Scaling IT Infrastructure at an Architectural Practice – Featuring Powell Dobson

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Powell Dobson is a leading multi-site UK architectural practice with expertise in all types of residential and mixed use development.
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3D Rendering For the Best Studios in the Business
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Powell Dobson’s Design and Visualisation department have typically used on-premise infrastructure and their internal render farm to manage compute hungry CPU render workloads. 

With larger requirements demanded of their team, paired with tight deadlines, UK Head of Visualisation, Will Morris explains why he chose us to help them accelerate CPU rendering for an upcoming production: the ‘Afan Valley Adventure Resort’. 

The client gave us a tight three-week deadline to design and produce an animation to showcase to potential investors.

I was only able to assign three visualisers to the project including myself, because of other productions running in parallel.

From experience, we calculated that it would take us exactly three weeks to complete all the modelling, texturing, and animation. It was then likely to take us ten days to complete the CPU render workloads using only on-premise nodes. This estimate would have meant that, without intervention, we would miss our client’s deadline.

I couldn’t deploy more people to the project and we didn’t want to compromise quality of production so we looked at ways to accelerate our CPU renders in order to deliver.

Admittedly, this was the first time that Powell Dobson had considered using a cloud solution for CPU workload acceleration. I was slightly sceptical and nervous but YellowDog helped us to scale our infrastructure seamlessly and accelerate performance. Their solution exceeded my expectations of cloud.

We Created and Optimised The Project

Modelling

Firstly, we started by modelling the building in Autodesk’s 3ds Max. We didn’t have any CAD elevations: only a CAD plan that we imported into 3ds Max. We designed the buildings with our in-house architects as we went along.

Cameras

We optimised workloads by setting up our animated cameras early so that we only had to model what appeared in a particular production shot.

3rd Party Resources

We relied on 3rd party resources to accelerate other design elements such as using 3dsky.org, for downloading furniture models, and Evermotion, for landscape elements.

Lighting

We typically use a 3ds Max and V-Ray visualisation pipeline and we used that workflow for this production also.

We Needed to Condense a 1,875 Hour Workload into 48 Hours

Our CPU workload was calculated at 1,875 hours – almost 80 days worth of rendering on a local on-premise machine. We had 2 days to complete the workload and deliver it to the client.

I first came across YellowDog as a referral from Chaos Group.

Working with the initial help of their dedicated support team, I submitted a number of test frames to ensure my final results would be as expected. I then scheduled render workloads in a priority that made sense for our final client delivery.

We Actually did it in 24 Hours

We didn’t just scale our infrastructure and accelerate our CPU renders to our deadline, we actually completed it in half of the time that we needed. This gave my team a full day to composite all of the frames in After Effects and send them to our client ahead of schedule.

The final animation has been very well received  and the whole project led to increased client satisfaction and future work.

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