Richard Lewis Takes On the Pipeline
So there is never a case where you would not want to decrease the render piece of that iterative loop. As much money as you can make, you cannot have a fast enough render pipeline. You never will. We will never have the fast enough desktop. No laptop we carry will ever be fast enough. It’s not possible. We’re always waiting on it.
DS: It would make sense then that anybody responsible for managing such a pipeline would immediately go to the solutions that would translate into those types of savings. Why don’t they?
RL: There are some challenges. Most of our customers have been through multiple render management systems. It kind of goes like this in the small studio. They will start up with something they know, doesn’t matter what it does, they know it and it’s one piece they don’t have to figure out because there is a world to figure out with the graphics. A lot of studios are taking on bigger projects than they have ever done before and that’s really the problem. They would just like to reduce risk by using the devil they know. We’ve heard that a lot. “We’d love to have something new and better, but we already know all the problems with this other thing and we just sleep better at night.” But you run out of that eventually though, because eventually you’re not going to be able to afford just more servers and more RenderMan licenses to throw brute force at it. You know, you can keep putting buckets under the holes in the roof, but eventually the whole floor is covered in buckets and you can’t walk anywhere. So you really do need a new roof.
A lot of visual effects studios are starting to have CTOs, they’re starting to have IT directors. It’s more than just working with a reseller, they’re actually drawing visuals and architecting their infrastructure. A lot of them have to do these multiple site infrastructures. How do we get our dailies moved to the Vancouver studio so that the producer can watch it there, but, we did it and rendered it down here?
With these distributed pipelines, it’s the whole workflow they have to think about. Our software, because it’s automation and it has a database and has triggers and things, is a piece of that glue [that holds the distributed pipeline together]. We have customers that have created pretty nifty dailies systems that when the rendering is done, the files get scheduled to be transferred, so overnight they are prioritized and transferred. If they are using Shotgun production tracking, Shotgun is notified that it’s transferred. It’s scheduled in the dailies program and then they watch it the next day, sign off and it’s this whole loop.
So while that kind of automation really helps a lot, it’s still very custom. Those are the things you can’t buy, the glue between all these applications. I always tell people don’t fire your programmers. Write all the stuff you can’t buy, stuff that automates your business. That’s your secret sauce and your difference. But, we are still a long way from our industry all owning commercially supported solutions for most of what they do. 80% of pipelines still are not commercially supported solutions. And that’s always more expensive.
DS: That seems to be a huge and expensive burden. What do you see next for management of these large globally distributed pipelines?