Specialty VFX Shops Bring Stories to Life Using Cloud Infrastructure
When it comes to animation and VFX, Europe’s powerhouse is the United Kingdom. But in 2016, France, as well as other countries like Belgium and Spain, have been making strides to become more competitive. The threat in the UK has been attributed to “severe skill shortage” and “insufficient government support” as far back as 2012 as noted in this Wired article.
In France, Illumination Mac Guff has gained global recognition for creating hits like Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets, and their latest, Sing! Post-production studios like Eight VFX and Fix Studio produce stellar work on featured films, commercials and other projects with offices and partners in France as well as Belgium, Canada, and the United States.
Many cite incentive programs like TRIP and a solid talent base as the reasons for the increased competition (France is home to four of the top twenty schools for VFX and next-gen gaming). When we asked our French channel partner, Image in Network, to comment, CEO Fabien Illide agreed reasoning, “Motion picture and VFX actually started a long time ago in France with the first cartoon movie in 1892 and with the invention of the Cinématographe by the Lumière brothers in 1895. Today, the French animation and VFX ecosystem is filled with many great schools, artists and companies.”
Today, VFX talent requires a rare mixture of skills encompassing coding, mathematics, engineering, along with the artistic abilities one might expect. The industry is increasingly technical as well as creative. Developing these requires both a natural ability and strong skills learned with formal study.
Cast of Sing! by French studio, Illumination Mac Guff.
However, these facts alone do not completely explain the recent growth. Advances in IT infrastructure contribute to the ability of studios to financially compete and connect to large production houses across the globe. Cloud, networking, and storage developments are making it easier for these companies to exist in higher real estate areas like Paris without the tremendous overhead once required.
“Video technologies like 4K and virtual reality are evolving quickly, so are the size of the datasets and computing power needed to create the visual works,” said Illide. “Most French VFX companies are in Paris where real estate is expensive.” When real estate is at a premium, using floor space for large installations of computing instead of artists is not only costly, but sometimes impossible. Illide continued, “Having a large server room is often a luxury they can’t afford.”
With data demands increasing and the inability to continually expand IT infrastructure, cloud services and large internet fiber bandwidth technologies allow for use of off-site resources located in less expensive markets and paid for on an as-needed basis. The studios no longer need to account for the space, electricity, air conditioning, and equipment, yet they can take advantage of virtually unlimited compute and storage as they need it.
While the benefits of cloud and bandwidth are not unique to France, the French VFX studios have been able to collaborate with other studios around the world in ways they were not able to before. Major studios are able to sub work to smaller, specialty studios to deliver precisely on a vision.
“We often see projects done by many companies across Europe or even worldwide, so collaboration and optimization of resources in cloud can benefits everyone involved,” said Illide.
Configuration of this infrastructure can be complex, which is why these studios turn to companies like Image in Network for help and advice. With partners like Google Cloud Platform and Avere, they are able to deliver projects on schedule and within “insanely short deadlines,” as well as showing them how they can take on multiple projects at the same time without experiencing IT bottlenecks. With the “cloud-clustered” Avere vFXTs in front of Google Cloud Platform, Illide and his team design a complete solution without big changes in workflow for artists. “We take care of everything from set-up to monitoring and support so they (studio customers) don’t waste time on infrastructure and can focus on their passion. They can have 100 servers ready in 3 minutes instead of the weeks it took before.”
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