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Cloud Computing Democratizes Digital Animation

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the converting-buzz-into-something-real dept.

Cloud 167

kenekaplan writes "John McNeil is the chief creative officer and founder of a digital arts and communication company based in Berkeley, CA. After turning to Amazon's Elastic Cloud Computing service for the first time to finish animation under tight deadline, he was impressed by how it would let him compete with bigger studios. He said, 'Cloud computing is the first truly democratic, accessible technology that potentially gives everyone a supercomputer...it's a game changer. I could never compete or be able to deliver something at the level of a Pixar or a Disney, given what I have at my disposal inside the walls of the studio,' McNeil said. 'But if I factor in the cloud, all of a sudden I can go there. And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio.'"

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167 comments

I sucked it all up. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736048)

I s-s-sucked it aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall up! My ass became a spaghetti noodle, and it was all sucked up!

gives everyone a supercomputer... right (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736062)

"And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio." ... and also how much money I can put. Using a massive computing power on a cloud requires a lot of money.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (3, Interesting)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736138)

Queue the "but it's cheaper than owning a render farm" comments!

But, hey! It actually is cheaper when you can't utilize a render farm as efficiently as big studios can.
I think this is a prime example of rent-a-hpc done right.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (5, Interesting)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736330)

Small studios produce a title every few years. With the cost of keeping their hardware current this option makes a lot of sense for them.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38737126)

"Cue", not "queue".

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38738862)

No, I think queue makes more sense, unless of course you really want to hear those comments to which the GP is referring.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (3, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736218)

Really? You can do everything that say a studio can do? I am going to sound very cynical, but this is a typical techy answer to why they are not as popular as Pixar or Disney.

1) So you want to purchase computing time? To get something like Pixar you are going to digging deep into your pockets. Not just a little deep, but very deep. I am giving a talk at a developer conference on the merits and usability of the Amazon cloud. Granted it is an enabler, not going to debate that. But to say that it will put you on equal computing power as Pixar is a little navie.

2) Yes Pixar and Disney have oodles of techy's all running around using the computer. Lest it be known that Pixar and Disney employ's a whole bunch of writers, producers, musicians, and so on. The reason why CGI is so cool and neat is because the people (read actors, writers, producers) are professionals and they know how to BUILD a STORY! I have seen short movies done with Blender and let me tell you while it looks good, for the most part the movies are pure and utter rubbish!

I am not saying it can't be done, I am saying that just because you have the cloud does not mean you actually have a movie worthy to be compared to Pixar or Disney.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736500)

Blender movies are more of tech demos. I agree that their stort often stinks, on the other hand it's very intresting to see how the whole creative process works. They document their progress very thoroughly. Also, considering that their team usually works with alpha* quality software, I'm impressed that they can get anything done.

* Sintel for example was done with Blender 2.5 Alpha 0-2. That thing crashed me every three minutes.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (4, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736624)

Your point 2 is exactly what the guy in the article said, quoted by GP. Except he said it more succintly.

Let me re-quote: "And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio."

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736930)

And point 1 will be factored into the cost of the film (you know, just like it is for pixar) except that it isn't a sunk cost when you don't need it.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (3, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737458)

Let me clarify my point... Let me put it in the context from my world which is trading:

If I only had the computers like Goldman Sachs I could make money like Goldman Sachs. With cloud computing I am now able with a couple of good traders to make money like Goldman Sachs.

The fallacy of the argument is that Goldman Sachs needs the computers to make money. The reality is that Goldman Sachs needs the traders not the computers. For Goldman Sachs the computers could be hamsters running in a wheel, as the important key are the traders.

Thus by him saying that now with cloud computing he is on equal plane with Pixar is completely missing the point that it has never been about tech. It has been about how story writers use tech! Thus cloud computing will neither enable or disable you. Anybody can create a Pixar type story given enough computing time. Remember Pixar needs to pump out a movie in a year. Who is to say that you cannot create a short story in a year using plain vanilla computers.

My case in point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOgYOD5S8gk [youtube.com] This guy was a sensation because what mattered is that he had good enough animation with an incredibly good story. Or how about the numa numa guy? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmtzQCSh6xk [youtube.com] It does not get any cheaper and simpler than that! Yet this guy has 18 million views and featured on South Park. And while I am on this thread, how much real computing power is needed for South Park?

Understand my point? Understand why the GP is incorrect?

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (2)

jackbird (721605) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737808)

how much real computing power is needed for South Park?

Actually, South Park is made with Maya (except for the pilot short which they did in Aftereffects). They've likened the process to using a bulldozer to build a sandcastle.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38738368)

> Actually, South Park is made with Maya (except for the pilot short which they did in Aftereffects).

