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A 'Flight' in the Cloud: Fact and fiction

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 15, 2013
Atomic Fiction’s Lead Developer Alex Schworer describes how the company created the special effects for the film, Flight.

Aircraft shot

What are the major benefits of rendering effects on the cloud?

The most obvious 'win' for rendering on the cloud is that it allows us to scale our capacity up to meet demand without a huge upfront cost. In the case of FLIGHT, the scope of the work expanded on such a short timeframe that it would have been incredibly expensive to source physical space for render hardware at a colocation facility.

Additionally, a less obvious benefit to moving rendering into the cloud is that it reduces load on our internal network and file server, which allows us to bring in more workstations than we would be able to if we had a local render farm.

What kind of arrangement do you have with AWS?

We use a mix of services hosted on AWS, like ZYNC, and also use AWS services directly, like Amazon Glacier. We're super happy with  Amazon Glacier for archiving our production data -- it's saved us from building out and maintaining a tape library. 

Does AWS fulfill all your technology needs or do you also have partnerships with other IT companies?

We strive to always use the right tool for the job, and "buy" off-the-shelf solutions where it makes sense. For tracking our productions, we use the industry-standard Shotgun, which we use in conjunction with our internal asset management system, called Fidget.

Team Flight

Are there other elements of your work that you are planning to move to the cloud?

Something that excites me is the prospect of utilising AWS Storage Gateway to move more of our primary storage to the cloud. We still manage a large cluster of physical drives on-site, and it'd be great to move the bulk of that storage to the cloud.

Aren't you worried about security on the cloud?

When implemented properly, AWS services are secure -- and it turns out that the default security profile for Amazon EC2 is actually a lot more secure than render farms at small studios. We trust AWS (and the wide spectrum of industries that also run on AWS) to be secure. 


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