YellowDog’s James Stevens reveals why Canada is ahead of ‘the curve’ when it comes to cloud rendering based on YellowDog’s recent trip there during the summer of 2019.
Whilst excitedly planning our recent trip to Canada’s visual effects (VFX) community in a cramped a meeting room in Bristol we took to a white board to brainstorm…
“The history is in the UK. The future is in Canada” were the words written in one thought bubble in fading red ink.
I didn’t subscribe to the idea that the UK was a historical footnote for the Media & Entertainment industry, rather it is the architect for the visual effects community we see building momentum across the world today.
Nonetheless, I certainly sensed through the tongue in cheek comments from the team, that we had a great deal of confidence in the visual effects, animation, and immersive media industries in Canada. There was a lot happening, a lot to learn, and hopefully plenty that we could contribute.
We locked in meetings, booked some customer lunches and off we went.
Stepping off the plane steps on the Canadian side of the Atlantic with silver briefcases at our sides and Bluetooth headsets wrapped underneath windswept hair (how it looked in a dream) our seasoned sales lead for cloud rendering, Callum, and I were clear on our simple mission.
“Meet 15 new Canadian studios to discuss why multi cloud rendering was a potential game changer and why YellowDog was being seen as the pioneer in this emerging field. ”
What we hadn’t expected is that of the fifteen leading studios that we visited, fourteen were already using cloud rendering in some form or other. The new breed of studios were increasingly starting up with an ‘opex’ only, infrastructure light model unencumbered with legacy inhouse render farms. They were focussing on agility and creativity instead.
So why is Canada – in particular, Montreal – ahead of the curve when it comes to cloud rendering?
Money helps of course. This is driven by the richness of content creation going to the area. The streamers and the silver screeners are battling hard to produce their own IP, their own licensed content and grab their audiences and market share. The winners in all of this are the studios. Some studios are winning so much that they openly admit they are turning productions and projects away.
Big commercial contracts aren’t a luxury for producers; for some they are a commodity. And with commodity, you can take or leave a supplier with very little impact. Its not arrogance either. No more so than us dropping one electricity supplier and switching to another. Its common sense.
So money helps, but it isn’t everything. The market is mature and there’s more here than tax incentives and big clients.
Instead of competing for content, studios are competing for two fundamental resources that will keep the dial turning. They are competing for People and Power.
Spoiled by full production slates, the top studios here are more focused on attracting talent rather than green lighting their next promised blockbuster. Studios are avoiding the race to the bottom of production budgets and racing to the top with their pulling power for artists and technologists. The top people (the game changers on the front line of production) are a limited resource and studios are planning how to attract, retain, and deliver with them on their side.
Global Studios like Outpost VFX, with footprints in the sand in Bournemouth, UK, recently Singapore, and of course in the metropolis of Montreal are focusing on the work life balance for artists in VFX. With those locations firing on all cylinders, they can follow the sun with their client deliveries – having 24 hour coverage – without burning out their artists. Everyone wins. Attract, retain, and deliver.
And the parallels couldn’t be plainer with cloud strategy. As we found out time and time again, sat in Oscar and Emmy adorned board rooms with CIOs and CTOs and Production Managers at the top of their game, the same considered demand for people is true of computing power.
Assuming the talent and HR departments deliver some great people, it is all a bit irrelevant if your world leading compositor is sat there waiting for three days for a render to finish before they can begin working on the next key shot.
Canada is wise to this and cloud rendering is the solution they’re already invested in.
Admittedly, CPU or GPU cloud rendering is, for most, a commodity today. But tomorrow, that will change. As anyone who uses cloud deployment tactics such as pre-emptible / spot instances from single cloud providers, cloud is anything but a magic tap. If everyone is running the hose pipes in the neighbourhood, it is going to take you longer to run that nice bubble bath you wanted.
Tomorrow could be the day that everyone is hosing the lawn and washing the car. Tomorrow is when cloud computing is no longer a commodity. Tomorrow is when you might have to go for a whole week without washing. That’s not a future that any of us want to live in.
Just like HR and Talent teams, IT and pipeline teams will need to attract, retain, and deliver significant and consistent levels of computing power to sustain the demanding buoyant market anyone who has ever visited Montreal will tell you about.
Studios will need to intelligently map what cloud resource is available at any given time. They will need to distribute rendering to the optimum resource without worrying about whether the other fifteen (and more likely fifty!) studios within a few square miles are producing the next big hit for Netflix or Apple TV or Marvel at the same time with the same data centre with the same cloud provider.
For those that know YellowDog – why we’re here and what we’re doing for consumers of cloud rendering, thanks for reading my blog. See you next time!
For those that don’t have a bloody clue what we do or why or who on earth I am or why I’m writing this….click here to see why we might just be the classy canine that Canada’s cloud consumers in Media & Entertainment need for tomorrow.
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