Cloud service models and how they’re impacting the VFX industry

Cloud-based computing technologies are changing the world, not just in visual effects (VFX) but in finance, architecture, education, design and more. With cloud promising to improve workflows and tackle more mundane tasks, it’s no wonder it’s becoming one of the latest trends.

When broken down, cloud computing generally comes in the form of three service models: Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), each of these offering its own set of potential benefits for studios.

In simple terms, SaaS is a software distribution model that sees a service provider host applications for customers and makes them available via the internet. 

PaaS provides computing power with a basic layer of software and development tools that allow developers to focus on building an application.

And IaaS offers virtualized computing resources over the internet, with a focus on computing power and data storage. 

We know what you’re thinking—not more acronyms to remember! But these ‘X as a service’ models have the potential to change the way VFX studios work, influencing artists and day-to-day work life. So, understanding these terms and what it means to you could be a future life-saver. 

Bright color computer

Stepping onto the cloud

With cloud service models, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, as each model offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the size of a studio, whether artists work in-house or at home, amongst varying other factors, decides what cloud services fit a studio’s needs. 

Now more than ever, for studios and businesses alike, it’s vital that artists can work efficiently and effectively maintaining a high-level of communication, no matter where they are in the world. This is something cloud service models, SaaS in particular, offers studios. It allows for real time collaboration between artists so they can work on the same shot or tweak parameters, instantly. 

This also holds the potential for studios to save time and money spent on the more tedious tasks, like installing and upgrading software, alongside downsizing studio spaces and hardware. Plus, it offers the opportunity to scale up or down as a studio’s needs change with the added flexibility of a usage-based service.

With cloud, the inherent risk is always about data security, and while cloud-based platforms promise to greatly reduce concerns over data loss and security, it’s still an aspect to consider. Most cloud service models offer strict authorization access, with some even offering the ability to add more layers of security if needed. Plus, IaaS and PaaS offer more control, so studios can manage the server, hard drives, virtualization and storage, offering a more flexible computing model. 

With all this being said—and as the list of advantages that adopting cloud service models offers grows longer—they are yet to take off in the world of VFX. There is a degree of hesitancy in adopting cloud service. So, when it brings the potential of positive reform, why haven’t these been widely adopted by the VFX industry?

Bright abstract service models

What’s the hold-up?

The media and entertainment industries have a long tradition of in-house tech innovation and customization. So, for many, the idea of switching to cloud services goes against a familiar infrastructure that they know and trust. Not to mention that creatives in the VFX industry like to build things and experiment, rather than having to rent something on a monthly basis. 

The implementation of cloud services also leads to much bigger questions. For example, how would studios need to adapt in order for the service models to be effective? What would they be letting go of? At the moment, the industry relies on studios and communities of freelancers and is sometimes not as efficient as it could be. 

So, while in the short term, having to restructure may feel daunting, in the long term it could have a beneficial impact on how studios work and offer more efficient ways of working within VFX.

Adopting service models doesn’t necessarily have to mean that everything needs to be immediately uploaded to the cloud. One of the main ideas behind cloud service models is scalability and allowing a studio to adapt based on its demands at different moments. Cloud service models could be a chance to reform and restructure but only if the VFX industry is willing to adapt to the change and embrace the advantages it could bring. 

Service models bright abstract image

Finding what works for you 

With cloud computing, there is no definitive answer as to what the best service model is, especially in the world of VFX and the amount of different studios. And while it is yet to be fully adopted by the industry, there are some technology companies that are taking the plunge and releasing cloud service applications like AWS Thinkbox.

This is an encouraging step for the VFX industry as it shows that there is a move towards cloud-based computing, albeit a slow one. These cloud service models—whether that be SaaS, PaaS or IaaS—promise a progressive future, one that aims to enhance VFX processes and alleviate the more manual tasks. It’s clear that we’ve not seen the last of X as a service, with further exciting opportunities heading this way. 

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