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Posted August 23, 2017 in Cloud

What’s next in VFX and animation? Being creative — and cost-efficient

It’s been a couple of weeks since SIGGRAPH wrapped up in Los Angeles, but an announcement we made there is still creating a lot of excitement over here at Scalar. If you weren’t at SIGGRAPH, let’s get you up to speed.

We announced that we’re partnering with Intel on StudioCloud, our fully managed rendering infrastructure specifically geared towards VFX and animation studios. Why is this partnership so exciting? The short, and somewhat technical, answer is that it’s going to give studios across North America best-of-breed technology in a next-generation content rendering infrastructure.

The longer answer is that we are continuing to grow and expand a service that we know solves some frustrating problems facing the media and entertainment industry.

Rendering capacity, and more of it

For creators and fans of VFX and animation alike, 2017 is an exciting time. We’re seeing brilliantly sophisticated and creative work produced constantly and the public is only developing bigger appetites for the content. Unfortunately, the ever-improving technology and creative talent demand an exponential increase in rendering capacity and even though the work is more beautifully intricate than it has ever been, production schedules keep getting tighter.

Studios need much greater volumes of rendering capacity, but for shorter periods of time. This has left studios scrambling to meet the needs of their creatives and are having to spend money inefficiently in order to do so.

Waste not, want not

One of the realities of these short projects (or even long projects, for that matter) is that studios need to plan for their most demanding moments, but might not need that capacity all of the time. When the project is over, they’re left with perfectly good nodes and no one to use them. This isn’t necessarily a problem if the studio has a never-ending supply of funds, space, and staff to maintain large data centres, but we all know that budgets are important and paying for something you’re not using isn’t ideal.

Capacity and Cost-Effectiveness

Scalar’s StudioCloud Powered by Intel is designed as a response to capacity and cost concerns in entertainment and media IT. Rather than take the financial hit that comes with an in-house render infrastructure, studios can have the flexibility of tapping into one of StudioCloud’s existing infrastructures when they need to. Terms range from three to 36 months and studios can mix and match commitments as needed.

To help with the “what if I’ve over purchased?” question, our clients are free to sell or sublease any excess server capacity to other member studios. It’s a smart, simple way for studios to recoup costs and mitigate risk.

Our 2,200 servers with 100,000 cores in three data centres already provide 21 gaming, animation, and FX studios with short- and long-term fibre-connected rendering and this partnership with Intel will give us access to the new Intel SkyLake platform as well as the ability to expand geographically.

How Intel’s Technology Delivers

Software companies have been optimizing their code for Intel SkyLake and have seen impressive results. Pixar Renderman is showing a 400% increase in performance. Foundry Katana and Global Illumination are offering 300% improvements. And with Side Effect Houdini, Intel’s Optane memory optimization has boosted performance in fluid simulation workloads by 400%.

A Few Extra Details About StudioCloud

Since we’re on the subject of StudioCloud Powered by Intel, we should mention a couple of facts we know that our clients really like. Our tier-one data centres in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all MPAA and Disney/Marvel accredited, and they offer a complete render pipeline workflow with fully air-gapped network deployments for critical M&E security compliance. Plus, we’re partnered with all of the leading render and orchestration software providers you already work with, including Autodesk Maya, V-Ray, Arnold, Clarisse, Renderman, Houdini, Red Shift, The Foundry, Conductor, Pipeline FX, and Deadline.

It’s our way of making sure that creators spend less time worrying about accessing the technology they need and more time focusing on their groundbreaking work.

If you’d like to learn more about StudioCloud Powered by Intel, please visit our Studio Cloud Page

StudioCloud Powered by Intel