Saddington Baynes Revs Up Production for Honda with Deadline

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"Tuned for Performance" - Saddington Baynes / Thinkbox Deadline from Thinkbox Software on Vimeo.

The future of automotive technology is closer than ever, with each new generation of vehicles containing sci-fi worthy additions and enhancements. Drivers may not understand the circuitry that powers these innovations, but they do want to know exactly how they improve driving quality and prevent unwelcome collisions. With the Real View Test Drive campaign, Honda Motor Europe and UK-based agency DigitasLBi set out to present the technological features that power Honda's latest vehicles in an easy to understand format. DigitasLBi enlisted the London-based creative studio Saddington Baynes to produce 20 short films and nearly 60 minutes' worth of video, blending live video, CG, and motion graphics. To reduce complexity of the demanding rendering requirements of the project, Saddington Baynes relied upon Thinkbox Software’s Deadline. Using Deadline’s deep and flexible toolset, the team ensured its on-site render farm was efficiently utilized, optimizing output and freeing up more time for creative refinement.

Established in 1991, Saddington Baynes was one of the original pioneers of digital retouching, and has since established a storied heritage of innovation in the creative marketing space. Clients like O2, Strongbow and Google make up Saddington Baynes’ impressive roster, and the output is diverse; visuals like bioluminescent sneakers and modernized M.C. Escher imagery stand out among a very colorful portfolio. “We’re in the business of making moving imagery – that is, imagery that moves people,” says James Digby-Jones, Executive Creative Director.

The Real View Test Drive campaign particularly embodies this maxim, given the thinking that underpinned the creative process. The 20 short films cover the Honda HRC, CRV, Jazz, and Civic models, and will be shown across 22 markets in 17 languages. The videos explain the benefits of each technological advancement in full-CG environments that convey the aesthetics and ‘feel’ of the Honda marque. "This was a huge project, and we were working within a very compressed timeframe," recalls White. "From a CG point of view, the team needed to be super efficient with setting up their files. Getting test renders off and into comps was really important so that we could check mattes, masks, and contact shadows. We needed to make sure everything was working correctly, and do that fast and efficiently."

As the backbone of Saddington Baynes’ rendering workflow, Deadline has ably guided the studio through such challenges for many years. It’s a critical tool, helping the team make the most of its resources while juggling projects using different computing environments, while also making sure any productivity-crushing rendering errors are avoided.

"Technology enables creativity. It really takes the brakes off the artist, allowing them to be creative and not spend hours of time problem solving," asserts Digby-Jones. "We've used Deadline for many years now, and it serves this purpose perfectly, enabling our artists to get on with the core task of creation. The toolset just gets better and better, and we have even developed our own solutions off of it."

With enormous data processing needs – including renders in 16K resolution for certain projects – Deadline is critical for keeping Saddington Baynes’ render requirements within manageable parameters. Furthermore, Deadline’s flexible integrations with the team's other software packages, including Chaos Group’s V-Ray, Maxon’s Cinema 4D, Foundry’s NUKE, and Side Effects Software’s Houdini, makes it fit perfectly into the pipeline puzzle. "Deadline is the tool that we need to be able to deal with that kind of data," says Jared Auty, Lead Pipeline Developer at Saddington Baynes. "Deadline enables artists to just get on with their art."

One of the greatest benefits Deadline presents to White and team comes in the ability to avoid rendering errors, and – if they do pop up – to handle them with ease and efficiency. Via its robust error checking, Deadline gives Saddington Baynes a heads-up whenever something seems amiss. This gives the artists valuable time to get their files in order, before resending them for rendering. Artists can use the error logs to quickly dissect and address any issues, or flag jobs if they error regularly so that the rest of the rendering load can continue. This means less time worrying about the nitty-gritty, and more time iterating on renders, ensuring the optimum final output.

"Deadline takes care of all of this in the background,” says White. “You submit your file and it sends you an email that tells you when it's finished – it’s that simple.” Auty also praises Deadline’s scalability, with the capacity to pump up or dial back rendering capabilities via outsourcing and cloud rendering, particularly via Amazon Web Services: "It allows us to only spend the money when we need to dial up, and not have equipment sitting idle. We can keep our costs to a minimum using that approach."

"I don't see how completing the Honda Real View Test Drive project would have been possible without Deadline," says White. "I've never really come across anything that's as robust. It's never been a question that it's a core backbone to how we work."

"Deadline really gives us the confidence to pitch for any kind of project, at any size that we want to," concludes Digby-Jones. "It's a rock-solid, stable backbone to what we do, and it means we can take on anything. The sky's the limit."