When one thinks of how the marketing business runs, much of the day-to-day happens in the cloud. In fact, most companies—if b-to-b marketing is any indication—rarely use local technology. Yet, production remains one aspect of marketing that retains some of its old glory. Some of the world’s best, most creative practitioners still rely on rooms filled with top-of-the-line equipment and software, running day in and day out.
Angus Kneale, former CCO and co-founder of The Mill New York, believes that there is a better way to do world-class production in the cloud. To that end, and in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Kneale launched Preymaker, a collective of creatives, technologists and producers. Joining him in the venture are partners Melanie Wickham, past executive producer and director of production at The Mill New York, and Verity Grantham, the former chief of staff at the same office.
Throughout his career, Kneale, who joined The Mill at its London HQ in 1998, has kept an eye on emerging technology. Even if it didn’t necessarily have a direct connection, his focus was experimentation and “making sure that everybody had an eye on the horizon, and understood what was coming” in technological advances. To that end, Kneale built The Lab at The Mill’s New York office to tinker and connect technology.
One of his enduring legacies at The Mill was his team’s creation of the Blackbird, a fully-adjustable car rig that creates photoreal computer-generated vehicles. Though a technological marvel, it was born almost out of necessity.
“We were working on the Chevy Sintgray launch,” recalled Kneale. “It was beautiful and everything was perfect. But the only problem was we couldn’t get the car. We kept seeing this happen so we came up with the idea of creating a vehicle that can imitate any other vehicle out there. And that was the Blackbird.”
In the new venture, Kneale believes that three main areas make Preymaker stand out: agility, quality and cost.
“Being agile is probably the most important thing at the moment,” said Kneale, noting that technology configurations can adapt, using only what’s needed, more effectively. “Traditionally, you’d basically push work through the same process,” which took a great deal of time, especially rendering. “But now, you can tailor-make it for an environment or a specific project with more iterations,” which helps get to final output more efficiently.
Having more resources (and talent) available to work on projects allows for better quality, “vastly exceeding what we used to be able to do,” according to Kneale.
“What Angus is doing is unprecedented,” said Nathy Aviram, chief production officer at McCann New York. “Everything is in the cloud, and every artist around the world gets to tap into and work on the same file no matter where they are. I think that’s a distinction.”
In the long term, Kneale says that the ability to scale up or down due to how the system is set up in the cloud. This ends up costing less in the long run. But, crucially, the relative lack of overhead helps keep things manageable.
“Year on year, [at The Mill], we were buying millions of dollars worth of computer hardware that was forklifted into the building, put in a cool room, fired up, used for three years, and was essentially scrapped,” noted Kneale. “So that was this weird conveyor belt of buying technology. Instead, we spoke to the likes of AWS, and they were excited to be part of this virtual studio.”