Are you talking about "The Spirit of Christmas"? That was done with construction paper and a Super-8 camera.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38738070)

He's not incorrect. You are. There are two elements which are required. Let's see those traders do microtrades. Oh that right - they can't. You are right you must have talent, but none of that changes you must also have the technology on tap. If you have the talent and no computing power, cryans is simply not going to be competative with a bigger studio. Thusly, regardless of how you want to cut it up, you absolutely must have technology to even be in the fight.

Bluntly, you're wrong.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38738820)

The implication of the article is that the studio believes it has the creative talent to do something on par with Pixar, but the cost of the render farms made things porhibitive.

Greatly reducing the cost of the render farm will allow him to prove whether he has the creative chops to go toe to toe with the larger studios.

This is not a wholly unrealizable goal. If a small team working to produce a tech demo and improve a modeling and rendering tool can come up with Sintel, which was visually quite good, had a decent story, but merely okay dialog and characters, there is little reason that a studio more focused on merely using avialable tools and pouring more of its resources into the creative aspects of its movie shouldn't be able to produce a larger more captivating story with better dialog and a wider range of more believable characters if it can avoid the cost of building a traditional render farm, or Amazon's cloud greatly reduces the costs of using "outsourced" render farms.

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736676)

I agree completely. Your first point illustrates a common error among amateur artists: Photographers always say that they'd take better pictures with a better camera, or put another more illustrative way: "If I only had Hemingway's typewriter I could write like him."

Your second point is the more important. Any production is about the story, not the technical expertise. To mirror your comment about Blender, I've seen crap done with it too, but on the other hand, I've seen great work done with it. And with pencil and paper. I've also seen great work with lousy animation. No matter how big or small your studio is, like Brad Bird of Pixar says:'It's the story stupid!"

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (1)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737302)

Wow hiding behind anonymous, but spoken like somebody who like me has gone through it. I learned by the market. I thought, "hey I am a geek and can write algos thus I should be able to make money regardless..." HA right... The tech is secondary!

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (2)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38738168)

Wow hiding behind anonymous, but spoken like somebody who like me has gone through it. I learned by the market. I thought, "hey I am a geek and can write algos thus I should be able to make money regardless..." HA right... The tech is secondary!

With movies, you're making entertainment. You don't need flash-bang effects to provide entertainment. You do want a good story, told well. (Now, if someone could just persuade the blockbuster-pushers in Hollywood that this was deeply true, we'd be better off overall.)

Let's say I work for Disney or Pixar (3, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736976)

If I'm afraid you're going to "compete or be able to deliver something at the level of a Pixar or a Disney", couldn't I just get your ISP to block you off from the cloud because I don't feel you're doing enough to prevent Pixar/Disney intellectual property from being incorporated into your work?

Re:gives everyone a supercomputer... right (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737862)

>and also how much money I can put

That banal thing you said normally goes without saying.

You are missing the point. Historically

1: fixed grade scale of computer power avaliable with huge gaps in performance that one cannot break, you either work with your desktop or massive mainframe.

2: linux clusters: you can add power as you get money, but you also have to be a computer geek to maintain a cluster (not only animator and a user of your rendering program)

3: clouds: you can order as much power as you have money and you don't have to be a computer geek.

potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736076)

No, it doesn't.
It potentially gives everyone who has enough money a supercomputer, meaning nothing really changes.

I doubt there is much difference between running your own computer or sharing a supercomputer that is roughly ten thousand times as powerful with at least ten thousand people.
Not to mention the bottlenecks caused by the internet connection you need to tell it what to do, and get what it has done back from it.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736162)

If you share a computer ten thousand times as powerful with ten thousand other people, *they will not be using it all the time.* Most processing power is unused most of the time. But the capital investment in a supercomputer is pretty substantial.

Of course, most supercomputers involved time sharing long before cloud computing came along.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (3, Insightful)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736182)

Rendering projects tend to be quite small in their models form. When utilizing a render farm you really don't have that much I/O after the initial project upload. granted a big project (a movie) might have gigabytes of texture data but still nothing that can't be uploaded in half a day or so. After that it's all internal I/O (which in ec2 is very fast), the control server telling the nodes what to render and providing render assets and the nodes just returning rendered products and requesting new tasks. After the task is complete you just have to download the rendered products and you are good for post processing :-)

Also, I don't think your argument stands. It is very affordable if you are in that line of busyness. Hell if you are a hobbyist and have a couple hundred € to burn, you can run a mini jaguar for the weekend, just to get a feel for it.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (2)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737902)

Granted a big project (a movie) might have gigabytes of texture data but still nothing that can't be uploaded in half a day or so.

