Universal signs deal with Microsoft for live-action and animation production

Universal Filmed Entertainment Group has inked a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp. to create and accelerate cloud-optimise live-action and animation productions.

This collaboration will streamline workflows, enable frictionless remote collaboration and content creation through a cloud-based production workflow, fast-tracking a return to industry production during the global pandemic.

Unlike live-action productions, animated and VFX productions and post-production have been able to continue remotely. A cloud-optimised system, therefore, is of great help for professionals and content creators. Universal intends to leverage this new capability on Microsoft Azure to enable easy remote production collaboration, asset reuse, and ubiquitous compute and storage to empower creatives to do their optimum work.

Commenting on this partnership, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group senior vice president and chief technology officer Michael Wise said, “With this deal, Universal continues 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.”

Universal and Microsoft will be extending DreamWorks Animation’s 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.

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.

DreamWorks Animation chief technology officer Jeff Wike noted, “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.”

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

Entertainment Technology

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Ashwathi Anoopkumar