As more of the Hollywood magic is computer generated, huge server arrays to handle the heavy task of rendering have become a staple of all the major VFX and animation studios. Third party render farms have also become important players due to this market demand and, the increasing need for computing power has resulted in impressive technological breakthroughs. Rendering is an expensive business.
There are thousands of computers that need to be maintained and cooled. Security is also an essential concern – a leak can be devastating for any movie studio. The electricity costs for a render farm can run in the millions of dollars annually. These are also expensive, highly advanced computer systems which can make the infrastructure cost alone prohibitive for a smaller company. However, cloud service providers have started to offer processing and storage services both to visual effects studios and to existing render farms, allowing everyone to save in the process.
Rendering in the cloud seems like a no-brainer, so why aren’t more people doing it?
One of the main concerns with the cloud is security. It is important to note that huge strides have been made in cloud security. If the security of cloud computing is good enough for institutions like the Pentagon and the United States Department of Defense or for important financial institutions and banks around the world, then it certainly can be adapted to the security needs of visual effects studios! After all, credit card transactions and handling a nation’s defense all require exhaustive security measures, all of which have been applied successfully to the cloud. One other concern about cloud rendering is data latency, due to the huge sizes of the files involved in visual effects work. However, the monetary advantages are so substantial that many companies are starting to move to the cloud for their rendering needs.
Why cloud-based rendering is inevitable from a financial point of view
The main advantage of cloud services providers is that they give their customers computing resources on demand. Going back to the concept of the huge, expensive local render farms maintained by large visual effects studios, it simply doesn’t make sense economically. A render farm costs millions of dollars to maintain even when it is not being used. People need to be hired to guard and maintain the computers in a render farm and infrastructure costs can be huge. Cutting a huge swath of their budget with almost no downsides is what cloud services providers offer render farms and visual effects studios.
The offer is so attractive that it is inevitable that rendering will move to the cloud in the future, especially as issues of security and data latency are improved over time. Cloud service providers give studios scalability, only paying for what they need. One studio that has embraced this move is Warner Brothers, that has moved as much of their operation as possible to the cloud. Tax incentives are other reasons to get into the cloud, especially for Hollywood. Since many cloud vendors are not located in California, using their services makes many California-based studios eligible for huge tax rebates applicable in other states.
What can cloud service providers do to assuage render farms’ concerns?
The main factor is data latency. Cloud service providers must pay attention to their data latency, making clear promises on what kind of latency is acceptable. Dedicated data lines are the key here, making sure that the data flows at all times. Safety, in fact, is not such a big issue as it was only a couple of years ago.
Cloud service providers can mirror security protocols used in local render farms or visual effects studios. In fact, a computer can be locked down physically, completely preventing access from outside parties. How to be sure that your cloud service provider is doing everything they can? It is as simple as getting an independent security audit from a third party. You’ll be surprised by the results, in a positive way.
The Asian panorama for cloud-based render farms
Asia is a major market for cloud-based rendering and will continue to grow in the future. Many people forget that India produces the most movies in the world, not Hollywood. In fact, Japan also produces more movies than the United States. Other huge movie producers in the region include Hong Kong and Indonesia. Cloud-based render farms have more possibilities of establishing their services in these regions than in other parts of the world. Many studios in these countries do not have the infrastructure or resources to support a full-time render farm, meaning that cloud-based rendering is a welcome service that allows them to compete in the world market.
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About the Guest Author:
Nida Rasheed is a freelance writer and owner of an outsourcing company, Nida often finds herself wanting to write about the subjects that are closest to her heart. She lives in Islamabad, Pakistan and can be found on Twitter @nidarasheed.