I measured this a couple of years ago. At the time, you could ship data to S3 or EC2 at about 10GB/hour provided you're not saturating your own network or doing it at a very busy time. For a truly large amount of data (1TB up) I suppose you'd just FedEx a hard disk...

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (2)

sousoux (945907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736194)

I doubt there is much difference between running your own computer or sharing a supercomputer that is roughly ten thousand times as powerful with at least ten thousand people. Not to mention the bottlenecks caused by the internet connection you need to tell it what to do, and get what it has done back from it.

Err. Not sure you grasp this.

Computer A and Computer B

Computer B is 10,000 times more powerful but is shared with 10,000 people

The key difference is timing and time. If all 10,000 people want to do the same thing that they do on their A computers on computer B at the same time then I agree with you. However that is not real life. If the distribution in time of tasks from the 10,000 users is spread out then my task will run up to 10,000 times faster on computer B than computer A.

If I could use computer B all the time there would be no point in sharing it. If I don't (and I assume all the others sharing computer B can't use it all the time either) then there is a benefit to me using computer B since my task will complete faster, maybe much faster.

As far as internet traffic is concerned I assume that the task I want to do on Computer B is compute intensive on local data, like ray tracing / animation.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736666)

As far as internet traffic is concerned I assume that the task I want to do on Computer B is compute intensive on local data, like ray tracing / animation

Or running calculations for producing a nuclear bomb.. is there an security involved in the Amazon cloud?

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737924)

Is there an security involved in the Amazon cloud?

As much as you want to put in the VM image. If you're not diligent with protecting your nuclear simulation code, it's your fault, not mine or Amazon's.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736520)

Rendering animations is a pretty ideal case. Both the input and the output are relatively small, and the processing power required to get good results is immense.

On the other hand, I would have expected that if a powerful render farm is needed for one job, they'd get good use out of it in another job. Remote computing services like ECC are great for low duty cycles and sharp spikes in demand, but very uneconomical for relatively steady loads.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736632)

Remote computing services like ECC are great for low duty cycles and sharp spikes in demand, but very uneconomical for relatively steady loads.

That's true of pretty much everything. If you're in town for a day you take cabs. If you're there for two weeks it's probably be cheaper to rent a car. If you're there for a year you might buy one.

Re:potentially gives everyone a supercomputer (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38738868)

Rendering animations is a pretty ideal case. Both the input and the output are relatively small, and the processing power required to get good results is immense.

You could not be farther from truth. The actual problem in all serious CGI production efforts (Final Fantasy, LoTR, Pixar movies etc.) is not the raw processing power, but the sheer amount of data processed. In 2001, the numbers were something like 1-15 hours per frame, with an average of 2-3 hours or so, and with 1-2 GB of scene data (RIB files per animation frame) and typically several GB of texture data. (I have to look up the original post - a response from a pro render wrangler to an announcement by a wannabe-enterpreneur who naively thought that the idea of an online rendering shop with scene transfer over the Internet is technicallty viable, but was beaten by the facts).

The newer multicore CPUs and GPU rendering actually exacerbate the problem, since they are even hungrier for input data (with almost-random access) that your buses simply can't manage to provide. Using raytracing as part of the rendering "helps" in the sense that you have to wait for the results, so the next buch of input data gets delivered on time, but whar you gain is quality, not speed. REYES leaves raytracing in the dust speedwise (in part because of input data spatial coherency that is exploitable in the common case, whereas using coherency during raytracing is almost a nightmare), but only if you have wide enough buses everywhere. (But at least you can use cheaper CPUs.)

The truly problematic part of building a rendering farm is therefore asset management, which basically means that you need 1) a large bunch of disks/disk servers, 2) a large bunch of nodes, and 3) a network infrastructure that basically works as a crossbar switch between rendering nodes and disk nodes. ANY rendering node can need to access ANY disk at ANY time. I only wonder what pricing does EC2 have for dozens of terabits of data in total between all the nodes you just hired as a rendering farm...

This project does NOT (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736098)

I repeat: NOT "convert buzz into something real". This was a demonstration project, if I understood the FA well enough. At most, it was a proof of concept. In and by itself, both the OP, the FA and AFAIAC the whole project are more buzz than real...although I would be glad to be contradicted with sound arguments.

Re:This project does NOT (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736204)

Well, as I said in a comment above, it is doable. It probably will get expensive (but when you involve render farms what isn't) but you can certainly do it, ec2 is not a toy infrastructure anymore. What I really want to see though is how it would compare to one of those comercial rent-a-farms like www.renderrocket.com

Re:This project does NOT (1)

Patchw0rk F0g (663145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736630)

It probably will get expensive (but when you involve render farms what isn't) but you can certainly do it...

