Film and TV

On cloud nine: transforming VFX post-production, one studio at a time

How the cloud will enable smaller post-houses to truly compete

Post-production in the film industry can be an expensive, unpredictable operation. Just as no two films are exactly the same, the amount of resource required for post is different every time.

The static nature of current on-prem infrastructure has us making critical commitments upfront based on murky insights. Taking the ‘better to have too much than not enough’ common sense approach, studios are effectively guessing how much compute will be needed to execute each project. From managing data storage and buying the necessary rendering tools, to investing in physical space for servers; companies can find themselves lumbered with a heavy bill for a job that, in hindsight, could have been more cost-effective.

The potential for wasted overhead is all too feasible and it has manifested in a certain business inertia - we are literally placing a cap on creativity. For such a hi-tech industry, our management of the post-production process is in dire need of an upgrade.

Get your head in the clouds

The amount of data required to add VFX to a single movie or commercial can be enormous (we’re talking one petabyte here), so why should post houses be bound by the shackles of finite capacity? Cloud technology is opening doors. Imagine having unlimited, worldwide access to creative tools, rendering applications, dynamic infrastructure and infinite storage, simply by opening up a web-browser with zero configuration. It’s time to follow the lead of other industries and move the post-production pipeline to the cloud.

The potential benefits are vast. It will enable people to work in a revolutionary and dynamic new way – one that we’re not currently attuned to.

Computer bank for VFX post-production

Complete operational flexibility

The cloud can essentially offer a pop-up studio, accessible anytime, anyplace across the world: If you don’t finalise your work on a Friday, you won’t have to travel into the studio over the weekend – you can render from your own bedroom. Should there be pressing changes to be made while you are on holiday in the Caribbean, you could make them lying on a beach, rum in hand.

If you often find yourself over worked in this way, you might even want to consider quitting and starting up on your own. The cloud makes this tantalisingly possible.

The power to scale dynamically

Working in the cloud will change the way people approach and use post-production resources. Infrastructure and VFX tools go through peaks and troughs in terms of usage demand, but the cost of having them, even when dormant, remains constant.

For smaller companies in particular, using a cloud service will eradicate a host of tricky problems, such as having to commit to purchasing capacity to complete a project for a timespan that’s longer than you need it. Projects ebb and flow, but traditional capacity - licenses, hardware - do not.

With the cloud - just like other utilities - compute and storage are commoditised and depreciation is therefore outsourced - it (liberatingly) becomes someone else’s problem.

This transparency enables companies to scale aggressively and flexibly, both upwards or downwards, to suit the business needs at the time.

Girl sitting on lake with laptio

Becoming a collaborative, global entity

As an on-demand service that is available to all, the cloud is democratising access to professional grade VFX applications, giving emerging talent the tools to compete with global post houses.

On a more human level (though with equal implications for the business), cloud providers empower people to work actively with others who aren’t geographically co-located. Multiple post-production processes can be tackled simultaneously in the cloud, connecting creatives across the world and enabling them to work in a more collaborative, holistic way.

Once transitioning to the cloud is adopted wholesale, the progressive impact this will have on the VFX industry will be incontrovertible. With creativity boundless, people will be able to focus on artistic expression rather than becoming experts in managing data centres. However, there are barriers slowing us down and a shift in attitude is required.

In part two, we look at the cloud paradox - that while moving to the cloud will be highly beneficial for studios, it's not in their interest to create a DIY cloud pipeline themselves.