RFX founder Ray Feeney and executive Prashant Buyyala explain how the RFX Virtual Studio with NVIDIA Omniverse™ Enterprise could change the world of M&E. This Virtual Studio is being made available for a two-week free trial for any interested creative team.
If there’s one key factor affecting the way that animated features and VFX-heavy films are being made, it’s the creation of technology in response to the need for remote production. Even before the global pandemic, advances in technology and cloud computing were allowing animation and VFX teams to increasingly perform their work from non-centralized locations. However, it is entirely accepted that there are certain aspects of production that really benefit from in-person interaction. For example, having a team together to be able to look at moving footage on a 40-foot screen is critical for achieving the necessary level of realism.
The ideal studio will blend remote and in-person production methodologies, and benefit from the capabilities that were created in response to the need to work from home. The technological breakthroughs that enabled remote production will have a significant impact on traditional VFX production even after people begin to return to the office.
Among those who are convinced of the production-changing nature of virtual infrastructure are Ray Feeney and Prashant Buyyala. Feeney, a five-time Academy Award winner and founder of RFX Inc – the entertainment industry’s leading independent solutions provider – has been pioneering engineering solutions for the industry for more than four decades. Buyyala, a prominent animation and VFX executive and entrepreneur, has spent the last 25 years building and managing a global network of production studios for companies like DreamWorks Animation and Rhythm & Hues.
Now, RFX, in partnership with NVIDIA and Supermicro, is at the forefront of those working to design and implement the latest remote-production technologies. Feeney and Buyyala are convinced that their new production platform offering – RFX’s Virtual Studio, integrating NVIDIA’s Omniverse™ Enterprise with standard tools like Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, all powered by Supermicro workstations and servers – will be a core component of this next phase of production.
The Virtual Studio environment that RFX has designed leverages these new technologies to improve production collaboration, even when the artists are together in a traditional facility. In fact, Feeney and Buyyala are so confident about the benefits of RFX Virtual Studio that they’re offering customers a free trial specifically designed to highlight the advantages of their remote production model.
What prospective users need to understand, Feeney emphasizes, is that the only way to get a true idea of what the new systems have to offer is through hands-on experience in a production context.
“A lot of people have downloaded the NVIDIA Omniverse™ trial, which is free for a single user,” he explains. “But the problem is you don't necessarily see the benefit without undertaking shared collaborative work in a real production environment using complex production assets and workflows.”
OK, fair enough. But, even if a company is gung-ho about road-testing NVIDIA Omniverse™ Enterprise, setting up the test system properly can be a daunting proposition, potentially requiring additional hardware, as well as the expertise to integrate and configure the necessary components, with no guarantee that it would be worth all of the effort and expense at the end of the day. Which is what led Feeney and Buyyala to come up with the idea of providing studios and groups of artists with a turn-key complete Virtual Studio that is easily initiated, minimally disruptive, and fully configured with the NVIDIA Omniverse™ Enterprise production platform. RFX is providing a free trial of the Virtual Studio to allow M&E organizations an opportunity to give Omniverse™ Enterprise a spin – on their own project, with their own assets – and see what the discussion is all about.
“Anytime there's a new transformational technology that needs to be introduced and evaluated at an animation or visual effects studio, there are many different challenges,” says Buyyala. “A lot of times you need next-generation hardware with a specific type of GPU, or you need more powerful CPUs, so you have to buy or rent equipment for the evaluation. Then typically a pipeline has to be set up and configured in a way that is compatible with the rest of the studio. The third thing is you have to identify the right artists and give them easy access to the new systems in order to get their honest feedback. Of course, this last part is more challenging than it used to be.”
He continues, “So what we are proposing to customers is, first, we will spin up a Virtual Studio infrastructure powered by state-of-the-art Supermicro workstations and servers incorporating the latest NVIDIA RTX™ GPUs. This hardware has been specifically optimized to provide a useful evaluation experience with NVIDIA Omniverse™ Enterprise. Secondly, we're going to provide the Virtual Studio environment with all the best practices that set up critical components like security and SSO authentication, as well as collaboration servers, caching services, and everything else that's needed to make sure that NVIDIA Omniverse™ Enterprise works smoothly. Third, the fact that the solution is a remote Virtual Studio means that it can easily and securely be accessed by the appropriate artists, regardless of whether they are still at home or back in the facility.”
Supermicro is a natural fit as a solution provider for NVIDIA Omniverse™ Enterprise deployments. With an in-depth understanding of architecting such platforms, Supermicro can match a team's use case to right-sized solutions, saving energy and reducing the total cost of ownership. According to Bob Pette, Vice President, Professional Visualization at NVIDIA, “Supermicro's success in Omniverse™ Enterprise deployments, ranging from small design teams to large, geographically distributed project teams, caught our attention.”
While both Buyyala and Feeney are clearly evangelists for the new Virtual Studio paradigm, and they are confident that RFX can improve the efficiency and productivity of most animation or VFX production houses, they also recognize that each studio is different, and they can’t prescribe or predict exactly how the technology will be used.
“Every studio has their own unique workflow,” says Buyyala. “Even though they're all using similar tools, they use them in slightly different ways. And what has always amazed me is the creativity of the individual artists – how they're able to do things that the technologists never even conceived. So instead of us trying to tell a customer, ‘This is how this tool should be used’ or ‘This is how it's going to make your life better,’ our goal is to make it available to them, make it simple and easy to use, and trust that they can figure out how it can help them in their specific scenario.”
For more information and to sign up for a two-week free trial of RFX Virtual Studio, visit https://rfxvi.com/nvidia-omniverse.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.