Things don't get more expensive. Cost reduces as usage increases.

Re:This project does NOT (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736694)

That is very, relative. Even inaccurate..
Unit costs usually decrease as unit production increases and even that is not always true (Oil industry).

Re:This project does NOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38738816)

How is the oil industry relevant at all to the conversation at hand?

a bit naive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736100)

While what John is saying might be true for sheer brute force, it ignores many production realities, such as the need for immediate availability, precise compute time predictions and last not least data security - all reasons to run your own render farm. And if the talent really is at Pixar level, I strongly doubt that not having a render farm is a major issue.

Smaller productions might benefit from this and be able to produce longer animations in higher resolution with brute force global illumination techniques, but I doubt it will do anything at the Pixar/Disney level he is referring to

Re:a bit naive (1)

Rothron the Wise (171030) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736154)

Also, CPUs are so fast that Pixar is mostly IO-bound, which is something the cloud won't solve for you.

Why is Slashdot not blacked out? (0, Offtopic)

Bozovision (107228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736104)

If there was ever a site which was in jeopardy, it would be slashdot. Why is Slashdot not participating in the SOPA blackout? Does this mean that Geeknet Inc is a SOPA supporter? Please can we have a statement.

Re:Why is Slashdot not blacked out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736422)

They're probably too lazy to change the homepage.

Re:Why is Slashdot not blacked out? (5, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736432)

I think the SOPA blackout is useful because it helps inform the general public who is unaware of the problems and ramifications of SOPA and it's three vile siblings.

I doubt there is anyone on slashdot who is unaware of the ramifications, even those of use who support some copyright stuff, and who are against piracy, are aware that SOPA is a dangerous piece of legislation that will only harm society, and not help any artist.

Re:Why is Slashdot not blacked out? (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736836)

Posting to revert bad mod.

Re:Why is Slashdot not blacked out? (0)

sempir (1916194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737040)

Please can we have a statement.

OK. Here is my personal statement: /. is not at this moment participating in the SOPA blackout because they may, possibly, not wish to steal Wikiwhoseits thunder. They may in the future have a white, or possibly black, out...who knows. If you think that Geeknet Inc is a SOPA supporter I think that you should, as soon as possible, go and lie down. A cold compress on your forehead, if you have one, will do wonders. Please stay away from computers as they seem to be having a deleterious effect on your thinking process.

Democracy for those who can pay for it... (2)

gentryx (759438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736108)

Compute resources don't come for free, you pay per use. You'll only be able to harness the Cloud if your business is sustainable. But if it is, then you could afford to buy compute resources anyway -- albeit in a smaller fashion. The only real difference is that with cloud services you can save some money if you don't run jobs 24/7.

Re:Democracy for those who can pay for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736164)

And so, democracy changed from an idea and fact to a word used for selling services. Damn shitheads.

Re:Democracy for those who can pay for it... (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736634)

Of if you use something like Kickstarter to get some money upfront.

Hmph. (1)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736128)

And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio.

Oh yeah, I suppose, there'll be some cash needed to pay for all that compute time to render it like the big boys. Great big stinking wads of cash. But yeah, it's totally levelled the playing field now.

*rolls eyes*

Re:Hmph. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736380)

Just like a real Western Democracy

Re:Hmph. (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736508)

Yeah, but they don't need to maintain the systems for all the time they don't use them, which the big boys can afford to do (usually because, with multiple projects, they'll be able to have much less downtime).

Ex: You need about "100 units" of CPU time per year. A computer that does this costs $500. Now, lets say, you have about a month from sufficient data to start, to the deadline. Now, you need a computer that can provide "1200 units" per year. This will probably be closer to $6000. And part of that money goes towards having it for 11 months where you don't need it. You might pay more ($1000 maybe?) to get the job done in a month, than with a computer that, given a year, could do it, but you get it done on time, which is probably worth that extra $500.

It may not be ideal for everyone (or even most), but for a smaller player to move up in the world, when they can't afford to have enough projects simultaneously running, that would make maintaining their own desired system financially viable, then this kind of CPU timesharing, is not a bad idea.

Re:Hmph. (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736604)

Dear lord, I have a sentence in there that needs to be shot. It looks like a run-on that just WON'T DIE.

Sorry :-(

I love his title. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736140)

Mister John McNeil
the chief creative officer and founder of a digital arts and communication company based in Berkeley, CA

I'm dying to see his business card.
After CA thing he should add usa. CA thing is located in usa?

