NVIDIA GPUs Speed Nickelodeon’s Animation Workflow on Albert

by Gail Laguna

Albert is Nickelodeon’s first original animated TV movie, telling the story of a tiny Douglas fir tree named Albert who loves Christmas and dreams of being the Empire City Christmas tree. The movie premieres tonight at 7 pm Eastern/Pacific.

Albert was created almost entirely in-house and features a look that is unique to Nickelodeon. Texture artists, lighters and compositors worked on Dell Precision 5810 workstations equipped with NVIDIA Quadro M6000 graphics to bring the story to life. Scenes were rendered using Redshift’s GPU-accelerated renderer.

“The Dell T5810 and Redshift with the NVIDIA Quadro M6000 really came together for us, and allowed our artists to work in a way they’d never been able to before,” said Eric Swanborg, senior director of Digital Operations at Nickelodeon. “They’re able to work in near real time when lighting the scenes they’re working on, which allowed us to create an entirely new pipeline for the way Nickelodeon has traditionally approached animation, giving them much more creative control than they’ve ever had before.”

The animated characters in Albert appear as though you can reach out and touch them — it’s a look somewhere between photorealistic and stop motion. The ability for artists to have near real-time reflections, shadows and interaction was essential to the project.

“We’re trying to make great art as fast as we can and have it look at good as possible. There’s such a depth to everything. That’s what I’m really excited about. I can’t wait for the audience to see it,” said Jason Meyer, a supervising producer at Nickelodeon. “And now what used to take two to three hours to see a final frame is now taking just half an hour.”

Using Redshift with Quadro’s powerful visual computing platform allowed artists to do renders at their desks without having to outsource. Artists are able to see what the scenes looked like before spending the time to render the whole sequence out, which is a significantly faster approach.