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The cloud paradox: is cloud-based post-production a future out of reach?

The potential benefits of a post-production pipeline in the cloud are irrefutable. As we touched on in our last article in this series, cloud technology has the ability to completely remove that tricky planning stage – where studios are forced into ‘finger in the air’ judgements on big decisions like workforce and compute capacity – while enabling global collaboration in real time.

It is no exaggeration to say cloud could completely revolutionise the way we work; the speed at which we can complete projects and the ease at which we can collaborate with people all over the world. But it’s not going to be a case of flicking a switch and the industry embracing the cloud. It is the future for the VFX industry but first there’s work to do in changing the way people are programmed to operate and think.

There’s always going to be an element of ‘this is the way we do things’, and a feeling that the industry is getting along perfectly fine as it is. It’s true: the creative industries on the whole are going great guns. But we’ve all made our livings by pushing the envelope and trying new things.

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A shift towards the cloud

While some of the bigger studios – seeing the impact cloud is already having in other industries – are beginning to explore what it can do for them, there’s still an almighty change in attitude that needs to happen across the industry.

There’s a growing acceptance that cloud can indeed offer complete elasticity in post-production pipelines, but there remains scepticism - in part thanks to the historical problems faced in the way it has been costed.

Public cloud services such as AWS, Google and Azure, have revolutionised the business model and software platforms for managing IT - but their pricing models haven’t always been the most transparent. You could be charged by IP address, by machine cost or by data transfer amount, for example, so it’s been easy to get confused about what you're paying for and, as a result, get burned.

But the cloud can be far more cost-effective, offering a scalable solution where you only use - and only pay for - as much compute or data storage as you actually need. Think of it as a pay-as-you-go model. Want that job finished in half the time? Double the number of cloud-based cores you’re harnessing and watch it happen, all while maintaining the high standards you strive to meet.

Don’t go it alone

The majority of studios will struggle to implement a viable cloud model on their own, however – and that’s partly what’s held the VFX industry back so far. We’ve ended up trying to make ill-fitting solutions not built for post-production work for us. How many of us are still trying to make Dropbox work?

Smaller, more agile studios, unburdened by on-site infrastructure or custom pipelines that have been refined over many years, will find it easier to adopt. But it’s likely they’ll lack the time and resources to make it happen - we’re talking about translating your existing IT investment to the cloud, and building entirely new IT infrastructure to accommodate that shift.

And larger players – those huge post houses with thousands of square feet of physical space and a workforce to match – will struggle to move such a huge operation to the cloud. It’s not that they’ll never come around to the idea – they’re just bigger ships to turn with many more icebergs to navigate their way past.

Either way, partnering with a company that knows the VFX industry and the unique challenges of the post-production pipeline will be an important step for studios of any size.

 

Shifting to cloud resources from old-school techniques

Your future is in the cloud

We’re currently in a ‘lift and shift’ stage, taking the current ways of working and moving these processes to the cloud. It’s a natural stepping stone but by no means the final outcome.

As with any new technology, we’ll see a gentle curve of adoption to begin with, before we hit a tipping point that leads to sudden mass adoption. Before long, just like the internet and ‘digital’ are woven into the fabric of everything we do in our lives, the cloud will become the norm. It will be the undisputed way we do things.

Of course, for the time being we need to be sensitive to those companies that want to continue in the same vein they’re in for now – and that’s where hybrid cloud solutions come in, balancing the old and the new while businesses make the transition.

But the cloud is coming, in a big way. Foundry’s upcoming cloud-based service for post production, Elara is set to be a game-changer in the way studios run.

Centralising infrastructure, creative tools and pipeline in the cloud, this revolutionary service offers a complete ecosystem for post-production run remotely and accessed via a web browser. Soon you’ll have the freedom to spin up a virtual studio with a global team, central pipeline and resources with a few clicks, and without having to worry about high capital expenditure and management complexity.

Want to find out more? Watch the video of our introduction to Elara, recorded at NAB 2017. If you want to get the latest updates on how Elara is developing, register your interest for our Elara bulletin here.

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