IT Science Case Study: How FuseFX Studio Optimized Its Video Workflow

Award-winning visual effects studio FuseFX uses Amazon Web Services to support its mission-critical file-based workloads and meet fast-paced deadlines for Amazon Video’s television comedy, “The Tick,” and other projects. It needed to improve the complicated workflow it uses on a 24/7 basis.


Here is the latest article in a new eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what really happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic:  Getting the Workflow Right in A Video-Production Enterprise

Name the problem to be solved: Award-winning visual effects studio FuseFX uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to support its mission-critical file-based workloads and meet fast-paced deadlines for Amazon Video’s top-rated television comedy, “The Tick,” and other projects. It needed to improve the complicated workflow it uses on a 24/7 basis.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution:  FuseFX has many large visual effects rendering jobs that must meet the tight deadlines which characterize episodic television. The studio needed a modern, highly scalable file storage system that could meet the high performance compute requirements of their workloads within AWS. It chose Qumulo File Fabric (QF2).

List the key components in the solution: Qumulo claims thatQF2 is the world’s first universal-scale file storage system. It is specifically built software designed to meet all requirements for scale. QF2 runs in the data center and on AWS and can scale to billions of files. The company claims that it handles small files as efficiently as large ones. QF2’s analytics let administrators drill down to the file level, get answers and solve problems in real time.

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned: FuseX, already a Qumulo customer, learned that the company was debuting QF2 for AWS and jumped at the chance to try it out. FuseFX set up a four-node QF2 cluster and has never looked back. Current workloads combine Thinkbox Deadline for pipeline management, spot instances on AWS for elastic and low-cost computing and QF2.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained and what was learned from the project: The flexibility to use the cloud both for large-scale rendering and for storage helped FuseFX keep its commitments, accelerate production and reduce the risk of downtime, which often can occur with on-premises rendering farms.

Lessons learned: “Getting the workflow right is the biggest challenge. Rendering is complicated, and visual effects is an inherently inefficient process. The more than you can create efficiencies in the workflow, the better off you’re going to be,” Jason Fotter, co-founder and CTO of FuseFX, said.

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings, and staff time savings, if any: When the company was working on an episode of “The Tick,” they had been targeting 1,000 machines as a maximum target for capacity--32,000 cores at one time. QF2 was able to support that kind of throughput. At the peak, FuseFX saw 40,000 IOPS. The highest throughput was 3.87GB/second.

Other relevant references:

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...