DeadDrop Labs helps WeFX tap into the power of AWS
A collective of artistic visionaries, Toronto-based creative studio WeFX delivers visual effects (VFX) ranging from high-end character animation and complex environment work to invisible VFX and virtual production for feature films and episodic television series. Founded by industry veterans Mo Ghorbankarimi and Pouya Badkoobeh in July 2020, the studio experienced meteoric growth from its outset and expects to continue an upward trajectory. The second season of futuristic drama SEE on Apple TV+ marks one of the studio’s first projects, with several other high profile feature films and episodics to roll out through 2021 and beyond. To ensure the necessary computing resources for success, WeFX relies on a scalable hybrid infrastructure built on Amazon Web Services (AWS). A team of cloud specialists at DeadDrop Labs led the integration and continue to make adjustments based on the studio’s needs.
“DeadDrop Labs helped us design studio infrastructure that is modern and adaptable. Their team helped us build a platform that can easily expand to take advantage of the scalability of the cloud and AWS, which is important because our project flow and resource demands can be unpredictable,” said WeFX Head of Technology Laurence Cymet.
To minimize risk, WeFX entrusted its AWS integration build to DeadDrop Labs versus handling it in-house. As WeFX’s IT team focused on establishing the studio’s physical infrastructure, DeadDrop Labs worked alongside them to architect and develop complementary solutions on AWS. Cymet explained, “We knew that we wanted to use AWS because its infrastructure is well suited to supporting VFX without major investment. The DeadDrop team knows AWS inside and out, and they are incredibly skilled IT pros that understand the needs of media and entertainment companies.”
Supporting rapid growth during a pandemic presented significant challenges due to hardware shortages so the studio made the active decision to leverage the cloud to help scale resources. Since finding success with virtual workstations powered by Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) G4dn instances and render farm management with AWS Thinkbox Deadline software, WeFX has begun to broaden its AWS usage, and is exploring Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) tiers and rendering with Amazon EC2 Spot Instances.
WeFX has used AWS virtual workstations to offset their physical workstations, and AWS has also proven critical for burst rendering. Recently challenged to deliver an epic highly detailed full-CG environment shot with more than 1.6 TB of data on a tight schedule, WeFX rendered the shot in three hours using the cloud. Leaning on the expertise of DeadDrop Labs, the studio was able to quickly scale its render compute resources, spinning up more than 300 instances and more than 40,000 cores on AWS.
“The DeadDrop Labs team was crucial in helping us bridge what we already had in place to AWS for burst render quickly and without having to redo our pipeline. Now we have capability to scale on demand when the situation requires it,” said Cymet.
Ever mindful of keeping budgets on track, Cymet and his team closely monitor a cost analysis sheet created by DeadDrop Labs that aggregates AWS usage and simplifies budgeting decisions. It’s also a useful tool for comparing costs of on-premises and cloud-based resources. “The benefits of the cloud dawned on us when one of our artists needed more RAM in their workstation and it only took minutes to satisfy that need. Then being able to take advantage of burst render further solidified its value,” noted Cymet. “With the availability of AWS resources, we’re able to take on larger projects without rebuilding our physical infrastructure.”
“Having AWS in our pipeline is powerful,” Cymet concluded. “Using the cloud has allowed us to focus more of our efforts on finding talent and other exciting challenges, rather than continually building and maintaining infrastructure.”
AWS helps creative customers reduce operational burdens so they can spend more time creating with the most comprehensive set of cloud capabilities for content production. To learn more about AWS solutions for content production, visit the M&E Content Production site.