Silver screens gather speed to line the cloud
Tony Clark's star, and that of his Adelaide film production and collaboration company, are on the rise in Hollywood.
The Oscar-winning founder of Rising Sun Pictures, which carved a niche as a visual effects powerhouse and invented the gold standard for creative collaboration software, is about to throw the switch on a massive upgrade of its ultra-high-speed broadband network for Australia's filmmakers.
Established in 2004 with a $500,000 grant from the South Australian government, cine.net is an elastic private broadband network that enables Australian filmmakers to collaborate with peers around the world. Originally a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) pipe on Internode's Agile broadband network, with the addition of network equipment from Brocade, it now speeds up to 40 gigabits a second with access points in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Films such as The Great Gatsby, Wolverine and Hunger Games were made on cine.net.
In his pitch to filmmakers, Clark says cost is key. The network scales with production and allows filmmakers to use cloud computing, but letting go of "bare metal ... is a big psychological step", he says.
"Australian filmmakers have traditionally tried to own 100 per cent of their infrastructure [but] there are peaks and dips in our demand," Clark says. "The ability to be elastic saves you money."
Clark says this philosophy saved him $1 million with his former cloud provider. That came at an important time for Clark's now 40-person, $12-million-a-year company as it weathered - along with the rest of the industry - the demise of foreign production in Australia from a high dollar.
Another film production peer, Animal Logic, is also mulling the move of its rendering infrastructure from its supercomputer to the cloud, while HP Converged Cloud services has helped DreamWorks Australia produce its latest film Turbo.
Cine.net's performance is attracting interest from the global advertising industry and financial services. For them, Clark is implementing software-defined networking (SDN or programmable networks) to harden against denial of service attacks. Clark was also part of the team that won a 2011 technical achievement Academy Award for cineSync, a collaboration platform that literally puts filmmakers in the same frame.
It allows directors and editors to work on a film by videoconference, sharing their ideas as images roll on their screens. It is now used in most major productions and has effectively enabled the globalisation of the film and TV industry.