Re:I love his title. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736214)

CA is Canada (http://countrycode.org)

I didn't know Berkeley was located in Canada, but apparently it's somewhere in Ontario (http://maps.google.nl/maps?q=berkeley+canada&hl=nl&sll=44.366667,-80.716667&sspn=0.05283,0.093126&vpsrc=0&gl=nl&hnear=Berkeley,+Grey+County,+Ontario,+Canada&t=h&z=15).

Re:I love his title. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736286)

I was guessing CA - California.
Maybe u're right. I'm from the wild jurop.

What a load... (1, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736142)

You could hire computing cycles for a long time, there have been companies hiring out temporary server hosting, for however short or long as you want for decades... and of course for the really old, hiring a certain amount of performance on a larger system is exactly what mainframes were about.

Of course, it has become easier but that is because computing has come down into the general market of the last few decades. More people can now afford computing in general including buying access time on mainframes, oops the cloud. It isn't the cloud doing it, it is that computing is simply becoming cheaper and cheaper. That CPU power on the phone in your pocket once would have set you back a small fortune in rented time on a university machine.

But surely it being cheap, it means it is now available for all... eh no. If you want to create a Pixar like experience you still need to spend a small fortune on renting either a server farm or renting access time on "the cloud" or buying your own server farm.

Because here is the clincher, the cost of computing has gone down but the demand for computing has gone up. Every new movie Pixar releases raises the bar, forcing anyone who wishes to compete to rent even more computing time to keep up (because god knows, trying to figure out just why Pixar releases awe inspiring movie one after another beyond sheer computing power is far to hard).

So little bobby with a budget of a 100 bucks is still not going to be able to make the next Pixar movie... unless of course he simply renders it on his and his friends PC's for "free" and pours instead his heart into it that made the lamp animation that can now easily be done in realtime on a modern PC still look damned fucking good...

The cloud wants to be payed... and the nature of rendering means that while the cost per unit might go down, the amount of units needed goes up.

It as with running a website, everytime there is news your home connection might soon (but never where you live) go up to being fast enough to serve a real website, the demands for a website go up and you still need a fucking server to run one. Just check the size of even a text only site like slashdot now we are all on 100mbit fiber (why not damn you!) vs when we were all on dial-up.

Re:What a load... (5, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736192)

Let's not forget, you can render a really nice smooth teapot for peanuts, but you can't tell a good story, choreograph a chaotic rescue scene, or draw the expression on the protagonist's face when a little old lady kicks him in the nuts. You also have no chance of getting Jack Black or Angelina Jolie as voice actors.

Pixar is not just a render farm. It's also a studio. The South Park guys showed you can still beat a studio if you are willing to target a new demographic (people who liked The Simpsons, and want sex jokes as well as fart jokes) and have talented actors and writers, but it's not easy.

Re:What a load... (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736442)

You can get actors to work for free or very little money.
http://worldfilm.about.com/od/indieactors/American_Independent_Actors.htm [about.com]
Having a project good enough they'd want to join in would be the hard part. Also the opportunity to be able to tell them about it would take effort. Not impossible. i'd say the Blender project have enough eye candy to be able to get a "star" on board if they loved the story and character enough.
http://www.blender.org/features-gallery/blender-open-projects/

Re:What a load... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736644)

You don't even need actual actors, just voice actors, which charge a lot less, at least around here.

Re:What a load... (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736704)

Agreed. I was just thinking about getting a "name" in for an open project.
That said, I wonder how you would you go about getting a decent music score made. I guess an orchestra costs a fair bit. -I've no idea about anything to do with music recording. Crowdsourcing all those instruments and balancing recording quality would be a project and then some.

Re:What a load... (1)

ifrag (984323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736846)

I guess an orchestra costs a fair bit. -I've no idea about anything to do with music recording.

I'd say going for a full out orchestra would _not_ be the first option. In fact, there were some interviews talking about "Warhammer 40K : Space Marine" and how they were really excited to actually be using a real orchestra at all for recording the soundtrack. Of course good audio gear to make a synthetic orchestra also looks expensive, but I would assume quite a bit less investment than the real thing.

Re:What a load... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736946)

You also have no chance of getting Jack Black or Angelina Jolie as voice actors.

Well that's a bonus then! Animations do not need celebrity voices, they only need real actors that know how to effectively use their voice. There's a whole breed of "voice actors" available. Sound great, but are probably very fugly.

Pixar/Disney, Dreamworks et al, can massively reduce their costs by dropping the Hollywood crowd. No one goes to watch the latest Pixar for the actors used, they go for the story. Which invariably is the same shit over and over, but that's a different matter.

