Framestore Future-Proofs VFX Workflows with AWS

Framestore has captivated audiences since 1986, growing from a modest London-based visual effects studio into a multi award-winning creative studio with six offices around the world and a talent pool of more than 2,400 artists and producers. A consistently smart and innovative use of technology has been central to the company’s core mission since it was conceived, and it has continued to abide by that tenet as their scope of work evolved to encompass high-profile feature films, commercials, episodic television and immersive projects. AWS has been an on-going presence in that evolution, beginning with Framestore’s migration of its internal production management system, Front, to the cloud with AWS when it became too unwieldy to host locally, and continuing with the studio’s use of AWS for cloud-based rendering.

Front is a proprietary suite of asset management tools for the easy review, approval and delivery of content that sits at the heart of Framestore’s workflow for nearly all of its projects across offices (with the exception of feature films). Currently, Front is entirely hosted on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), with Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) used to store more than 150 terabytes of assets. Amazon CloudFront content delivery network (CDN) helps expedite the delivery of video content at all the various stages of completion, from work-in-progress to final product.

“From a logistical standpoint, our primary goal is to get content from edit to the client’s inbox as quickly as possible. We brought Front to AWS about ten years ago and have integrated more AWS services into our workflow as they became available,” shared Framestore Global Operations Manager Alan Newitt. “This has allowed us to easily scale and not worry about storage as we’ve opened more offices. We have the infrastructure in place on AWS to just fire up what we need; it would have been far more challenging if we were trying to continually expand with on-premises resources.”

Building on that legacy of success with AWS, Framestore now also uses Amazon EC2 Spot Instances for rendering content out of its Los Angeles studio. After winning multiple advertising projects with high compute needs in early 2018, Framestore looked for ways to extend its capacity beyond its on-premises data center. Additionally, the work was to be done for a confidential client with tight security restrictions. Working closely with the content production workflow specialists at AWS Thinkbox, the studio established a secure Direct Connect into AWS regions and is now able to spin up instances based on demand, hitting upwards of 40,000 simultaneous cores during their delivery crunches. This setup allows Framestore to scale as much as they need with the highest security at a low cost.

“It is pivotal for us to have the burst capacity that AWS gives us and in a secure environment. We wouldn’t be able to complete many of our sensitive, high resource projects otherwise, and the expertise of the AWS Thinkbox team was integral in implementing our hybrid workflow,” said David Bees, Framestore’s Lead System Engineer in Los Angeles, who also oversees the facility’s advertising content production pipeline. “The AWS console has been easy to work with and we’ve capitalized on the available APIs to streamline the process for our needs. It’s great that the experience is so customizable, from selecting CPU specs in the cloud to hooking into proprietary tools like Front. We’ve even done some initial testing with virtual workstations on AWS with promising results.”

Check out Framestore’s 2019 reel for a taste of what the advertising team has been up to lately: