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Qube! Powers Award-Winning Medical Animation

Patients worldwide rely on Nucleus Medical Media's detailed, accurate animations created with the help of PipelineFX's intelligent render farm manager.

LOS ANGELES -- Nucleus Medical Media, the largest employer of graduate medical artists and writers in the world, provides animations to clients ranging from hospitals needing to show patients how to care for themselves after surgery to attorneys hoping to clarify the details of court cases. To ensure that its animations are delivered on time, on budget and without having to compromise accuracy or detail, Nucleus Medical Media relies on Qube!, PipelineFX's flexible, intelligent render farm management software.

Founded in 1997 by Ronald L. Collins and Keith A. Pavlik, Nucleus Medical Media is now one of the world's leading providers of medical illustrations, medical animations, and interactive multimedia. The company employs over 30 people, many of them specialist medical illustrators and animators, with staff educated at institutions including the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Medical College of Georgia, the University of Toronto and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Nucleus' 24,000-plus medical illustrations and more than 1,200 medical animations are seen by millions of people each month, in print, in broadcasting and on its YouTube channel, which now has over 260 million views. Its work has won multiple prizes, including five Awards of Excellence from the Association of Medical Illustrators, and has been screened three times at SIGGRAPH.

“We have two avenues of production: custom and products,” explained Eric Small, Nucleus's Technical Director of Animation. “Our custom content depends on the pharmaceutical and medical device clients our sales team brings in, while our product animations are created to educate people in hospitals, universities and K-12 schools. We also create custom animations for attorneys to educate juries during litigation.”

“Prior to Qube!, we were using the built-in network rendering in Cinema 4D, our primary 3D application,” Small continued. “It was a simple Google search for '3D render managers for Cinema 4D' that informed me of its existence.”

Before implementing Qube!, Small and Nucleus’ IT Director, Lutrell Alford, did their research carefully, rejecting two of Qube!'s competitors. They also contacted several studios listed in PipelineFX's website in order to get feedback from previous users.

“As this was our first time using any third-party render management, there were lots of questions while we were getting set up,” Small said. “I’m sure it felt like hand-holding to the Qube! developers, but they were very patient and helpful.”

Nucleus Medical Media now uses Qube! to manage its Cinema 4D renders, and plans to expand its use to include After Effects later this year. The studio has an 82-node render farm, with each worker machine running a four or eight-core CPU, plus a supervisor machine with a 12-core CPU, and a NAS with 3 ssd’s acting as a file server; while 10 further artist workstations are added to the farm after work hours.

Qube! had to perform right from the start: in the few months that Nucleus has been using the render farm manager, Small estimates that its farm has rendered over 2,000 shots, some at 4K resolution.

“As a medical animation studio, we work on a lot of shorter pieces: two to six minutes in length,” Small added. “Often, an animator may be working on as many as eight animations at one time. The fact that everything is written in Python means that it can be customized any which way. We can cluster workers however we want, or update them through the command line, and Qube!'s support for Lights Out Management means that the machine doesn't even have to be powered on at the time.”

Small says that the biggest benefit of using Qube! is its reliability. “Being able to let the farm just render has taken a huge burden off us,” he says.  “We estimated that the technical department was spending as much as 20 hours a week, half the working week, just babysitting the farm. After Qube!, this has dropped to two or three hours a week.”

Thanks to this combination of simplicity, flexibility and reliability, Qube! enables Nucleus Medical Media to produce five to seven new in-house animations per quarter, plus numerous custom jobs, without having to sacrifice quality or accuracy, or worry about down time on the render farm.

“With our production flow, I don’t think I could put a value on having a render farm [remain accessible at all times],” said Small. “With eight animators working on multiple animations, all at different phases of production, it is vital to have instant access to a rendering network.”

While Qube! ensures that Nucleus Medical Media's farm always stands ready to respond to the needs of its animators, Qube!’s creators stand ready to respond to Nucleus's own needs, even sending a developer to the studio to do in-house training.

“It was incredibly helpful to hear directly from PipelineFX about how best to setup the software,” concluded Small. “It would have taken months to figure out all those tips and tricks on our own!”

Source: PipelineFX