Re:What a load... (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38738090)

I think you greatly underestimate the value those actors bring. They are not just voices added after the animation is done. The personalities of the actors is used to make the characters themselves. Woody from Toy Story IS Tom Hanks. Buzz IS Tim Allen. Would Alladin be the same movie without Robin Williams as the genie?

Re:What a load... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737840)

Let's not forget, you can render a really nice smooth teapot for peanuts, but you can't tell a good story

Wait.. what?! What does rendering have to do with telling a good story?

Re:What a load... (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736312)

But he can, if he has the talent, do a pretty good rough draft. Good enough to get some attention, and funding for polishing and render farm time for a full quality 'print'.
If he has the creative bits down, there is plenty of entertainment value in watching the rough draft.

As long as this isn't all shut down because you need to go back to the 19th century for music that isn't copyrighted out of anyone-but-big-content's reach, and YouTube hasn't been shut down.

Not so fast (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736810)

You forgot to factor in the cloud.

If your definition of democritize is to encheapen, (1)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736158)

Then I agree with you?

Re:If your definition of democritize is to encheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736770)

Word up dude. Cloud services do not "democratize", they "make more affordable" and so they simply increase the number of players. Much like the hosted web server decreased the entry barrier for publishers and journalists without making the blogosphere anything like a democracy.

Capitalism, not democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736226)

Everyone is not able to get a super computer, chances are pretty much zilch, this article is a bunch of crap.

SOPA render farms? (1)

shadesOG (2457562) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736246)

I'm just curious if you render a few frames and show your peers if you can get SOPA'd.

Re:SOPA render farms? (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737058)

With SOPA, it doesn't matter whether you do or not. If I complain, your site will be taken down anyway.

And here is the real reason for SOPA/PIPA (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736272)

This democratising of computing ability makes content creation within the ability of anyone with the (extreme) talent. This explosion of content and weakening of the grip of big media is what is being fought.

And it will only get cheaper. No wonder they are fighting it. Ironic that they are using a provision that was originally designed to encourage creation!

I am wondering more and more whether the concept of copyright is suitable these days.

Bandwidth ? (4, Informative)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736274)

Does the CEO realizes that he's trading CPU's limitation against bandwidth's limitation ?

Generating a picture in full HD requires 1920 x 1080 = 2,073,600 pixels.
But for a movie, the resolution is 4096 x 3112 = 12,746,752 pixels
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_resolution [wikipedia.org]

This gives 36 megabytes per picture.
Now, you have to create 25 pictures for one second.
You get 5400 megabytes for every minute of movie.

It may be faster to compute digital animation, but you still have a large IO problem, both in storage and in preserving the data (you may lose pixels when downloading the files) !

It's similar to outsourcing tasks: it's a short-term solution for larger problems.

Re:Bandwidth ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736434)

Considering a single frame take hours or maybe days to render, 35MB is pretty much worth it though..

lossless compression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736470)

Well, you still can use lossless compression like PNG on that 36 MiB image. That would cost some CPU time extra, but not to the extreme.

Re:Bandwidth ? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736514)

Does the CEO realizes that he's trading CPU's limitation against bandwidth's limitation ?

Does it matter? Disks are cheaper in many ways than computation, and digitally rendering a movie will use a lot of that. Not having to find a building to hold a large datacenter which you're not using all of the time anyway... that will surely save masses even with all the additional networking.

Large downloads could also be handled by shipping physical disks. Major cloud vendors will do that.

Re:Bandwidth ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736532)

Amazon and some other companies allow for data to be sent via Fedex.
I would be more worried about security personally but the idea good.
http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/061010-amazon-cloud-fedex.html

Re:Bandwidth ? (1)

jperl (1453911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736588)

the article is not talking about getting the data from amazon, but shipping them to amazon.

Re:Bandwidth ? (5, Insightful)

partiklehead (2425806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736564)

The problem is not getting a video file from one computer to the next, it's the rendering. One single frame of a high end 3D animation film can take days to render even on a supercomputer. So the fact that transferring the result takes say 5 minutes instead 1 minute is negligable compared to the gains in rendering time.

Re:Bandwidth ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736968)

One single frame of a high end 3D animation film can take days to render even on a supercomputer.M/quote>

No it doesn't. Render farms use dirt cheap generic x86 machines running Linux. The most complex rendering is only a few minutes per frame per machine.

Re:Bandwidth ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38738346)

You've got absolutely no clue what you're talking about. The person you quoted, on the other hand, does.

Re:Bandwidth ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736584)

First of all, many assumptions you make are or may be incorrect. It is not certain that the image is 8-bit per channel (say, jpeg) as it can go up at least to 32-bit per channel and there can be more channels than 4 (RGB + alpha), such as depth passes. Which can also be of different bit-sizes or even different files. There are also lossy and lossless compressions schemes in almost all practical file formats (PNG & EXR to name 2). But yes, it's a lot of data.

