Tuesday, 05 December 2017

Outpost VFX

Outpost VFX

Starting a new business - in any industry - comes with new opportunities. It’s a chance to break conventions and come up with a methodology that has the potential to be unique. It’s also the same position that Duncan McWilliam found himself in when he started Outpost VFX in Bournemouth.

Taking VFX out of the capital

Opening a visual effects studio outside London might seem a little unorthodox, with Soho usually seen as the unofficial home of VFX in the UK. But the coastal town of Bournemouth seemed like a more hospitable solution for Outpost VFX founder Duncan McWilliam. With a wealth of industry experience garnered from his career MPC in London and LA, he felt that locating his new studio on the Dorset coast would be the first step in making his staff feel valued. And thereby make the work all the better.

Outpost VFX believes that client satisfaction derives from the wellbeing of their artists. They promote flexible working and do their utmost to ensure a normal working day doesn’t overrun. Not only does this lead to a happier creative team, it also means clients buy into the company and their story.

“We’ve taken a different artist driven approach to how we run the ethos of the company,” comments Duncan. “Producers like to know that the industry is changing and that we’re doing something to support that. And they like to be a part of that as well.”

That change doesn’t end with ethos. The VFX industry is ever evolving and the introduction of new technologies continues apace. From day one Duncan and his team favoured GPU rendering. It gives them significantly shorter rendering times and is more cost effective in terms of cost and the resources needed to power it. As Outpost VFX work across feature films, TV, and commercials GPU rendering was ideal. Which is where Escape Technology came in.

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Choosing GPU 

Duncan asked us to come up with a simple and cost effective way to execute GPU rendering in a limited space. “With Escape Technology we built a type of chassis with eight GPU cards,” Duncan adds. “It worked out way cheaper for minute-by-minute render power than any other CPU solution.” Duncan and his team also chose Redshift as their renderer of choice. Redshift only charge for one licence per box regardless of how many GPU cards are installed. A fact that also contributed big savings for Outpost VFX.

This move to GPU has improved on rendering time enormously, with eight cards working on a single render. The solution also cuts down on costs, space, and footprint.

Outpost VFX now sport five GP8s, each holding eight NVIDIA GPUs. Combined, these boxes boast over 140,000 CUDA cores. We also equipped the studio with a 160TB Pixit storage system, HP Z series workstations, and provided the consultation necessary to get them up and running smoothly.

The perfect formula

Since the implementation of GPU at Outpost VFX, the decrease in rendering time has benefitted artist feedback turn around. Projects can now be iterated hundreds of times in mere hours, while storage and backup works seamlessly throughout the studio. 

With this reduction in rendering times and the lower rent on the Dorset coast, Outpost VFX has an ideal formula when it comes to productivity and staff satisfaction. “I don’t think anyone truly cares where the work is done,” Duncan muses. “I think they care that it can be delivered on time and looking good, on price.” 

With high speed internet connections on the rise files can be transferred to clients within a fraction of the time whether they’re in the same town or different countries. Perhaps this is the start of a new wave of visual effects studios.