PLAYSENSE Expands Creative Capacity with AWS

The CG studio behind Wargaming cinematic trailers doubles their artistic talent by embracing distributed workforce and cloud-based compute resources.

From photoreal military combat to stylized magical duels, the work of creative CG production studio PLAYSENSE features dynamic computer graphics (CG) game trailers that capture attention of gamers with story-driven narratives. Founded as part of The Agency of Wargaming, the studio’s award-winning work spans aesthetics and genres, such as the playful Wargaming Holiday Adventure and ominous World of Tanks – Soul Hunter.

In addition to Wargaming projects, PLAYSENSE also delivers content for titles from other developers and publishers, such as the upcoming action-adventure RPG ‘GRIME’ from Clover Bite and published by Akupara Games. A cohort of passionate gamers, the PLAYSENSE team has doubled in the past year, now comprising 22 artists distributed across Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Lithuania. To facilitate the studio’s continued growth alongside demand for their talents, PLAYSENSE is leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud-based rendering, and preparing to move more of its pipeline to the cloud. 

“As we began to grow our team last year, we found many great artists, but they aren’t necessarily located near our headquarters. Rather than add more local equipment in Minsk and deal with networking issues to connect everything, we found out that using AWS was much more efficient for our needs and allows us to easily scale. It also provides the necessary security to maintain client confidentiality,” said Andrey Bogdanovich, PLAYSENSE CG Supervisor.  

Familiar with AWS from SIGGRAPH demonstrations of its studio in the cloud solutions, the PLAYSENSE team registered for a test account earlier this year and began building infrastructure in the cloud. PLAYSENSE CG Generalist Nikolay Skolkov, who helped lead the AWS implementation, explained, “Render is one of our most important stages in production pipeline so having the ability to rapidly, elastically grow our resources with AWS is invaluable. It’s the most convenient solution, suits our needs, and we don’t have to worry about render licenses. AWS customer support has been great and really allowed us to move more of our work to the cloud, both with their help and using the comprehensive documentation of AWS services.”

PLAYSENSE’s primary creative application is SideFX’s Houdini, where all content is created. The studio also uses Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max and ShotGrid; and Foundry’s Nuke and Mari, running on both Windows and Linux machines. To render on AWS, PLAYSENSE has provisioned an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to launch Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances on demand, including Spot Instances managed by AWS Thinkbox Deadline render management software. It also relies on Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) for scalable, secure file storage, and the AWS Thinkbox Marketplace for usage-based licensing.  

By transferring the bulk of its render needs to AWS, PLAYSENSE has been able to quickly increase its volume of work. Bogdanovich explained, “With our computing done on AWS, we don’t have to worry about the capacity limitations of a classic farm, and having access to Spot Instances with usage-based licensing has been quite handy as our team grows. We can work with people around the globe, and hire and properly equip specialists so they can access all the project materials and necessary resources.”

“The scalability we have with AWS is freeing. We have extra capacity whenever we need it and we’re only paying for it while we’re using it,” added Skolkov. “In the future, we aim to create a fully-fledged studio in the cloud, and transfer the whole development process, from idea to the final product, to AWS.”

Along with rendering on AWS, PLAYSENSE has begun testing animation in the cloud and is exploring other ways to augment its resources with AWS. Bogdanovich concluded, “Although graphics are important, storytelling is our central focus. There’s an old saying that ‘no matter how much compute you have available, the render time will stay the same’, meaning artists will always find a way to take full advantage of their capacity. Using AWS, we can increase the quality of our graphics since we can turn around renders more quickly, and give directors and creatives more control to implement ideas they might not have been able to otherwise due to lack of compute power.”

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