movie industry while bringing some of cinema’s most memorable characters to life. Weta Digital will rely on AWS’s unmatched portfolio of services to continue redefining what is possible on screen and at a scale that was not previously possible. Through its collaboration with AWS, Weta Digital is reducing technology barriers for those in the filmmaking industry, strengthening its operations in New Zealand and globally, and paving the way for immersive, new experiences for moviegoers.”

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