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Google Cloud Enters the Movie Business

Movie special effects artists will be able to call upon the vast resources of the Google Cloud Platform for their time-consuming rendering processes now that the Internet search giant acquired Zync Inc.

Rendering is the frame-by-frame process of taking all the digital information of a video production, including audio and special effects like animation, texture, shading, simulated 3D shapes and so on, and converting it into a final video file format.

Anyone who has dabbled in home movies with software like Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects or Sony Vegas knows that the rendering process -- especially for complicated special effects -- is a high-resource, time-consuming chore, sometimes taking hours for a 20-minute project. With full-length cinematic movies, the resources and time required for rendering are staggering.

For example, the Wikipedia article about the 2009 movie Avatar stated: "To render Avatar, Weta used a 10,000-square-foot server farm making use of 4,000 Hewlett-Packard servers with 35,000 processor cores with 104 TB of RAM and 3 PB of network-area storage." That huge supercomputer-class system could take hours to render just one single frame.

With the incorporation of Zync Render technology into its cloud, Google will bring world-class computing power and capacity to the task.

"Creating amazing special effects requires a skilled team of visual artists and designers, backed by a highly powerful infrastructure to render scenes," said Google exec Belwadi Srikanth in a blog post announcing the acquisition yesterday. "Many studios, however, don't have the resources or desire to create an in-house rendering farm, or they need to burst past their existing capacity.

"Together Zync + Cloud Platform will offer studios the rendering performance and capacity they need, while helping them manage costs," Srikanth continued. "For example, with per-minute billing, studios aren't trapped into paying for unused capacity when their rendering needs don't fit in perfect hour increments." Specific pricing information wasn't given.

Zync Render technology is specifically targeted for the cloud. "By provisioning storage and keeping a copy of your rendered files and assets on the cloud, file I/O is efficiently managed to ensure you are only using the data that is necessary to render images," the five-year old company says on its Web site. But until now, that cloud was Amazon Web Services (AWS). Zync has for more than a year been listed on the AWS Marketplace, with pricing starting at $1.69 per hour.

Zync provides Web-based management tools and Python access APIs for supported software applications like Maya, Nuke, Mental Ray and others. It was used on movies like Star Trek Into Darkness and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

"Since its inception at visual effects studio ZERO VFX, nearly five years ago, Zync was designed to not only leverage the benefits and flexibilities inherent in cloud computing but to offer this in a user-friendly package," the company said on its site. "Pairing this history with the scale and reliability of Google Cloud Platform will help us offer an even better service to our customers -- including more scalability, more host packages and better pricing."

Google said it will provide more information about its new initiative in the coming months.

Posted by David Ramel on 08/27/2014 at 8:32 AM


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