Digital District: Enhanced rendering capacity with Intel Skylake

About Digital District

Digital District is an award-winning French post-production company with a global reach, specializing in feature films and advertising.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: France

Seamlessly connecting on-premises render farms to Preemptible VMs and Intel Skylake processor, post-production experts at Digital District tackle massive compute tasks without compromising on quality.

Google Cloud Results

  • Connects seamlessly to spillover capacity with Google Cloud VPN
  • Accesses cutting-edge, superior performance with Intel Skylake processor
  • Saves 80% on Preemptible VMs

Seamless connections from on-premises to VMs

Whether working on Academy Award-winning feature films such as The Artist, or picking up prizes for cutting-edge commercials, Digital District has built an international reputation for expertise in post-production. High-quality graphics rendering demands massive computing power, and because the company runs multiple projects simultaneously between teams in France, Belgium, and Canada, thehigh-performance servers at Digital District often come under strain. To increase flexibility and help teams meet deadlines, Digital District turned to Google Cloud Platform.

“Google Cloud Platform was something magical for us when it appeared,” says Victor Simonnet, CTO at Digital District. “On both commercials and feature films, we needed flexibility for rendering that was too complicated to provide with our hardware solution. Google Cloud Platform is a way to extend our in-house rendering infrastructure when we need it, without spending a lot of time on creating availability, housing servers, or maintaining IT.”

“We needed flexibility for rendering that was too complicated to provide with our hardware solution. Google Cloud Platform is a way to extend our in-house rendering infrastructure when we need it, without spending a lot of time on creating availability, housing servers, or maintaining IT.”

Victor Simonnet, Chief Technology Officer, Digital District

Maximising efficiency

Rendering jobs for digital image work demands massive compute power on tasks that can last days. For Digital District, scheduling servers for rendering can be tricky, and provisioning additional hardware was expensive.

With surplus capacity on Google Cloud Platform, teams can work without being restricted by limitations on hardware when they need it most. “We began using Google Cloud Platform as soon as we could,” says Victor. “We chose Google for the speed at which it deployed and allocated VMs, and very quickly we saw results in terms of finance and performance. We can have resources just for one day, which is great for commercial production pipelines, and we can adjust the performance of our workstations according to need and pay for usage by the second, so we pay for exactly what we need and not more.”

“Preemptible VMs are a clone of the actual node, but they are 80% cheaper. Because they can be taken back at any moment and are on for only 24 hours, we’ve setup a master image so that each time one Preemptible VM is shut down, another is recreated to replace it.”

Fabien Illide, Image In Network

Digital District built its spillover solution in collaboration with digital image experts Image In Network. Using Google Cloud VPN, the team connected the Digital District existing render farm to a cluster of Preemptible Virtual Machines (VMs), as Fabien Illide at Image In Networks explains. “Our goal was to have a setup which doesn't change the way the artist works. So there is no change in the file paths or the tools they interact with, and they don’t notice that they’re working on a Google server. We’ve achieved that. Artists don't know if they’re on a local workstation or one in the cloud. It's completely transparent.”

“Preemptible VMs are a clone of the actual node, but they are 80% cheaper,” continues Fabien. “Because they can be taken back at any moment and are on for only 24 hours, we’ve setup a master image so that each time one Preemptible VM is shut down, another is recreated to replace it. For Digital District, all they see is a small box in which they enter the number of servers they want, and within one minute, they have them. It's very easy for them to add or remove instances.”

“Without Image In Network, we would have no cloud solution,” says Victor. “They introduced me to it, set it up, tested it with me, maintain it, and continue to go deeper into it, to automate steps in the process. They’ve made a huge investment that solved problems with our old setup that were creating delays in production.”

“Both Intel and Google work with software creators in the industry to optimise the tools we use in post-production. There is this great synergy between Google, Intel, CGI editors, and network specialists like Image In Network that hugely benefits our work.”

Victor Simonnet, Chief Technology Officer, Digital District

Ideal synergy with Intel Skylake

“One of the greatest benefits of using Google is that we have the newest technology,” says Victor, “Like the Intel Skylake processor, which we could use nine months before it was available on other cloud providers.” Skylake VMs, also known as Intel Xeon Scalable processors, deliver up to 96 vCPUs and 624GB of memory per machine. That means that compared to the previous generation Xeon, Skylake provides up to 20% faster compute performance, up to 82% faster HPC performance on optimized code, and almost double the memory bandwidth. The increased performance also means that fewer servers can be engaged to deliver the same computational power, which reduces spending on software licenses that are typically priced by the machine.

“Skylake gives us two things,” says Victor. “First of all, the performance on its 96 vCPU virtual machines is greater than what we can buy today from my office, so we can create more impressive simulations and produce more detailed rendering more quickly. Secondly, we can save costs renting one node instead of two nodes for the same calculation. On top of that, both Intel and Google work with software creators in the industry to optimise the tools we use in post-production. There is this great synergy between Google, Intel, CGI editors, and network specialists like Image In Network that hugely benefits our work.”

A global, fully virtual studio

Digital District has studios in three countries and plans to expand into Los Angeles and Mumbai. Thanks to the undersea fibre optic network connecting Google datacenters, collaboration between studios is simple and separate teams can share resources without compromising on latency, as Victor explains.

“In the future, we want a workstation that has just finished rendering in Paris to render for Mumbai or Montreal, so that the cost of production can be split between offices and projects. Ultimately, we want a fully virtual studio, with everything in the cloud. It's the future of our industry. In ten years, it will be normal. We want to get there first.”

About Digital District

Digital District is an award-winning French post-production company with a global reach, specializing in feature films and advertising.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: France

About Image In Network

Based in Paris, Image In Network creates custom solutions for digital imaging, including rendering, sound design, hosting, and hardware.

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