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Volume 1: AI/ML and Data Analytics

Volume 2: Broadcast & Live Remote Production

Volume 3: Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) & Streaming

Content Production

Content Production is a continuously evolving landscape that demands increasingly powerful hardware to keep pace with technological advancements. These challenges are especially prevalent for visual effects (VFX) and rendering processes. Professionals in these fields need high-performance computing (HPC) resources to create and manipulate increasingly complex graphics and visuals. 

Traditional on-premises environments often struggle to keep up with these demands due to hardware limitations and long rendering times. Virtual workstations built on AWS help address these needs by providing scalable and cost-effective access to HPC resources.

Content Production Challenges

On-premises setups for VFX and rendering typically rely on specialized hardware such as high-end graphics cards and CPUs that can be expensive to acquire and maintain. Hardware and bandwidth limitations often restrict the amount of data that can be processed at once, leading to longer rendering times and potentially missed deadlines. These limitations can also hinder creative experimentation, as it is often not feasible to allocate resources to non-essential tasks.

The Benefits of Virtual Workstations 

Flexibility and Scalability: Virtual workstations provide flexibility in terms of computing power by allowing for the easy adjustment of resources allocated to each task based on changes in demand. This helps to ensure that more resources are allocated to intensive tasks such as rendering, while fewer resources are used for less time sensitive operations. Virtual workstations in AWS can also be scaled up or down as needed, ensuring that studios can adapt to changing workloads without having to invest in additional hardware.

On-Demand Compute and Storage: On prem render farms by design are finite in their capacity, which dictates limitations in their performance . The cloud, however, provides on-demand render compute and storage that is virtually limitless, enabling workflow optimization in response to both time and cost constraints. Time-to-market being a key consideration for studios, harnessing cloud resources helps accelerate project delivery and meet deadlines.

Cost-effectiveness: Virtual workstations incur charges only for resources used on a per-hour basis. They assist creative studios in avoiding the high upfront capital investments associated with purchasing and maintaining specialized hardware without having to compromise on performance or availability.

Future-Proofing Infrastructure: AWS provides the flexibility to easily adapt to new technologies as they become available. Infrastructure is regularly updated with the latest hardware, including faster GPUs and CPUs, enabling the latest advancements in technology to be implemented without investing in new hardware themselves. 

AWS Services for Content Creation

Amazon EC2 instances are virtual machines that provide flexible computing resources, including CPU, GPU, and memory. These instances can easily be configured to meet the specific needs of each task and scaled up or down as needed. AWS also offers EC2 Spot Instances that help take advantage of unused EC2 capacity in the AWS cloud. Spot instances are often available at steep discounts (up to 90% compared to on-demand prices) and can be leveraged to address rendering requirements in a cost-effective manner. Spot instances are optimally suited for intermittent workloads that can swiftly recover from failure, enabling the exploitation of temporarily available resources at cost-effective prices. However, for stable and predictable workloads, Reserved Instances and Savings Plans are the better option. They provide the opportunity to cut computing costs by up to 72% when compared to on-demand rates while ensuring stable performance.

AWS Thinkbox Deadline is a render management solution that simplifies the process of managing large-scale compute resources. Deadline can be used to manage render farms, schedule jobs, and monitor rendering progress from a centralized dashboard. The service supports a wide range of software applications and plug-ins including Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, and Houdini, among others. Thinkbox Deadline also provides tools for load balancing, prioritization, and job distribution to help optimize rendering workflows and ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.

Amazon S3 is a highly scalable object storage service that is used to store and retrieve large amounts of data. The service is ideal for storing large media files such as video content and audio recordings, as well as smaller files such as textures and models. Amazon S3 also offers several other storage classes such as S3 Glacier designed for long-term data archiving. Glacier is often leveraged for data that is rarely accessed but needs to be retained for compliance or regulatory reasons.

Amazon FSx is a cloud-based storage service offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) designed to provide scalable and high-performance file storage for various applications. The service is built on proven file systems and simplifies the process of integrating with existing applications and workflows. Amazon FSx helps eliminate the complexities of managing traditional file storage systems by handling tasks such as hardware provisioning, data replication, and backups behind the scenes. Users can choose between four widely-used file systems, including NetApp ONTAP, OpenZFS, Windows File Server, and Lustre. Among these options, Amazon FSx for Lustre stands out as the go-to choice for visual effects (VFX) and rendering due to its optimized performance and scalability.

Amazon EFS is a fully-managed file system that can be used to store and access files from multiple EC2 instances. EFS is ideal for sharing files between team members and ensuring that all participants have access to the latest version of a project.

Amazon Nimble Studio: Amazon Nimble Studio was an AWS service designed to provide a creative studio in the cloud, allowing VFX and animation professionals to create, produce, and render content without the need for on-premises infrastructure. It offered a complete virtual studio environment, including virtual workstations with industry-standard software and collaborative tools. Artists and teams could collaborate remotely, accessing their projects from anywhere with an internet connection. However, it is important to note that Amazon Nimble Studio has been deprecated. 

Despite the discontinuation of Nimble Studio, VFX studios continue to adopt cloud-based solutions to streamline workflows and enhance collaboration. Many current studios are now being built using a combination of AWS services and tools such as HP Anyware and Hammerspace (described in the solution example presented below). These solutions empower studios to create, render, and manage their projects efficiently, ensuring seamless production pipelines and high-quality output.

