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Google and Sony Discuss Collaboration on OpenCue Rendering Software Manager

There’s no denying that today’s world is mostly based on visuals. If we take a look at the internet or architecture, everything is image-driven and everything revolves around the visual experience. That's why Google and Sony jointly announced a new rendering force, OpenCue.

Architects are already using the most amazing 3D visual rendering software to create almost real visualizations of their clients’ ideas and walk them through their creations in a virtual reality environment.

So, it’s safe to say, the big names in the business industry like Sony and Google will make all efforts necessary to push the limits even further when it comes to visual effects.

Visual effects rendering is extremely expensive, as it takes an incredibly huge server farm to house all those machines needed for the task.

To understand what it is that we’re talking about, let’s take the example of the movie Avatar. Weta Digital had to find the space for 40,000 processors that were needed to process up to eight gigabytes of data per second every day.

The only place that could house all those machines was a 10,000-square-foot server farm. The machines working every day, the farm alone, those are all large expenses.

With all that in mind, giants like Google and Sony decided to join forces and come up with a more efficient and simply put, better way to produce the same, if not even better effects. And they did.

Their solution involves cloud technology. That's why the companies joined together to announce OpenCue, a high performance and open source rendering software manager that has the capability of scaling up to millions of shots if given the suitable hybrid cloud environment.

High demand requires an adequate solution

Content production, or more precisely, visual content production continues to grow around the world and the demand for high-quality content is higher than ever.

This is a real challenge for all visual effects studios, as they are forced to constantly find new and better ways to cope with all that demand. That’s how these studios realized that the real solution lies in the cloud.

It allows them to produce the content of the highest quality, while still keeping up with the demand and offering a cost-efficient solution.

According to the product manager at Google Cloud, Todd Prives, on-premises render farms are still the most widely used solution. However, the security and, most importantly, scalability that the cloud offers, are the right tools that a visual effects studio needs to adapt and adjust to the fast-paced and rapid global production deadlines and agendas.

If you look at this from a technical point of view and take the history Sony has in developing the most amazing software tools, it was only logical to put two and two together and come up with something of an ideal partnership.

The next step of evolution

OpenCue as an open source hybrid cloud rendering software manager is the next step in the evolution of visualization, and Sony Pictures Imageworks use it as their internal queuing system. Its predecessor, Cue 3 was already a product of technological advancement and evolution but 15 years of in-house development finally showed some real results.

This type of rendering software has already been used in the most recent animation and visual effects projects due to its amazing capability of scaling up to 150,000 cores between Google’s suite of cloud computing services GCP or Google Cloud Platform, and Sony’s on-premises data center.  

So far, this software has been used on countless movies and other similar visual projects.

OpenCue Architecture

The secret to the maddening and unlimited power of OpenCue is its most amazing and quite extraordinary architecture. Any software has one but this one is a real piece of art, a masterpiece.

It has its own tagging system so that users can easily allocate specific machine types with specific jobs within mere seconds to speed up the entire process.

Aside from that, it also supports numerous multiple concurrent machines. Now comes the really interesting part. OpenCue allows for specific jobs to be processed on a central render farm. That leaves visual effects artists and their workstations completely free for more important tasks.

To spice it up even further, each host can be split into a number of different processes where each process has its own memory requirements and reserved core.

According to the minds behind the entire thing, they wanted to allow the visual effects studios to fully realize and use the power and all the advantages of GCP as well as the scale in order to create the most extraordinary visual content.

As of 24th of January, 2019, all documentation, executables, and the entire OpenCue source code are available on GitHub, along with all sample projects and tutorials forthcoming.

The first foray of GCP into the visual effects industry

When it comes to the visual effects industry, GCP has been around for quite some time now. The Mountain View company acquired Zync Render, a rendering service that made cloud-based effects rendering possible and easier, back in 2014.

While this was a proven success, as it successfully rendered scenes in blockbuster movies, commercials, and feature films, Google needed something even more powerful.

They rolled out Google Cloud Filestore and a cloud GCP region in Los Angeles in 2015, with the main goal aimed at managing NAS, a network attached storage service for rendering software applications, as such apps require a shared file data system and a file system interface.


Since this open source render software manager has been built specifically for a wide variety of needs of the animation and visual effects industry, it has the most remarkable features. These features include:

● A limitless number of processes a single task can have.

● Integrated automated booking.

● The ability to split each host into a number of processes.

● An individual reserved core for each process.

● Individual memory requirements for each process.

● Support for hybrid, cloud, on-premises, and multi-facility deployments.

● Native multi-threading that supports Arnold, Prman, and Katana.

● Tasks are processed on a central render farm so that each visual effects artist has a free workstation.

● The ability to allocate specific tasks to adequate machine types via tagging systems.

● A highly-scalable software architecture capable of supporting multiple concurrent machines.

So, as we can see, Google has been bringing video-on-demand and live video and editing analytics, as well as an end-to-end, fully managed platform for video processing and so much more to GCP for quite some time now.

The end result of this cooperation is a render manager that will create a revolution in the animation and visual effects industry and make things we only dreamed of possible.

Movies like Avatar are just the beginning, as there are already video games with unreal graphics that are taking the world by storm.

Visualization will continue to improve and evolve, and we can expect even more powerful render software managers in the future if this collaboration proves to be a fruitful one, which it already has.

One thing is for sure: visual effects studios that can keep up with the recent trends and changes will succeed, but those that can’t will have a very hard time competing in the following years.

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