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Cloud Rendering with Callum McDonnell

Meet the faces behind YellowDog, and get to know us a little better! In the middle of his preparations for Kidscreen 2019, we grabbed Callum McDonnell for five minutes to get to know him better…

What do you do?
I’m a part of YellowDog’s epic render team! I spend most of my time looking after our key studio customers. I make sure that they are happy with the performance of our cloud render technology and get feedback on ways that we can improve our platform or render product.

My main aim is to ensure that we deliver an excellent experience for studios every time they render animation with us; if we do that, they can focus on their job: producing awesome and often mind-blowing creative! The other part of my role is finding new studios to work with – typically through recommendations within the community or people that I meet at events.

What events are you looking forward to this year?
Getting some February sun in Miami at Kidscreen is going to be awesome and could well be a major highlight. Using that opportunity to talk with some of our customers such as Brown Bag Films, and seeing what’s happening with people we may not have met before, is enormously exciting.

What is the biggest change at YellowDog since you started in 2016?
The sheer scale and capacity of YellowDog technology today. Most of our customers needed perhaps a dozen machines at once in 2016 and that was enough. Almost all of them were looking for CPU rendering. Today, our clients are pushing hundreds, if not thousands, of machines in multiple datacentres with multiple cloud providers for both GPU and CPU rendering. They are using YellowDog from North America through Europe to Asia.

One thing that is the same today as the day I joined is the YellowDog culture. I just love it. We all feel that we’re building something special and are totally customer focused. It makes it easy to come to ‘work’.

What about the biggest change in you in that time?
I have an appreciation for 3D design, visual effects and animation that I didn’t know I was capable of. Before YellowDog, I really didn’t think about how much work would go into something that I’d watch. Now, I can’t help but constantly question how or why something has been made in a shot.

Best and worst part of the job?
The conversations I have in a day often make me chuckle. I will switch from an Emmy winning kids TV producer to a designer in a major car manufacturer’s design lab and on to a CTO of a global engineering company. They all have challenges that YellowDog can help with. Every day is different and I love that.

There’s no bad part. The hardest part is when studios call YellowDog in at the 11thhour and ask us to help save a complex project with some very fast cloud rendering. In those times, we always go above and beyond with service and expertise to get a customised working solution at short notice. That is stressful for us and our customers, but that’s the nature of the industry.

What render software interests you?
VRscans. They’ve been around for a few years so they aren’t breaking onto the scene with a big splash. But in 2018, it certainly appeared that the adoption of VRscans increased. I work with a lot of car manufacturers or studios producing adverts for cars. Using VRscans is something that sets some studios apart. Having the ability to render the exact texture in a scene creates a new level of photorealism. We have a healthy partnership with Chaos Group and render a lot of V-Ray so this is technology that we love to support.

What changes have you seen in GPU rendering behaviour?
The advance of GPU rendering is exciting: we don’t just have a handful of exemplar GPU engines anymore. The only ones in the conversation a few years ago were Redshift, Octane, and perhaps FStorm. Now, amongst other major engines, you have V-Ray Next with GPU capability and the industry waits patiently for Arnold GPU too.

We saw earlier this year in the feature film that we rendered with nGenious (exclusively with Redshift and GPU) that producing work faster without compromising on quality is now a reality. You can see a trailer of the film below.

What do you think about real-time rendering
We can’t ignore the growth of real-time rendering either. Whether the final quality is there for the type of productions that we work on is another debate. For certain types of production, real-time rendering is making an impact in what may have been considered unchartered territory for engines like Unreal a year or two ago. It is a more competitive market amongst render engines as a result.

 Can you share a recent highlight at YellowDog?
I visited the team at MediaMonks a few months ago; they showed me a Virtual Reality project that they’d just wrapped. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck! It honestly blew my mind. When you see a finished production of immense quality, it makes you proud to have helped such talented artists and producers.

What are you looking forward to in 2019 at YellowDog?
Opening up new locations overseas are something that I think we will consider. We already have customers in creative territories like India and North America so to have boots on the ground would be incredible for us and them.

There are some studios that we’ve helped from the beginning; watching them grow in 2019 is something that I’ll take a lot of pleasure in. But of course, impacting more blockbusters or hit TV shows is something that I think we will do more of this year.

I can’t wait!

This content originally came from our friends at Yellowdog! Check out their profile here.