For all of its incredible technological progress, the M&E industry has historically been slow to change. In all fairness, that’s partially due to ongoing production cycles. No studio wants to make big pipeline updates mid-project, and finding the right time to do so can seem elusive. Yet rapid adjustments quickly became essential with the sudden shift to remote workflows. In many cases, change entailed leveraging the cloud, whether to stream remote workstations, or use virtual machines. Now that more studios and artists are accustomed to working in the cloud, it has become a core component of many workflows, and its role is increasing industry wide.
Once established, cloud-enabled workflows provide access to near infinite compute resources. However, the setup process can be complicated. Pipeline engineers need to evaluate providers and choose one, then sift through the provided documentation and tutorials to ensure they’ve downloaded and installed the proper source-code repositories to create a cloud-based network file system (NFS). There’s also typically a language learning curve, as each provider uses different terms and acronyms for various services and procedures.
Optimizing cloud resources on the backend presents another challenge. It’s one thing to oversee local workstations and a render farm on-premises, but managing them virtually can quickly induce a headache. Further exacerbating the situation, studios often turn to the cloud reactively when they have a project deadline looming. But migrating to the cloud doesn’t have to be hard.
Enlisting a managed service (or solutions integrator) to assist with your studio’s cloud migration frees you to redirect attention to other areas of pipeline development and management. It’s similar to the approach studios have taken in recent years with off-the-shelf creative and project-management tools; they still create bespoke pipelines, but don’t build everything from scratch. This allows them to focus development resources on key areas, rather than wasting time on problems that have already been solved.
Using the cloud for computing in any scenario will always be complex due to the nature of infrastructure, virtualized or on-premises. It requires ongoing management to ensure compatibility between software packages and plug-ins, and to find available resources among countless other considerations. Offloading this responsibility is the quickest path for streamlined access to the cloud, whether in the midst of a production fire drill or not. That’s not to say you can’t successfully manage cloud integrations on your own or shouldn’t take that approach — it just might not be the most valuable use of your time.
Mac Moore is the CEO of Conductor (www.conductortech.com). Based in Raleigh, NC, Conductor’s mission is to accelerate the VFX and animation industry’s transition from local, fixed infrastructure to an on-demand, cloud-based model.