VFX and the cloud – 5 important topics to evaluate

Introduction

“The move to cloud computing is one of the most exciting trends in VFX,” according to Randi Altman.

Indeed, there are a number of benefits for media and entertainment companies:

  • Smaller teams can easily scale up to handle much larger assignments,
  • Larger teams can take on even larger projects,
  • Studios have access to a global and geographically diverse pool of expert talent, and
  • Studios can “spin up” dozens or more rendering engines in the cloud in a short period of time, paying only for the time they are using them.

Yet, despite these major advantages, studios are not yet fully adopting the cloud.

New Studio vs Established Studio

“The total value of global animation industry was US$ 254 billion in 2017 and is projected to reach US$ 270 billion by 2020,” according to Business Insider and this growth will be met by both established and new studios.

Established studios that have invested in existing IT Infrastructure will be more reluctant to move to the cloud, and will more typically select certain workloads to render in the cloud.

A new studio can benefit by establishing a cloud-based infrastructure right away. Storage, processing, rendering — these can all take place in the cloud with little or no local storage. All assets are kept in one place.

5 Major Points to Consider

  1. Storing and Transferring Large Files

File sizes are ballooning as more and more studios are working on much higher resolution projects such as VR, and 4K, 6K, and 8K projects. These files need to be transferred to the cloud service provider, and stored there as well.

“When you’re talking about hundreds of shots with terabytes of data going out and then terabytes of data coming back, that in itself is a barrier” says Craig Zerouni, the global head of technology for Method Studios. 

Remember, you are charged to store your data in the cloud until you delete it.

  1. Network Bandwidth

In order to transfer the terabytes of data, you’re going to need a high-performance network connection and “it’s still mainly the midsize and larger companies that can access the kind of bandwidth needed.” (Source: Autodesk).

In a recent Yellow Dog survey, “the most common concern was upload and download speeds.” 

Then, of course, there is the cost of that data connection.

  1. Network Latency

At present, network latency remains a challenge particularly if you are working in the cloud on a virtual workstation. Graphics tablets will not work well unless the latency is ≤ 25 milliseconds.

Kevin Baillie cautions: “Certain workflows, such as heavy FX simulations, suffer from data synchronization bottlenecks in the current hybrid local/cloud scenarios. A fully cloud-based workflow isn’t possible due to latency and quality issues with current virtual desktop solutions.” 

“Installing commercial-grade connectivity with guaranteed capacity and low latency can be disproportionately expensive “ (Source: IBC.org)

  1. Security

Maurice Patel calls security “the biggest elephant in the room.”

It's no question that content security is always top of mind with studios. Governed by the MPAA, studios need to carefully consider their cloud provider and ensure it complies with MPAA/TPN guidelines. Many studios are therefore reluctant to make the move to the cloud.

Hypertec offers secure, high-availability data center colocation services.

  1. Availability of Software and Software Features

Be sure to consult the list of available software and versions available from the cloud provider. These are typically listed in the provider’s FAQs. You should read the FAQs carefully while you’re there because even if the software title and version match, all of the features may not be available. For example, if you’re using Cinema 4d or 3ds Max, custom shaders/plug-ins are not yet supported on some cloud rendering platforms.

Intel® Xeon® Scalable Server Options to consider:


Intel® Core™ X-Series Workstation Options to consider:

 

Conclusion

Whether you are a small or large studio, each case has its specific needs and requirements. At Hypertec, our solutions architects and teams can evaluate your needs and customize the best solution for your IT infrastructure and creative pipeline. The most important factors considered are cost, latency and security to be ready for the constant need to be competitive and to keep up with increasing demands.

KRONOS 840 TITAN Network Data Center VFX Cloud