Atomic Fiction is setup in a funky converted warehouse style setting, there are rows of artists with machines working hard and listening to ipods – as you would see in high end houses around the world. Like many other medium sized boutique companies they have a killer espresso machine, but unlike almost any other company – next to the coffee machine is a small curtain, no smaller than a tiny broom cupboard. If you literally pull back the curtain you get a peak at why Atomic Fiction is so effective and so cutting edge, – inside the coffee room cupboard is virtually nothing, no tapes, no blade servers, no massive SANs, no huge LTO library, just one switch and a cable going into the wall… and that is their entire equipment room. We have visited a lot of facilities all over the world, and it is customary to be shown at some point on the facility tour a loud, air conditioned equipment room. Actually it is more than customary, in the 12 years fxguide has been getting guided tours of facilities we are always shown the equipment room – from Shanghai to San Francisco, from Sydney to Louisiana, – every facility has an air conditioned equipment room, except Atomic Fiction (AF).
AF has avoided an equipment room by deploying the latest technology in cloud computing and intelligent tapeless workflow. They do have some equipment but it is at a co-lo (co-located) facility at the other end of that cable that disappeared into the wall, and by using ZYNC.
ZERO VFX are planning a move soon of one of their two primary setups. Sean Devereaux is the vfx supervisor of ZERO VFX. His feature credits include Transformers, X-Men, The Proposal, Cinderella Man, I, Robot, Peter Pan and Vanilla Sky and he has worked with top spot directors including Joe Kosinski, Paul Hunter, and Joe Pytka. Sean has worked with some of the best studios in the world including Pixar, Digital Domain and Industrial Light+Magic. Devereaux explained to fxguide how ZERO VFX, on June 1st, will be relocated to a new state of the art facility that’s both environmentally friendly and outfitted with the latest in digital technologies. The new space is 7,000 sqft space occupying the entire 3rd floor in a very cool new building. He is also discussing how ZERO VFX will be working right throughout the move, including rendering over the weekend when all the equipment is powered off and being relocated. ZERO VFX is able to set off complex Nuke renders at their old location on Friday and check the renders when they switch back on their workstations at 162 Columbus Ave., since they too are deploying ZYNC.
ZYNC is cloud computing with most of the tech heavy lifting done for you, specifically aimed at companies like ZERO VFX and Atomic Fiction. While their has been a buzz and promise of cloud computing in the vfx industry, it has yet to really take off. ZYNC is a new operation that solves most of the headaches and addresses nearly all the main issues.
ZYNC is cloud computing but the cloud is actually part of Amazon’s S3 cloud computing project, in the sense that Amazon established the infrastructure for vast cloud computing, really vast cloud computing and ZYNC effectively leases variable computing power from them. But ZYNC is much more, it provides the local interface to your facility, and provides all of the software licenses needed for cloud computing to actually work.
ZYNC looks to an artist just like a huge render farm, you submit jobs to the farm and the cloud render farm renders them and sends them back in exactly the same way a normal render farm would. But from a producers or facility owners point of view, it is a completely variable cost. If you use ZYNC, you pay for it, if your quiet and not busy – you pay nothing. This is a huge issue for boutique facilities. To complete on a major job you may require vast amounts of computer ‘grunt’ but only for the last 4 weeks of the project, the cost of installing and maintaining a huge render farm for the dips in production rendering volume between projects can be crippling. Most major facilities work on replacing their blade or rack render nodes even 12 month to 18months. In fact as the major facilities have such volume, they run their farms 365 days a year, 24/7. But after about 18 months the cost of power and air conditioning vs render output, – plus Moore’s law in play – means that it is cheaper to replace the computers than run them. If you are a facility this means you have a vast capital investment that is being cycled constantly. Which is fine if you have 5 features running and a couple dozen of TVCs, but if you are a smaller facility, who is doing perhaps one major project at a time, without the inherent load balancing that comes from massive scale, – you just rarely need to run a large farm 24/7. Furthermore without the large budget jobs the ongoing vast power and air conditioning costs coupled with node licenses- all make maintaining a serious farm a very hard business decision.
Enter ZYNC they are working with the equipment manufacturers such as The Foundry, to provide vast and scalable render capacity without any commitment to long term monthly fees, retainers or service contracts. The service is new and currently offers Maya, VRAY, NUKE, Mental Images and others, with many more high end professional applications scheduled to be added.
One concern with Cloud computing is security, but ZYNC is providing extremely secure services – so secure it appears to be fully in line with the MPAA. “Security has been our number one concern from the very inception of ZYNC. In fact, based on our testing, the data is actually more secure through ZYNC then it is locally for several reasons which include multiple levels of encryption, vastly segmented storage due to virtualization and by locking out the data when it’s not in use. Our primary cloud provider has several extremely stringent security and industry leading certifications and we are working with the MPAA and other industry organizations to not only meet but exceed their guidelines.” a ZYNC spokesperson commented.
ZYNC still has some issues to work out such as licensing of a large variety of plugins but already key beta sites have been using the service in the heat of production with extremely effective results. It is also reliant on good network connections. While anyone in the world could use ZYNC, clearly American customers are more likely to achieve a high sustained network connection to the cloud. For this reason second and third cloud computing sites are planned for Europe and Asia. The rollout of ZYNC has been planned to make sure that even if every ZYNC customer hit ZYNC at the same time, there would be no possibility of overloading the available capacity and in part this is the very strength of the Cloud. The primary cloud service is vastly bigger than our entire industry and as such there is almost zero chance of ZYNC customers getting even close to a capacity issue.
www.zyncrender.com for more info
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