NetEase is a tech giant, offering everything from e-commerce and on-demand music to a gaming division that’s one of the world’s top seven game companies.

NetEase Games titles are varied indeed. Releases include the highly successful Onmyoji series, the Fantasy Westward Journey games, and Marvel Super War; the company also partners with Blizzard Entertainment to bring games like World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and the immensely popular Overwatch to the Chinese market.

Creating these games is just one part of the process: NetEase also produces a raft of game cut-scenes, short-form ads, and other marketing collateral that promote and add cinematic flavour to its releases. For this, NetEase relies on the talent spread across its CG animation teams.

Cheng Shun

Senior Pipeline TD

Wang Bin

Pipeline TD

Company NetEase Games
Website neteasegames.com
Location Hangzhou, China

“We work on a huge volume of projects. On average, there are 40-50 a year,” begins Senior Pipeline TD, Cheng Shun. “Recently, we’ve worked on CG content for the Fantasy Westward Journey winter vacation expansion pack and Kill Wolf. We also just delivered a lot of work for the Ping An Jing three-year anniversary; a project that required three minutes of CG video featuring many popular characters. The production cycle took about five months: one month for pre-production and four for production. Ten internal team members worked on the project alongside three outsourced suppliers—and the whole thing, like all of our CG projects at NetEase, was managed using ftrack Studio.

Adopting ftrack Studio

Before joining NetEase Games as Senior Pipeline TD, Cheng worked as a CFX pipeline TD at Light Chaser Animation. “I became experienced in designing and building solid CG production pipelines that help artists, producers, and supervisors improve production efficiency,” he says. “Naturally, I brought this experience to NetEase, where I’m responsible for production pipeline design, solving technical problems, and ensuring everyone can work as effectively as possible. ftrack Studio is a big help in that area.”

Cheng and his team previously tracked work and provided feedback via NetEase’s proprietary communication tool POPO. However, although useful for quick communication, POPO does not offer full production tracking functionality and, as such, presented several drawbacks, specifically with regards to querying the history of a task and time tracking. ftrack Studio neatly filled these gaps, as Cheng explains: “ftrack Studio records all information, including what’s happening with an asset or task or what a team member is working on, and makes it easy to audit and review work as it moves through the department.”

It’s easy to recommend ftrack Studio as a flexible, accessible, and powerful solution

Cheng ShunSenior Pipeline TD

ftrack Studio’s cloud-based infrastructure invited further convenience to the NetEase pipeline. “One of the main reasons for choosing ftrack Studio for NetEase Games was its Alibaba cloud-based infrastructure, which makes things very easy for us,” he begins. “We work with outsourced suppliers, after all, and those teams could access everything easily. The whole team—both internal and external—could check on supplied assets and versions at any time, add feedback from home, and generally make sure the project was heading in the right direction.”

Wang Bin, Pipeline TD at the Netease Focus Group, was instrumental in setting up ftrack Studio at Netease. “Using ftrack Studio changed our communication from a waterfall approach into more of a tree-like approach,” he explains. “Every department can track feedback and see where it came from, and everyone can easily manage and communicate with our suppliers. Simply put, ftrack Studio unified what was once scattered data into organized data.”

Creating custom tools

Convenience and ease-of-use were essential factors in NetEase’s adoption of ftrack Studio, but so too was ftrack Studio’s API. Cheng, Wang, and the team wanted a platform that would work out of the box while also offering deeper functionality via customization. “If you let a TD choose a project management tools, they won’t choose a tool without an API!” says Cheng. “ftrack Studio’s API is robust, it enables us to develop unique in-house tools. We can create new integrations, automations, and scripts that improve efficiency and give our artists more time for creativity over admin.”

Wang offers a metaphor of his own: “ftrack Studio is like being given a slab of first-class beef—the beef can be excellent on its own, but with knowledge and application, you can make some fantastic meals!

“ftrack Studio offers a lot of creative freedom, and you can modify many functions,” continues Wang. “The ftrack Studio API is fast; Events are simple; you can customize the file level and personalize your project type—ftrack Studio does so much to complement your studio pipeline.”

For example, although ftrack Studio stands at the core of NetEase’s Games production pipeline, the team still uses POPO to communicate both internally and with external outsourced vendors. Cheng chose to integrate the platforms. “ftrack Studio is used for feedback and asset tracking, but we still use POPO for daily back-and-forth communication,” says Cheng. “However, we’ve used ftrack Studio’s API to link the platform with POPO via an Event script—if someone submits a new video to ftrack Studio, a message will appear in the relevant POPO group, and the video appears in GIF format.”

Wang adds that NetEase has also integrated ftrack Studio with the company’s object storage system. “We used Locations to connect ftrack Studio directly with the various appropriate storage locations across the company, which makes things so much simpler.”

Flexible, accessible, and powerful

NetEase Games continues to produce stunning visuals across a variety of media—”We’re currently working on everything from posters to videos, advertisement, and assets,” says Wang. Thankfully, with ftrack Studio on hand, the team feel fully equipped to manage this workflow and scale as and when necessary.

“ftrack Studio is the most cost-effective solution I’ve found as compared with similar solutions,” concludes Cheng. “From ftrack Studio’s cloud-based approach to its great after-sales service and technical support; it’s easy to recommend ftrack Studio as a flexible, accessible, and powerful solution.”

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