More animation, faster: Studio Gale on how Unity accelerated TOMONCAR production
In its quest to release 60 animated episodes of TOMONCAR in a single drop, Studio Gale was determined to streamline processes and make its pipeline more efficient. By switching to Unity for rendering, timelines, and post-processing, the studio cut its production time (and demands on the team) in half.
“We were looking for a way to reduce rendering time and simplify the overall work process,” says Chungwun Oh, the head of visual development for the TOMONCAR series at Studio Gale. The Korean animation studio turned to Unity to streamline processes, reduce rendering time, increase overall production efficiency and stay ahead in an increasingly demanding industry.
The result is TOMONCAR, a series of 60 three-minute animated episodes for young kids, slated for release on YouTube in a single massive, simultaneous batch.
Created for children between three and five years old, each 3D-animated episode follows a friendly group of cars, each with its own vibrant personality and unique talents, on an exploring and learning adventure. Studio Gale also used the TOMONCAR characters to create over 100 educational videos, in which the lovable animated cars share a lighthearted educational message to teach small children about numbers, shapes, and colors in a fun and engaging way.
The series, co-produced with CJ ENM and Eugene Media, was unveiled at the DIA Festival in Busan in late 2019, with an English-language version due online in mid-2020.
Meet Studio Gale
Studio Gale was founded in 2008, and it had global aspirations from the very start.
Founded by Seoul-based animation giant ICONIX Co., Ltd., Studio Gale’s large body of poppy and super-cute 3D content includes its parent company’s popular titles Pororo the Little Penguin (2008) and the Tayo the Little Bus (2009) series for kids, among others. Check out Pororo and Tayo.
One of its most popular releases is a bold slapstick comedy series called Grami’s Circus Show (2013), about a group of wacky big top lions and their ringmaster. The series garnered awards nods and a worldwide audience – including several seasons on Netflix in the U.S.
More content, faster
Even with its strong track record producing kids’ entertainment, Studio Gale knew that it would need to integrate new tools and processes to complete and release so many episodes of TOMONCAR all at once. Specifically, the studio wanted to shave time off the rendering process and streamline the pipeline for post-processing.
By pairing Unity’s real-time platform with its existing systems, the small 25-person team achieved this massive undertaking, even reducing the usual production timeline by half.
“Using traditional methods it could take about two months to create a scenario, design, animation, lighting and more – and up to three months for one full episode,” says Oh. “However, using Unity, the main animation production process takes about a month, and we could finish each episode in about six weeks.”
Also, he says, additional render farms were no longer needed, and rendering time was significantly reduced. Using Unity, three minutes of 4K could be rendered on one computer in one hour.
This enabled immediate feedback so the team could make revisions more quickly, improving the overall quality of the resulting content, Oh says. The reduced post-processing workload also reduced the demands on the team’s time, freeing up valuable members to contribute to other projects.
Studio Gale opted to start implementing the Unity real-time platform into its pipeline slowly, then quickly ramped up their integration of Unity workflows once the team saw the potential.
First, they tested the pipeline over a six-month period with traditional DCC assets from Maya, which they use for modeling, some animation, and storyboarding, then sending data to Unity to create timelines and perform post-processing.
Using Unity’s extensive development capabilities, they created a custom tool they called an “Up Down Loader,” allowing teams to smoothly share work data with one another and improving their version management.
Studio Gale also created a second custom tool, the Sequence Maker, to automate building the timelines of all 60 episodes, handling 60 cuts per episode. Manually setting every clip on each timeline would require a huge investment of repetitive manual work, says Oh, but he estimates that “automating the timeline task with Unity increased the project’s production efficiency tenfold.”
Expanding the real-time platform
Going forward, Studio Gale wants to move more of its previz work into Unity as well, and replace 2D storyboards with 3D ones. The studio is still in the R&D phase when it comes to using Unity for pre-visuals such as 3D storyboarding, but expects that animators will be able to visualize their scenarios more intuitively and reduce revision time on the storyboard phase significantly.
“With this project created in partnership with Unity, Studio Gale has become the first studio in Asia to create an animation series with Unity,” says Chang Hwan Shin, the CEO of Studio Gale. “We believe that there’ll be more advantages yet to discover as we move on with our project.”
Discover more on how you can use Unity for short films and episodic TV series on our solutions page.