Commercial Success with Avere-enabled Rendering in Google Cloud Platform
Sudsy water cascades over a curvy green shampoo bottle, the star of a new commercial—until a last-minute packaging change makes an edgier, block-shaped bottle the main attraction. In the world of commercial production where an entire project can wrap in just two weeks, short-turn retakes are a challenging fact of every VFX supervisor’s life. What appears to the client a simple change often means days of re-rendering that adds load to already-stressed compute resources.
Eight VFX, a visual effects studio renowned for outstanding work in commercials, features, and music videos, solved its own rendering challenge with an Avere-enabled Google Cloud Platform solution. Damien Bataille, the studio’s head of development, says, “The Avere solution lets us take full advantage of the cloud, removing all the limitations—rendering capacity, bandwidth, rental-node setup time, power, and space—that used to prevent us from expanding our project pipeline or accommodating last-minute changes. Today we can deliver the quality of artistry equal to our talent, even within the tightest of deadlines.”
Challenge: Deliver On-demand Render Power
Eight VFX boasts an impressive international client list that includes such prominent names as BMW, Chevrolet, HP, Mars, Nike, Peugeot, Puma, Samsung, and Toyota. The studio’s VFX work on “Kobe vs Messi: Selfie Shootout” helped the commercial capture top honors as YouTube’s ad of the decade. But consistently delivering the high-end effects clients expect can be particularly challenging in the condensed timelines common to commercial work.
Philippe Chotard, in charge of IT and working closely with Yannick Leblanc, Technical Director for Eight VFX, explains, “We’re managing a fast-changing production pipeline, very dynamic digital assets, and rendering workloads that can be difficult to anticipate. To handle peak demand, we frequently had to augment our on-premises render farm with rental nodes. But that process took days, required juggling equipment for rack space, and we were hitting the limits of our power and cooling systems. Because of these issues, we decided to explore cloud rendering for burst-compute capability to enable business growth. Although early tests showed promising results, we found that in practice our 100Mb Internet link became saturated with just 150 cores online. For the cloud to work in our environment, we needed to be able to run at least 1,000 cores on demand.”
Solution: Avere for Seamless Access to Cloud Compute
Damien Bataille says the studio briefly considered a number of caching options, bandwidth optimization technology, and even in-house scripting to manage data movement to and from the cloud. “Our file sizes can range from one gigabyte to as large as 40GB. Some products work by pre-scanning assets required for the render. But in our dynamic environment, we can’t easily determine the full set of texture files used inside a 3D frame. And any errors in the rendering process cost valuable time—in both development and rendering processes—and ultimately money. Avere was the only solution that did not require complex scripting or data management. It’s a seamless drop-in between our on-premises storage and Google Cloud Platform, hiding latency and minimizing network traffic so we’re able to run as many cores as needed without saturating our Internet link.”
Today, Eight VFX runs an Avere Systems Virtual FXT (vFXT) Edge filer cluster with Avere FlashCloud software alongside the studio’s 3D Chaos Group V-Ray rendering engine in the compute cloud. The Avere solution with Avere FlashCloud software delivers exceptional I/O performance, high networking throughput to ensure peak performance for rendering processes, and automatic access to digital assets, with no complex data movement and synchronization.
Benefits: One-click Cloud, Compelling Financials, and Unfettered Creativity
Check-the-box Cloud Rendering
“Today it takes less than 15 minutes to fire up 1,000 nodes in the cloud,” comments Philippe Chotard. “And that’s from scratch. With the VPN and Avere’s virtual cluster defined, we can spin up everything in just four minutes. Most importantly, Avere integrates seamlessly into our pipeline—nothing changes for applications or our creative team of more than 30 artists. We’ve actually integrated a check-box into our software—including AutoDesk Maya, Nuke, and SideFX Houdini—that lets users launch their renderings utilizing both on-premises nodes and cloud compute as needed. Avere automatically presents the required digital assets—we don’t have to worry about finding the right files, moving data back and forth, or the technical limits of bandwidth.”
High Performance at Case-Making Price Point
Philippe Chotard estimates that during peak production periods, Eight VFX typically runs about 60 percent of its workload on the studio’s 50-node on-premises render farm and 40 percent in cloud. “In the near future, our team will be moving into a larger facility to support our fast-growing artistic team and business. Without the Avere solution, we’d have had to reserve much of that space for rendering infrastructure, making sure we had adequate rack space, power, and cooling. Instead, our rendering expansion will be focused in the cloud. We anticipate ultimately running as much as 80 percent of our workload in the cloud.”
Philippe Chotard says that cloud-rendering costs are already at par with rental rendering. “That’s without factoring in data center space and cooling or taking advantage of Google Cloud Platform Preemptible Virtual Machines to further reduce per-node costs. Considering those factors and Google’s strategy of reducing prices by half every two years, we can make a compelling financial case for continuing to move workload to the cloud.”
Capacity for Creativity
“Being able to instantly spin up thousands of rendering nodes—without disrupting users or adding management overhead—frees our artists to be creative and our business to grow,” summarizes Damien Bataille. “We can immediately deliver rendering capacity to meet a critical deadline, take on larger feature-film projects, or accommodate a retake. Just recently, we were able to help a client with an overnight modification. The requested change impacted every shot and would have taken more than 48 hours to render on premises. We ran the job overnight in the cloud, meeting both the schedule and quality objectives of our client. Avere-enabled cloud rendering gives our artistic team on-demand access to the virtually unlimited capacity they need to continue to deliver truly inspired VFX work.”
About Eight VFX
Founded in 2004, Eight VFX is a privately held visual effects studio with offices in Santa Monica, California, New York, New York, and Paris, France, where the company partners with Mikros Image. Eight VFX artists produce beautiful images for every screen in any size in absolute space. The company’s raison d’être is to captivate, stimulate, wonder, and make magic—invisibly and seamlessly. Eight VFX is personified not only in its ideas, but in its clients, directors, and artists. The studio specializes in VFX for commercials and feature films, and motion graphics. (www.eightvfx.com)