Milford: Producing award-winning animation with Google Cloud Platform

About Milford

Milford is a creative studio based in Stockholm, Sweden, providing cutting-edge visual storytelling for the biggest brands today.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Sweden
Products: Compute Engine

With preemptible nodes and Google Compute Engine, Milford has been able to significantly increase its render power at a fraction of the cost of standard nodes.

Google Cloud Platform Results

  • Increases render power 10X or more with Google Compute Engine instances
  • Merges seamlessly into the studio’s existing architecture
  • Significantly reduces server costs with preemptible nodes

First film rendered with Google Cloud Platform won 20+ awards

By focusing on storytelling, design, and visual quality, Milford has become one of Sweden’s top studios creating CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) animations for clients across the globe. Milford has made a name for itself delivering high-quality content under tight deadlines, despite the intense computing demands of CGI films. With the advent of 4K resolution in an increasingly competitive market, clients have started to demand higher quality visuals for less time and money. Milford decided on a cloud-based compute farm to maximize its graphical rendering power and deliver its projects to the highest possible standard. Google Cloud Platform provided the best solution to meet Milford’s needs.

“The need for more render power on short notice is a problem that, for many years, we have managed by either renting or buying more computers on a per-project basis. Google Cloud Platform makes this process much quicker and smoother.”

John Roxenhed, Chief Technology Officer, Milford

“The need for more render power on short notice is a problem that, for many years, we have managed by either renting or buying more computers on a per-project basis,” says John Roxenhed, Chief Technology Officer at Milford. “Google Cloud Platform makes this process much quicker and smoother. It gives us the ability to set up nodes quickly for our compute farm and when we don't need them anymore, we power them down and move on.”

Maximum effect, minimal hassle

Rendering animation frames is one of the most time-consuming, power-draining parts of the animation process. One minute of film typically needs around 1,000 hours of rendering time on a single computer. As deadlines approach and client demands change, studios often rent out or buy new computers to add to their render farm but this can be prohibitively expensive.

In autumn 2015, Milford won a commission from Spanish lottery Loteria, to work on Night Shift, a three-and-a-half-minute short film, well beyond the scope of the studio’s usual 30- to 60-second films. Milford needed more computing power than any on-premises farm could deliver in the time available.

“For a minute of film you would need about 1,000 hours to render all the images on a single computer. With Google Cloud Platform, we can start up 100 machines in minutes and get that one minute rendered in a fraction of the time. Once it is rendered, we just unmount the cloud nodes. It’s all very dynamic.”

John Roxenhed, Chief Technology Officer, Milford

Milford chose Google Cloud Platform for its solution. With Google Compute Engine, the company could set up nodes quickly and easily and add them to its render farm. The new nodes integrated seamlessly into Milford’s existing workflow in a fraction of the time it would have taken to deliver, install, and configure an on-premises solution.

In summer 2016, Milford implemented short-lived preemptible nodes to significantly reduce server costs. To help ensure that valuable work didn’t get lost, Milford devised an in-house system that automated the replacement of preemptible nodes and synced them with checkpoints in the render software.

“For a minute of film you would need about 1,000 hours to render all the images on a single computer,” says John. “With Google Cloud Platform, we can start up 100 machines in minutes and get that one minute rendered in a fraction of the time. Once it is rendered, we just unmount the cloud nodes. It’s all very dynamic.”

“We’re using Google Cloud Platform computing power to enhance the quality of our images, not just pixels or resolution, but things like the quality of light or interaction of materials. It gives us a real competitive advantage because we can deliver high-quality images in a short timeframe.”

Oskar Wahlberg, VFX Supervisor, Milford

10X power for a fraction of the cost

With Google Preemptible VMs, Milford has increased its available render power by ten for significantly less than the standard rates for internal nodes. It can handle production peaks with ease, scaling up a new render farm in minutes, rather than weeks. This translates into longer films at affordable rates for clients, with no compromise in quality. The short film Night Shift, the first that Milford rendered with Google Cloud Platform, went on to become the most awarded commercial in 2016, winning more than 20 awards worldwide, according to the 2016 Gunn Report.

The studio is continuing to push boundaries and explore new demanding animation techniques such as fur, hair, and fluid simulations. Google Cloud Platform gives Milford the power to stay at the top of its game and at the cutting edge of its industry.

“We’re using Google Cloud Platform computing power to enhance the quality of our images, not just pixels or resolution, but things like the quality of light or interaction of materials,” says Oskar Wahlberg, VFX Supervisor at Milford. “It gives us a real competitive advantage because we can deliver high-quality images in a short timeframe.”

About Milford

Milford is a creative studio based in Stockholm, Sweden, providing cutting-edge visual storytelling for the biggest brands today.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Sweden
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