Now, it's also wrong to assume that the bottleneck is the IO. Sure, it's not instant, but if rendering of such a frame takes a normal computer(s) HOURS, even a 100 MB image is not that much to download. Secondly, at least in theory one can start downloading ready scenes/frames before all of them have been rendered. E.g. the process does not need to be a waterfall.

Then we have the cost of having and maintaining a datacenter and the burden of keeping that datacenter churning money 24/7. Having an ability to match the resources to the needs is golden. Own datacenter may be cooler, but there are few who can fund one and keep one funded and up to date in the long run.

Re:Bandwidth ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736590)

Digitally projected movies use compression (JPEG2000 IIRC), so your figure for size per frame is rather higher than you'd be likely to need. Having said that, even using your figures, 5.3GB/min is chump change. A consumer grade NAS can easily hold 25 hours of movie at that data rate, for the capital outlay of a few hundred dollars, compared to a few million dollars for a cluster capable of rendering the movie at a reasonable speed (say, one hour per minute of scene). Sure, bandwidth *caps* would be a problem if you're using a shitty domestic internet connection, but if you're downloading it as fast as it renders in the above example, we're talking 1.5MB/second. Not exactly earth shattering.

Then take into account that if you were really worried about bandwidth, and had all that computing power around, you could do some further lossless compression (adjacent frames would be pretty goddam similar) to bring the total size down...

I'm not even sure what you're on about with losing pixels. Do they some how leak out when you download them? Or to evil internet pirates hijack them in transit?

Re:Bandwidth ? (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736628)

100mbps connection isn't that expensive if you're in the right area. On that connection (assuming you have the computing power on the other end) you could have near real time processing even at the bit rates you're talking about. This is a really good and interesting solution for their problem.

Re:Bandwidth ? (1)

techsimian (2555762) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737188)

lose pixels in transit? Really? It's not like they're carrying a tray of marbles...I think we've had the whole "keeping the pixels from spilling out" thing licked since they installed the pixel catcher at the bottom of the internet.

Shame on slashdot for not protesting SOPA, PIPA (0, Offtopic)

deysOfBits (2198798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736336)

Slashdot should be down 24 hours to protest SOPA PIPA. Slashdot SUCKS !!!!

Re:Shame on slashdot for not protesting SOPA, PIPA (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737310)

Shame on slashdot for not protesting SOPA, PIPA (Score:2, Informative)

Slashdot should be down 24 hours to protest SOPA PIPA. Slashdot SUCKS !!!!

Is the SUCKS bit the Informative part and the 2 is for effort?

Fi8spt... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736376)

wtf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736384)

don't confuse c(r)apitalism with democracy!

Something's wrong... (1)

Stoopiduk (1593855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736394)

To show how a laptop unleashes human creativity, the guy tried using 8 of them and failed, then had to use a server farm.

Offtopic: I hear Amazon pretty much every time Cloud is mentioned on /. is there a deal between them or am I making connection where there aren't any?

Re:Something's wrong... (1)

matthiasvegh (1800634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736448)

Amazon has massive server farms that are available as either storage, or computation.

Who owns your IP...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736712)

If you render it in the cloud, who owns your 3D models and data?

Or more accurately: who has access to your models and data?

Yes it really is a game changer (4, Interesting)

fireteller2 (712795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736774)

Studio Pyxis (www.studiopyxis.com) is a Burbank based production company that is taking full advantage of cloud computing, both for our own productions and for sharing with clients. The company is a new model of production company leveraging years of development in real time technology such as the Virtual Production process used on Avatar which involve real time graphics and visualization so that directors can shoot visual effects interactively as if they are really happening in front of you, and cloud computing that can complete the photorealistic renders on the back end in record time.

One feature of cloud computing that is often over looked though in these production discussions is the breadth vs depth computing model. It's obvious that it's a value to have a massive cold room that you don't have to buy up front, but the real advantage comes when it costs exactly the same thing to run 1000 cpus for 1 hour as it does to run 10 cpus for 100 hours.

Visual effects and animation production is all about revisions. It's a huge win to have your full renders back sooner. Being able to run every frame of a shot at once regardless of how many frames you have means that you have the entire shot in the time it takes the longest frame to render. This has never been possible before. Production has always wanted a dynamically scalable solution but as always had to contend with some fixed capacity. Granted EC2 has a fixed capacity as well, but it is so much more massive then a typical production facility as to be a non issue.

As for what some commenters are saying about bandwidth issues it is true it's a factor, and this is why it's not a turn key solution for the average small company. We've spend a fair amount of time creating an infrastructure that mirrors assets in the cloud, renders and composite locally to the cloud, then generates compressed images and movie files for download at review. Only when we approach the completion of a shot do we download actual exr, or dpx data. But we do make our infrastructure available to other companies to help them be more turn key.

Another aspect that more then democratizing cg production actually gives an advantage to the smaller facility are the limitations that larger facilities working on mainstream studio pictures have such as MPAA rules about keeping film assets off the internet and/or on physically disconnected machines. Whereas small facilities like ours can be satisfied with a VPN connection to Amazon, larger facilities are often legally obliged not to.

The one area that still needs to be solved to truly make this work for everyone is for the software companies to start offering the same type of pay as you go licensing so that we can more easily use the professional tools. It would be relatively easy for a company like Pixar to offer a RenderMan license server that one could connect to over the internet or even EC2 based that would monitor your hourly usage. Are you listening Pixar?

Re:Yes it really is a game changer (1)

markhahn (122033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736986)

have you actually looked at the numbers? AWS, for instance, has a phenomenally high profit margin (and PhB's have the mistaken impression that running your own farm is expensive.) it's not some kind of close thing (oh, they get power 10% cheaper, or their machinerooms run at a PUE of 1.15 whereas ours are 1.4) - cloud providers are charging O(10x) more per compute-unit than cost.

Re:Yes it really is a game changer (2)

fireteller2 (712795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737056)

We've been living with the numbers for the last three years. In other industries I'm sure the cost of cloud computing quickly eclipses the cost of owned computing capacity, but in visual effects and animation production you have to remember one important factor; your computers are idle most of the time.

Re:Yes it really is a game changer (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38738092)

We've been living with the numbers for the last three years. In other industries I'm sure the cost of cloud computing quickly eclipses the cost of owned computing capacity, but in visual effects and animation production you have to remember one important factor; your computers are idle most of the time.

It's the same in small engineering firms. Most of the time they're physically building their current product, not doing simulations to design the next one. Idle computers are a total waste in such a situation. Yes, they could sell on the spare cycles but that would also require them to have a full time sysadmin, someone spending time on sales of compute time, and so on; the tail would wag the dog. Far better to buy it in when needed. (What's more, I know that at least one of the software vendors in the area knows about this.)

Would a big enterprise have the same requirements? Surely not, but that's no surprise at all. One size won't fit all, and never did. Actually, really big enterprises are more interested in cloud than you might initially guess; they're often organized internally as a collection of smaller sub-enterprises that share some common services. Clouds — quite possibly internal ones, or ones centrally purchased in from outside and then delegated — make lots of sense there too. It's an interesting mix and the same patterns get replicated at many levels.

You keep saying that word.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736776)

You kids nowadays keep saying "democracy" but you really don't seem to know what it means.

Wait till the big studios find some "fault" (1)

fatbuckel (1714764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736806)

Some issue that they can exploit to shut down small studios use of cloud computing. Oh...they will. As soon as it becomes monetarily uncomfortable.

Marketing type... (1)

Drafell (1263712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38736924)

Great ad for Elastic Compute.... where is the actual newsworthy part?

This is my piece of the cloud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38736988)

As i run computing cluster 3947 in the cloud you used to create your digital animation, I claim copyright for part of your digital animation.

I'll expect my royalities check every month until copyright expires.

Or i'll use the new copyright laws to shut you down for infringing on my copyrights.

EC2 is great as a renderfarm!! (3, Informative)

illumnatLA (820383) | more than 2 years ago | (#38737464)

I actually did the same thing for some projects I was working on... used Amazon's EC2 as a Maya/3DS Max Backburner renderfarm. I posted some tutorials on how I set it up on my website: http://www.judpratt.com/tutorials/ec2-renderfarm/ [judpratt.com]

EC2 let me render in 5 hours what would've taken my own computer about 110 hours to render. The cost came out at about $.06 per core hour. The commercial cloud renderfarms charge about $0.75 core hour for comparison.

Re:EC2 is great as a renderfarm!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38738688)

The developer of Mitsuba also made a guide [mitsuba-renderer.org] on this subject.

Amazon Slashvertizement (1)

Araes (1177047) | more than 2 years ago | (#38738670)

Was this paid for by Amazon? This reads like blatant shill.

turning to [prominently mention service name] for the first time [sure it was] ... it's a game changer [excellent use of PR speak]...that gives everyone a supercomputer [if you can affort it]

I'm sure it lets you breath water and gives you telekenesis too, but we don't need to do Amazon's advertising for them, they're big boys with deep pockets.

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