By Claudia Kienzle
While patience is a virtue in one's life, in post-production, it can be costly. At Money Shots, a visual effects facility based in Santa Monica, for every half-hour of productive work, creative director Elad Offer says his artists would just sit for another half-hour waiting for the imagery to render.
"It's a necessary evil, but it's like watching the grass grow. And it's especially painful because rendering is not the most efficient use of my artists' time," says Offer, who co-owns Money Shots with partner and lead animator Chris Eckardt. But, with Burn, Discreet's new Linux-based network processing solution for Discreet®Inferno®, Discreet®Flame® and Discreet®Flint® systems, Offer has found a way to keep rendering time from burning through cash. Burn allows visual effects professionals to render Batch setups in the background using low-cost PC workstations while simultaneously freeing the online suite for more creative tasks.
In Money Shots' case, the facility includes two Flame V8.3 systems running on SGI® Octane 2™ and SGI Octane MXE™ workstation respectively, along with two seats of Autodesk® Combustion®, all of which contribute to the facility's specialty-visual effects for television commercials and music videos.
Since adding Burn as part of their workflow, Offer says, "Burn has increased our productivity by 100-percent. We get twice as much work accomplished because while one shot is rendering in the background, we can use that time to set-up the next one."
"And my artists are now spending their time on creative endeavors; not sitting idle waiting for their images to render," says Offer. More than just relieving a productivity bottleneck, Offer says Burn has been critical to the viability of his business.
Money Shots has already used Burn on many visual effects-intensive projects, including a commercial campaign for Reebok and a music video for the R&B group, JS. The Reebok campaign was called 'Who Dunnit?' because each of three spots advanced the fictitious storyline of an NBA investigation of an incident that left an athlete "over played" and lying on a basketball court. Offer says the project involved extensive green screen keying and motion picture-grade visual effects compositing.
For "Ice Cream," the JS music video directed by Dave Meyers, the music video-which ran on BET and MTV networks-involved compositing colorful 3D graphical objects within a live action scene so that they would appear to be floating around JS' two female singers who performed in front of a green screen.
"The reality today is that clients want the same high-caliber work we've always done, only for half or one-third the project price they used to pay," he says. "With budgets shrinking, the only way to survive is to work more cost-effectively and double the your system's productivity."
The way that Burn accomplishes this gain in productivity is by off-loading the processing onto a render farm that harnesses the combined CPU power of multiple PCs. This allows complex visual effects requiring intensive rendering to be created more quickly and efficiently-at the push of an on-screen button. Money Shots' render farm consists of 10 custom built dual-Xeon processor PCs running the Red Hat Linux V8.0 OS and Backburner™ free network rendering management software.
"When you double your productivity, you need less time and man-hours to deliver the job. As a result, each job becomes more profitable, and we can take on more projects in the time that we saved," says Offer. "Burn pays for itself quickly and saves owners money. And it just might save some companies by doing that."
Burn, baby burn! - read the product review on fxguide.com