Tag Archives: cloud rendering

Conductor boosts its cloud rendering with Amazon EC2

Conductor Technologies’ cloud rendering platform will now support Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), bringing the virtual compute resources of AWS to Conductor customers. This new capability will provide content production studios working in visual effects, animation and immersive media access to new, secure, powerful resources that will allow them — according to the company — to quickly and economically scale render capacity. Amazon EC2 instances, including cost-effective Spot Instances, are expected to be available via Conductor this summer.

“Our goal has always been to ensure that Conductor users can easily access reliable, secure instances on a massive scale. AWS has the largest and most geographically diverse compute, and the AWS Thinkbox team, which is highly experienced in all facets of high-volume rendering, is dedicated to M&E content production, so working with them was a natural fit,” says Conductor CEO Mac Moore. “We’ve already been running hundreds of thousands of simultaneous cores through Conductor, and with AWS as our preferred cloud provider, I expect we’ll be over the million simultaneous core mark in no time.”

Simple to deploy and highly scalable, Conductor is equally effective as an off-the-shelf solution or customized to a studio’s needs through its API. Conductor’s intuitive UI and accessible analytics provide a wealth of insightful data for keeping studio budgets on track. Apps supported by Conductor include Autodesk Maya and Arnold; Foundry’s Nuke, Cara VR, Katana, Modo and Ocula; Chaos Group’s V-Ray; Pixar’s RenderMan; Isotropix’s Clarisse; Golaem; Ephere’s Ornatrix; Yeti; and Miarmy. Additional software and plug-in support are in progress, and may be available upon request.

Some background on Conductor: it’s a secure cloud-based platform that enables VFX, VR/AR and animation studios to seamlessly offload rendering and simulation workloads to the public cloud. As the only rendering service that is scalable to meet the exact needs of even the largest studios, Conductor easily integrates into existing workflows, features an open architecture for customization, provides data insights and can implement controls over usage to ensure budgets and timelines stay on track.

Post production in the cloud

By Adrian Pennington

After being talked about for years, the capacity to use the cloud for the full arsenal of post workflows is possible today with huge ramifications for the facilities business.

Rendering frames for visual effects requires an extraordinary amount of compute power for which VFX studios have historically assigned whole rooms full of servers to act as their renderfarm. As visual quality has escalated, most vendors have either had to limit the scope of their projects or buy or rent new machines on-premises to cope with the extra rendering needed. In recent times this has been upended as cloud networking has enabled VFX shops to relieve internal bottlenecks to scale, and then contract, at will.

The cloud rendering process has become so established that even this once groundbreaking capability has evolved to encompass a whole host of post workflows from previz to transcoding. In doing so, the conventional business model for post is being uprooted and reimagined.

“Early on, global facility powerhouses first recognized how access to unlimited compute and remote storage could empower the creative process to reach new heights,” explains Chuck Parker, CEO of Sohonet. “Despite spending millions of dollars on hardware, the demands of working on multiple, increasingly complex projects simultaneously, combined with decreasing timeframes, stretched on-premise facilities to their limits.”

Chuck Parker

Public cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure) changed the game by solving space, time and capacity problems for resource-intensive tasks. “Sohonet Fastlane and Google Compute Engine, for example, enabled MPC to complete The Jungle Book on time and to Oscar-winning standards, thanks to being able to run millions of Core hours in the cloud,” notes Parker.

Small- to mid-sized companies followed suit. “They lacked the financial resources and the physical space of larger competitors, and initially found themselves priced out of major studio projects,” says Parker. “But by accessing renderfarms in the cloud they can eliminate the cost and logistics of installing and configuring physical machines. Flexible pricing and the option of preemptible instances mean only paying for the compute power used, further minimizing costs and expanding the scope of possible projects.”

Milk VFX did just this when rendering the complex sequences on Adrift. Without the extra horsepower, the London-based house could not have bid on the project in the first place.

“The technology has now evolved to a point where any filmmaker with any VFX project or theatrical, TV or spot editorial can call on the cloud to operate at scale when needed — and still stay affordable,” says Parker. “Long anticipated and theorized, the ability to collaborate in realtime with teams in multiple geographic locations is a reality that is altering the post production landscape for enterprises of all sizes.”

Parker says the new post model might look like this. He uses the example of a company headquartered in Berlin — “an innovative company might employ only a dozen managers and project supervisors on its books. They can bid with confidence on jobs of any scale and any timeframe knowing that they can readily rent physical space in any location, anywhere in the world, to flexibly take advantage of tax breaks and populate it with freelance artists: 100 one week, say, 200 in week three, 300 in week five. The only hardware (rental) costs would be thin-client workstations and Wacom tablets, plus software licenses for 3D, roto, compositing and other key tools. With the job complete, the whole infrastructure can be smoothly scaled back.”

The compute costs of spinning up cloud processing and storage can be modelled into client pitches. “But building out and managing such connectivity independently may still require considerable CAPEX — one that might be cost-prohibitive if you only need the infrastructure for short periods,” notes Parker. “Cloud-compute resources are perfect for spikes in workload but, in between those spikes, paying for bandwidth you don’t need will hurt the bottom line.

Dedicated, “burstable” connectivity speeds of 100Mbit/s up to 50Gbit/s with flexibility, security and reliability are highly desirable attributes for the creative workflow. Price points, as ever, are a motivating concern. Parker’s offerings “move your data away from Internet bandwidth, removing network congestion and decreasing the time it takes to transfer your data. With a direct link to the major cloud provider of your choice, customers can be in control of how their data is routed, leading to a more consistent network experience.

