Hey, so while at the FMX conference in Stuttgart this April, Foundry has launched Athera. This new service is a cloud platform that allows VFX studios and freelancers to run their entire pipeline in ‘the cloud’. This is actually a very big release for the Foundry team and promises a lot of features, software access, portability and security.
Foundry has been very busy listing the many compelling figures surrounding the performance of Athera. Their deal with Google Cloud Platform is wide-ranging and promises a massive infrastructure lift for small and large productions. Athera centralises storage, creative tools and pipeline in one ‘place’.
The main difference between this major offering to host entire pipelines on Google Cloud Platform and the more general, scalable offerings with other vendors, is that Athera gives users on-demand and flexible access to their preferred industry tools, including the Nuke family, Katana, Modo, Mari, Cara VR, Houdini, Blender and 3Delight. This deal provides the user with end-to-end, scalable infrastructure.
“We’ve been working with Google for quite some time,” says Mathieu Mazerolle, Senior Product Manager at Foundry for Athera. “What we like best about Google Cloud Platform is the performance (hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber spanning the globe connecting their cloud infrastructure) and particular regard for M&E security needs.“
Mazerolle adds that studios would gain advantages not with Google Cloud architecture directly, but by shifting away from the model where IT is something that needs to be done in-house. “Cloud allows converting CapEx to OpEx, which enables project costs to follow the work actually done by talented artists,” he explains. “Isn’t this the ideal for us as a creative industry?”
“The servers we use on Google Cloud Platform share the same data centers and technology that power Google Search and YouTube. The physical footprint of Google’s server infrastructure is, frankly, one of the digital age’s modern miracles: Google Search and everything powering it is taken for granted, similarly to running water and reliable electricity.”
The current model of risky depreciation/amortization of in-house render-farms over long-term assets that hold only speculative value to future creative work.
Using the Cloud allows the industry to shift from the current model of ‘bidding poker’ between clients and studios (where scope+cost is agreed up-front, then projects get crunched as these shift during actual creative work) to a costs+ model (where clients pay for work as it comes, including scope changes).
“But what we are most excited about with cloud is not economics or scale,” adds Mazerolle. “The Cloud aggregates data about people and patterns outside the four walls of any individual studio, and this can be used to help customers make better decisions. The classic example is Netflix or Amazon store recommendations, but we think applications like automated media classification, cost prediction and more easily connecting artists to available work are all game-changers that only a shift to cloud can provide.”
In addition to its networking and storage capabilities, Google Cloud Platform provides essential security for its users. Premier media and entertainment cyber security firm, Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) has been engaged to provide the security audit for Athera. ISE performs rigorous, manual security assessments, and serve as trusted advisors to many of the major industry content owners. They have advised industry associations Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) on numerous initiatives, primarily related to application security.
Athera will be rolled-out gradually over the coming weeks, and trial requests will be granted on a limited basis during this time.