Thanks to the digital age, the production of Visual Effects (VFX), 3D animation, and video games keeps growing. But the heat that computers generate during the rendering process isn‘t completely lost. When the French animation studio TeamTO was producing the animated series Plankton Invasion, it monitored and managed it energy use efficiently.
The Paris-based company Stimergy even created a business model for selling decarbonized heat to buildings at competitive prices by renting its powerful computing capabilities for rendering 3D animation, VFX, and video games.
„We realize that post-production is a key factor when taking the environmental impact of film or media production into consideration“, says Joanna Gallardo, Coordinator of the French consortium Ecoprod, which provides the Film/TV industry with ecological expertise. „For years, Ecoprod put an emphasis on film production but there is an increasing number of green innovations to be found in post-production.“
Located in Paris and Valence, TeamTO has been following a sustainable production approach since its founding in 2008 with best practices such as renewables, waste management, and energy-efficient equipment. TeamTO co-developed a carbon calculator with Ecoprod for animation production. The animated series Plankton Invasion, which features these microscopic creatures invading the world through global warming, was the first animation production to measure its carbon footprint.
„One animated TV series requires rendering more than 1.2 million images. Each of them needs at least one hour of rendering time, and each will be rendered at least twice“, Jean-Baptiste Spieser, Technical Director of TeamTO points out. „The calculator definitely helps.“ Among the sustainable actions that TeamTO has implemented in its studios is double-flow controlled mechanical ventilation (CMV) to heat and cool the studio. „Therefore, we recycle 80% of our heat.“
By using the heat generated by computing clusters, Christophe Perron, CEO and Founder of Stimergy, is even heating a public swimming pool in Paris. „We are liquid-cooling our servers thanks to an electrically non-conductive liquid. All the heat emitted by the computers is captured by this liquid“, explains Perron. Thanks to heat exchangers, Stimergy can transfer the caloric energy captured by the non-conductive liquid to heat a swimming pool or a residential building. „If a Chinese or American company were using our Butte-aux-Cailles swimming pool cluster over the course of a year, we would save 500T of carbon emissions“, says Perron.
Stimergy is offering computing capacities tailored to its customers differing needs. The server space is used for data storage. „We have, however, dedicated offerings for 3D animation, VFX, and video gaming studios.“
Spieser and Perron presented their services at the Paris Images Digital Summit, where green post-production solutions were a hot topic. Launched by the Ile-de-France Film Commission, the new event brought together visual artists and VFX experts from around the world to speak on the latest trends and innovations in CGI, motion-capture, 3-D, and disruptive technologies in film, TV, and media. „We’re offering practical recommendations that are helping post-production companies act in a more environmentally-friendly way“, concludes the Ecoprod Coordinator, „and we’re informing them about the new legally mandated equipment manufacturing regulations.“
Photos: TeamTO/ Haut & Court/ Panache Productions/ La Cie Cinematographique/ Rhones Alpes Cinema/ Xavier Granet