“Direct links into major studios like Pinewood UK open up realtime on-set CGI rendering with live-action photography for virtual production scenarios,” adds Parker. “It is vital that your data transits straight to the cloud and never touches the Internet.”

With file sizes set to continue to increase exponentially over the next few years as 4K and HDR become standard and new immersive media like VR emerges to the mainstream, leveraging the cloud will not only be routine for the highest budget projects and largest vendors, it will become the new post production paradigm. In the cloud creative workflows are demystified and democratized.

Milk VFX provides 926 shots for YouTube’s Origin series

London’s Milk VFX, known for its visual effects work on Adrift, Annihilation and Altered Carbon, has just completed production on YouTube Premium’s new sci-fi thriller original series, Origin.

Milk created all of the 926 VFX shots for Origin in 4K, encompassing a wide range of VFX work, in a four-month timeframe. Milk executed rendering entirely in the cloud (via the AWS Cloud Platform); allowing the team to scale its current roster of projects, which include Amazon’s Good Omens and feature film Four Kids and It.

VFX supervisor and Milk co-founder Nicolas Hernandez supervised the entire roster of VFX work on Origin. Milk also supervised the VFX shoot on location in South Africa.

“As we created all the VFX for the 10-episode series it was even more important for us to be on set,” says Hernandez. “As such, our VFX supervisor Murray Barber and onset production manager David Jones supervised the Origin VFX shoot, which meant being based at the South Africa shoot location for several months.”

The series is from Left Bank Pictures, Sony Pictures Television and Midnight Radio in association with China International Television Corporation (CiTVC). Created by Mika Watkins, Origin stars Tom Felton and Natalia Tena and will premiere on 14 November on YouTube Premium.

“The intense challenge of delivering and supervising a show on the scale of Origin — 900 4K shots in four months — was not only helped by our recent expansion and the use of the cloud for rendering, but was largely due to the passion and expertise of the Milk Origin team in collaboration with Left Bank Pictures,” says Cohen.

In terms of tools, Milk used Autodesk Maya, Side Effects Houdini, Foundry’s Nuke and Mari, Shotgun, Photoshop, Deadline for renderfarms and Arnold for rendering and a variety of in-house tools. Hardware includes HPz series workstations and Nvidia graphics. Storage used was Pixitmedia’s PixStor.

The series, from director Paul W.S. Anderson and the producers of The Crown and Lost, follows a group of outsiders who find themselves abandoned on a ship bound for a distant land. Now they must work together for survival, but quickly realize that one of them is far from who they claim to be.

 

Quick Chat: Endcrawl now supports 4K

By Randi Altman

Endcrawl, a web-based end credits service, is now supporting 4K. This rollout comes on the heels of an extensive testing period — Endcrawl ran 37 different 4K pilot projects on movies for Netflix, Sony and Filmnation.

Along with 4K support comes new pricing. All projects still start on a free-forever tier with 1K preview renders, and users can upgrade to 4K for $999 or 2K for $499.

We reached out to Endcrawl co-founder John “Pliny” Eremic to find out more about the upgrade to 4K.

You are now offering unlimited 4K renders in the cloud. Why was that an important thing to include in Endcrawl, and what does that mean for users?
We’ve seen a sharp rise in the demand for 4K and UHD finishes over the past 18 months. Some of this is driven by studios, like Netflix and Sony, but there’s plenty of call for 4K on the indie and short-form side as well.

Why cloud rendering?
Speed is a big reason. 4K renders usually turn around in less than an hour. 2K renders in half that time. You’d need a beefy rig to match that performance. Convenience is another reason. Offloading renders to the cloud eliminates a huge bottleneck. If you need that late-night clutch render it’s just a few clicks away. Your workflow isn’t tied to a single workstation somewhere… or to business hours.

That’s why we decided to make Endcrawl 100% cloud-based from day one. And, yes, I’d say that using SaaS tools in production is more or less completely normalized in 2017.

Endcrawl’s UI

Are renders really unlimited?
Yes, they are. Unlimited preview renders on the free tier. Unlimited 2K or 4K uncompressed for upgraded projects. We do reserve the right to cut off a project if someone is behaving abusively or just spamming the render engine for kicks.

Have you ever had to do that?
After more than 1,000 projects, this has come up exactly zero times.

Can you mention some films Endcrawl has been used on?
Moonlight, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, Oliver Stone’s Snowden, Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, Pride Prejudice & Zombies and Dirty Grandpa, and about 1,000 others.

What else should people know?
– It’s still really fast. 4K renders turn around in about an hour. That’s 60 minutes from clicking “render” until you (or your post house) see a download link to fresh, zipped DPX frames. I cannot overstate how much this comes in handy.
– File sizes are small. Even though a five-minute 4K sequence weighs in at around 250GB, those same frames zip up to just 2.2GB. That’s a compression ratio of more than 100:1. On a fast pipe, you’ll download that in minutes.
– All projects are 4K under the hood now. Even if you’re on a 1K or 2K tier, our engine initially typesets and rasterizes all renders in 4K.
– 4K is still tough on the desktop. Some applications start to run out of memory even on lengthy 2K credits sequences — to say nothing of 4K. Endcrawl eliminates those worries and adds collaboration, live preview and that speedy cloud render engine.