Best Practices for Content Production and VFX Workflows

Compute Optimization: Leveraging AWS Compute Optimizer helps receive rightsizing recommendations tailored to specific workloads. The recommendations can assist in selecting the most suitable EC2 instances, taking into account factors such as GPU performance for rendering tasks and ample RAM to ensure low latency during video editing. Recommendations are also provided to help optimize Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes and Lambda functions, further enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Storage Configuration: Proper configuration of storage options such as Amazon S3 and Amazon EFS helps ensure that data can be easily accessed and shared between team members.

Security: Best practices such as enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), setting up encryption for data in transit and at rest, and implementing network segmentation help limit access to sensitive data and resources.

Solution Example: AWS Studio in the Cloud with HP Anyware and Hammerspace

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AWS Studio in the Cloud implementation leveraging HP Anyware and Hammerspace

The AWS Studio in the Cloud environment presented in the diagram above was implemented by TrackIt in partnership with HP Anyware and Hammerspace. The implementation leverages Teradici’s Cloud Access Software (CAS) and PC over IP (PCoIP) technology for virtual desktops and workstations and Hammerspace Global Data Environment for shared storage access.

An AWS Studio in the Cloud enables VFX studios to benefit from global access to resources, faster rendering times, and reduced costs while maintaining security and data privacy.

Partner Solutions

Weka: Tailored for NVMe-enabled instances, Weka offers a modern file system that meets the needs of High-Performance Computing (HPC) workloads. WekaFS, a POSIX-compliant file system, is available on the AWS cloud and delivers very high streaming bandwidth to applications while maintaining low latency across the storage cluster. The filesystem is ideally suited for performance-intensive workloads such as AI/ML and rendering.

EditShare Flex: Enables creative facilities to collaborate across offices and remote locations. The solution leverages EditShare’s storage and production asset management solutions to solve storage, access, and workflow challenges of remote workgroup video editing. 

NICE DCV: A high-performance protocol for remote desktop and application streaming, enabling secure access from any cloud or data center to any device, while maintaining responsiveness and image quality. It optimizes costs by allowing graphics-intensive applications to run remotely, eliminating the need for expensive workstations, and supports various operating systems and browsers for flexible deployment.

Qumulo: A highly performant and scalable unstructured data storage platform, tailored for cloud environments. This platform seamlessly integrates with native AWS services, enabling organizations to run applications at native speeds without the need for refactoring, while offering unlimited scalability and comprehensive support for file and object-based workflows.

Vizrt Live Production Solution: A cloud-first and NDI®-native broadcast production system, offering real-time switching, graphics, and studio automation that can be controlled from anywhere globally. When hosted on AWS, it combines Vizrt’s renowned storytelling tools with the advantages of cloud technology, delivering an advanced, flexible solution for broadcasters.

Unreal Engine: A cutting-edge real-time 3D creation tool. It offers a convenient platform for cloud-based content creation, making it ideal for various applications, including virtual production, gaming, automotive design, digital twins, and more, with the added benefit of a responsive remote desktop experience provided by NICE DCV.

Working with an AWS M&E Partner Integrator

AWS M&E partner integrators can assist in navigating the various challenges associated with the implementation and maintenance of cloud-based media workflows on AWS. 

With deep expertise in AWS, M&E partners not only offer guidance on best practices and migration strategies but also provide comprehensive managed services including monitoring, support, and optimization, allowing media companies to focus on their core business while outsourcing the technicalities of cloud management to experts.

M&E partners also play a crucial role in facilitating the relationship between AWS and end-users. Partners have extensive knowledge of AWS-based media workflows and can help clients identify funding opportunities provided by AWS. These funding programs help offset the costs associated with migrating to the cloud, making it more accessible for companies operating with stringent budgets. 

Process of Engagement

The basic process of engagement typically involves an initial consultation to understand client needs and objectives, followed by a design phase to develop a customized solution. Implementation and testing are then carried out, followed by ongoing support and maintenance to ensure that solutions remain up-to-date and effective.

CloudWise – AWS Managed Services

CloudWise, TrackIt’s AWS Managed Services offering includes a suite of services such as monitoring, optimization, and support, enabling companies to manage their AWS infrastructure with ease and efficiency. CloudWise allows customers to stay focused on their core business while TrackIt experts handle all the technicalities of cloud infrastructure management. 

Built on in-house custom monitoring software, the offering includes real-time monitoring, customized dashboards, monthly cost analysis and coverage reports, annual architecture reviews, and quarterly security assessments. Customers also benefit from 24/7/365 global support from AWS-certified TrackIt engineers working to ensure that their cloud investments are optimized to their full potential.

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Managed Services Offering Provided by AWS M&E Partner TrackIt

About TrackIt

TrackIt is an Amazon Web Services Advanced Tier Services Partner specializing in cloud management, consulting, and software development solutions based in Marina del Rey, CA. 

TrackIt specializes in Modern Software Development, DevOps, Infrastructure-As-Code, Serverless, CI/CD, and Containerization with specialized expertise in Media & Entertainment workflows including AWS Studio in the Cloud (SIC), Retail workflows, High-Performance Computing environments, and data storage.

In addition to providing cloud management, consulting, and modern software development services, TrackIt also provides an open-source AWS cost management tool that allows users to optimize their costs and resources on AWS.

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