Sohonet Helps Gentle Giant Studios To Tell Big Stories

Gentle Giant on scanning full-body digital doubles for VFX to creating a fantasy starship for Porsche AG and Lucasfilm — and the cloud-based storage and delivery systems they’re using 

From The Matrix and Avatar to the Harry Potter franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, to Wonder Woman 1984, The Batman, Top Gun Maverick and Morbius, Gentle Giant Studios’ products and services permeate the entertainment industry, providing cutting-edge 3D scanning, modelling and 3D printing for greater realism or flights of the imagination. 

Applications include recreating real-world objects and characters, constructing virtual sets, devising elaborate fantasy worlds, and 3D-printing objects that would be impossible to cost-effectively construct by other means.

The Burbank-based studio is a 25-year stalwart of the industry consistently working with all the major studios and streaming networks as well as record labels, museums, clothing designers and tent-pole brands. Gentle Giant Studios pioneered the integration of 3D scanning and 3D printing in the entertainment industry lending unequalled authenticity to projects covering a broad range of end products.

“Sohonet is integral to everything we do,” says Kim Lavery, Global Executive Producer. “We use its high performance, cost-effective storage [FileStore+] connected by Sohonet FastLane every day for smart, efficient digital delivery to and from clients and internally across our Studio for our sculptors and digital designers.”

Gentle Giant’s experts provide a host of services for a wide range of entertainment media, such as 3D scanning, modelling, concepts and printing for related product development.

Dark Crystal Tree (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance)

“Typically, a project starts with the Digital department,” Lavery explains. “We capture data including Lidar and full-frame photogrammetry and internally process it for delivery to our different departments -Fine Art, Prototyping and 3D Printing for creation of art collectables, action figures, products, etc.”

“We go full circle from physical objects and people into the digital realm and back out to physical assets. Our digital data goes right from the production development process into pre-production, production and post.”

For The Mandalorian, Gentle Giant took its Juggernaut mobile photogrammetry studio to the set and scanned the cast for downstream creation of Maquettes for the Art Department and full-body digital doubles for VFX and Costume.

“Sometimes A-list actors are fitted with under briefs so we can get a 100% accurate scan of the body. The data can be used for VFX, or to 3D print mannequins for Costume. Sometimes the talent is scanned in full costume, hair and make-up which we capture for creation of CGI digital doubles. Our photogrammetry is of such high resolution we can get right into the pores of the skin.”

All of this generates significant volumes of rich data which needs to be piped from set to the team at Gentle Giant Studios, all under the strictest of security protocols.

“Sohonet’s cloud-based storage Filestore+ is a really big help in enabling us to have that at our fingertips,” Lavery says. “We use FileStore+ for back up, short-term project parking and archiving. We have heaps of data collected over more than 20 years which is a huge asset for clients wanting to repurpose the data for future use.”

FileStore+, powered by RStor is Sohonet’s low-cost alternative to Amazon S3 for disaster recovery (DR) and cloud-first workflows, providing media teams with resilient, secure, high-performance storage at the lowest price point on the market. 

Gentle Giant was recently asked to dig into the vaults stored on Filestore+ to create new merchandise featuring WWF wrestlers and other major brand companies.

 “Previously we had a network attached storage device but the amount of data we are now being asked to store and transfer means that we needed to upgrade to infrastructure with unlimited scalability,” Lavery says. “With Sohonet FileRunner, transferring large files just became much easier and more secure.”

She continues, “We explored the options really carefully for security reasons. All the major studios are understandably super conscious of confidentiality. Gentle Giant is Marvel and Disney-approved because of the way we have set up our cloud-based storage and delivery systems. Sohonet Media Network, Sohonet Fastlane and Filestore+ are superior to other platforms we have used in every way.”

Recent projects include the design and physical creation of a fantasy starship for Porsche AG and Lucasfilm Ltd; the scanning and creation of a 3D mannequin of music artist Katy Perry for the VFX in a forthcoming music video, as well as prototyping and manufacturing promotional purses for Wonder Woman 1984.

The Studio’s implementation of Sohonet also gave it a head-start when the pandemic hit and forced the industry to work from home. Lavery says, “We were prepared for the shutdown. We were able to expand our remote workflows really quickly. It was a seamless transition that created no issues for our clients.”

“Fortunately, we had enough data in the can to continue working throughout the quarantine period. Our artists were able to access data held on servers at our facility and in the cloud using Sohonet. It worked extremely well.”

Now that principal photography is slowly resuming in LA and elsewhere, Lavery predicts a new renaissance in the processes for supporting the production of arts and entertainment content.

“Going into lockdown we had seven productions on our books that all went on hiatus. They didn’t cancel, just paused. When they restart, we expect to get slammed and it’s right around the corner.”

The Gentle Giant are now getting familiar with the new protocols and guidelines in place, and Lavery adds that the team have passed the studio vetting and “ look forward to getting back to what will be the new normal for everyone.”