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Empowering The Next Generation Of VFX Workflows And Beyond

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and… snap! The job’s a game!” - Mary Poppins, Disney Studios 1964.

Alex Timbs, Business Development Manager, Media and Entertainment - Dell Technologies.

Alex Timbs, Business Development Manager, Media and Entertainment - Dell Technologies.

According to a 2023 report from Global Market Insights, “The game engines market exceeded 2 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to observe over 10% CAGR from 2023 to 2032.” Many drivers can be attributed to the growth in this space, but one of the most interesting use cases can be found in film studios worldwide. Game engines are not just shifting how VFX film production is done but also who is doing it. Studios are leveraging game engines to produce movies and shows because game engine technology accelerates the creative process. Beyond enhancing the cinematic encounter, this fusion of game development and content creation realms is a tale of operational efficiency. What used to take days now takes seconds. Producers are drawn to the immediacy and ease afforded by real-time content creation, distribution, and management, all made possible by game engines. However, as these innovative technologies merge, they introduce significant considerations for foundational infrastructure.

The dramatic rise in video consumption and the need for accelerated content production gained momentum during the COVID-19 lockdowns as remote collaboration and the utilization of game engines surged. Throughout the pandemic, game engines emerged as pivotal tools for generating content in constrained settings by refining lighting precision and enabling actors and directors with considerably more context compared to traditional green screens. This approach supported more informed creative decision-making, particularly for directors. The confluence of VFX and gaming has yielded more than just creative enhancements; it is actively reshaping established workflows and cultures. Due to this convergence, previously isolated pipelines, applications, and skill sets in VFX and gaming are now intermingling.

In the realm of workflows, one of the most exciting outcomes of real-time production is the optimization of pipelines, which drive massive efficiency and accelerate creative iterations. Numerous enterprises have witnessed remarkable efficiency enhancements, with a notable instance being a VFX studio experiencing a staggering 20x boost in efficiency. Integrating AI and generative AI into real-time workflows is projected to bring about performance gains of up to 50x, eclipsing the capabilities of traditional methods.

The potential of this combined approach extends even further. Envision a scenario where content is generated in real-time at the very edge of its consumption. This technology empowers the dynamic creation of content based on audience feedback or specific directives, transforming the viewer's experience. Broadcasters have already begun exploring real-time content generation for sports events, allowing viewers to not only select from various camera angles but also personalize overlays and access player statistics. Moreover, photorealism beckons with the prospect of complete character replacement and interactive engagement. This personalized and interactive consumption of content draws parallels to the world of gaming, where players exert control over their on-screen experiences.

However, the realization of these cutting-edge workflows and immersive user experiences rests heavily on robust infrastructure that supports the massive data output. The data must be stored and managed effectively and in real time to work successfully. In other words, storage platforms must be aligned with the realities of unstructured data in this new production workflow.

To empower the next generation of VFX workflows, media and entertainment companies must optimize their storage infrastructure to accommodate the influx of data and capitalize on the value of their metadata, something that traditional storage architecture may fail to accomplish. They need new ways to cost-effectively store the sheer scale and complexity of the data while providing easy access to quickly find and protect files and data as they move.

This precipitates a shift towards centralized collaboration storage. Flash-based storage, like the Dell PowerScale F900, becomes indispensable due to the substantial size of AI models (often tens of gigabytes or more). Still, more importantly, the quantity of high-fidelity media and dependencies that AI and real-time production generate. Dell PowerScale caters to AI’s demanding requirements and diverse data sets by employing cutting-edge technologies like distributed storage, data compression, and efficient data indexing.

In addition, managing the data created by generative AI models is becoming a critical aspect of the AI lifecycle. Newly generated data from AI interactions, simulations, or creative outputs must be appropriately stored, organized, and curated for various purposes like model improvement and analysis.

Dell PowerScale F900.

Dell PowerScale F900.

In this transformative landscape, the role of the cloud cannot be overlooked. While the cloud has seamlessly integrated into enterprise infrastructure, VFX companies must adopt a 'Cloud Smart' approach and evaluate its suitability for their specific workloads. For consistent workloads, on-premises storage and management often yield greater cost-effectiveness. However, cloud solutions present substantial advantages for intermittent and burst workloads in media and entertainment. Should the rationale for adopting the cloud revolve around a consumption model, Dell's APEX steps in as an end-to-end portfolio, offering as-a-Service and subscription solutions encompassing multi-cloud capabilities.

As the merger of VFX, gaming, and artificial intelligence marches onward, the emphasis is squarely on strategic maneuvering. Media enterprises must scrutinize their motivations and incentives for embracing these technologies, sidestepping a mere 'me too' mentality. Evolving workflows demand heightened collaboration among various teams, including directors, art directors, and VFX supervisors. These key players must acquire a nuanced grasp of the novel processes, which typically necessitate a clearer creative vision during the early stages than conventional approaches. The groundwork of planning and visualizing desired outcomes proves indispensable before committing substantial resources.

Without question, we find ourselves amidst a historic transformation of media and entertainment. The advent of real-time content creation and technological breakthroughs isn't merely altering the landscape; it is propelling the viewer's encounter to unprecedented heights. Thriving in this dynamic milieu demands proactive, strategic adaptability to the evolving requisites of the industry. Armed with apt solutions and empowerment, the horizon of VFX and gaming convergence promises a trove of exhilarating prospects for personalized and interactive content engagement. Let the fun begin!