Toronto animation and design studio Tendril revamped its pipeline in preparation to deliver the striking animated segment that opened episode five of American Gods on Starz. It’s a story about the earliest American history, taking place as Siberians first crossed the land bridge diving Asia and North America. The fresh immigrants to the Americas worship a Mammoth god, Nunyunni — but their faith endures only until a new Buffalo god makes clear his supremacy in the new land.

Watch the Animated Sequence

The stylized, show-stopping sequence was expected to showcase Tendril’s capabilities, so the facility made sure it could scale quickly without breaking budgets. The facility took the opportunity to move from CPU to GPU rendering, installing a 36-node render farm on site. Tendril has been a user of Thinkbox Deadline for more than four years, and is now using licensing Redshift rendering on demand via the Thinkbox Marketplace to scale rendering capacity.

“Usage-based licensing is perfect for mid-sized studios like ours,” said Tendril’s founder and director Christopher Bahry in a prepared statement. “We can easily scale up and our hours are retained in our Deadline account. The CPU is a known quantity, but the GPU is quite complex, and the hardware is changing fast. I was surprised by how well everything fell into place and can’t imagine going back to our previous way of working.”

VFX Breakdowns

Tendril’s render speeds have been increased by a factor of between 5x and 50x, depending on the size of a project, Thinkbox said, with faster renders making overall workflow faster and more fluid. Next up, Tendril plans to work on deeper integration of Deadline with the studio’s simulation-management and batch-processing needs.