Foundry Athera is a cloud computing technology to control entire post production pipeline on Google Cloud Platform.
SaaS (Software as a service) is gaining huge acceptability in all technology savvy domains. Foundry has also dwelled deep into this latest trend and innovated ‘Athera’ to solve complex problems of post production pipeline of visual effects studios. Athera promises robust solution with leveraging virtual studio setup in cloud.
Our sincere thanks to Matt Mazerolle (Chief Product Manager, Athera) for detailed interview and Ben Robinson (Junior Account Executive, Eulogy) for flawless co-ordination. Briefs of the interview are as follows.
Why has Foundry taken the initiative to launch this SaaS model?
Foundry launched Athera in response to discussions with VFX studios, who want to leverage the cloud in order to achieve better scalability and flexibility. We are also keen to tackle the challenges that come with adapting existing tools to work with cloud technology. Our aim with Athera is to offer a simple cloud-native pipeline to the entire VFX industry.
It started as ‘Project Elara’ and got converted to ‘Athera’. Please explain the cause and importance of this brand renaming.
Project Elara was the name we used when the product was in a Beta stage. We wanted to launch it with a fresh new name in its commercial form.
Kindly elaborate about Athera platform.
With Athera, you can create anywhere, with anyone, using any tool. Unlike on-premise VFX / post production pipelines, Athera gives on-demand power and flexibility to freelancers and small studios by using the elasticity and scale of the cloud.
Athera’s key features:
- Organize distributed teams around your own projects
- Collaborate with centralized storage in the cloud
- Gain flexible access to applications on virtual workstations
- Provide elastic render farms with as much power as needed
Which challenges you encountered during Athera development and how you nullified it?
Cloud technology is relatively new, and visual effects work requires very high performance. We were challenged to implement Athera in a way that maintains the high performance that artists are accustomed to when using local infrastructure, but entirely in the cloud. For example, we implemented a custom storage management system called “Atlas”, which makes accessing cloud storage almost as fast as working from a local disk.
How any Animation and VFX studio can integrate Athera in their existing production and post production pipeline?
All production and post-production pipelines are different, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that works for all studios. The best way to integrate Athera is by trying it out and exploring how it fits your studio’s needs. Of course, we are always happy to assist our customers when they experiment with Athera to ensure they get the most value out of it.
Please state detailed benefits of using Foundry Athera platform.
Any studio that wishes to benefit from the superpowers of the cloud should consider Athera, because it enables you to:
- Gain rendering power at a massive scale, but only pay while it is in use
- Have as many workstations as you need, with exactly the performance specs you require, and the freedom to change your needs hour-to-hour
- Have the peace of mind that comes with Google’s cyber-security experts ensuring the safety of your data
- Punch above your weight and win projects like the big studios, but without the overhead and up-front costs
- Transcend geographical boundaries and work with your best crew and favorite clients, regardless of where they are located in the world
How Athera is different from other cloud-based technologies?
Existing cloud rendering platforms work by requiring users to package up their data, send it over the internet, run the rendering job in the cloud, and then pull the results back down over the internet again. Athera is different because the data for post production pipeline is already in the cloud, so it doesn’t need to be packaged up or moved. This means results are more reliable and secure, and you can see the results much faster. While cloud rendering has utility in specific cases, Athera is a much more cloud-native way of working.
What are your measures for client data security?
We have two layers in place to ensure client data security.
The first layer of security comes from the Google Cloud Platform, which hosts Athera. Google’s cloud infrastructure provides secure infrastructure under a shared-responsibility model that maps to the MPAA cyber-security guidelines (https://cloud.google.com/security/compliance/mpaa/).
The second layer of security is Athera itself, whose security posture is independently audited by Independent Security Evaluators (ISE). ISE is a premier cyber-security firm that specializes in the specific needs of the M&E industry.
Athera Sessions are executed within air-gapped containerized environments, served via an encrypted transport through a secure proxy, and safeguards identity management with Auth0.
At the current stage, which 3D Animation and Visual Effects software’s are integrated in Athera?
These are listed on the Athera website:
Why did you zero in on Google Cloud Platform for hosting?
We like Google’s high performance. Every node in Google’s network is connected by dedicated high-speed fiber optic lines.
We also like Google’s focus on the media and entertainment industry. Google is a great partner because they understand the security and performance needs of our customers.
What are your opinions regarding SaaS models?
Can Athera handle VR, AR, MR project pipelines?
We have several Athera users employing our CaraVR offering. These users are benefiting from our elastic computing platform to spread complex VR camera stitching jobs across hundreds of machines to get faster results.
What can we expect from Athera in upcoming years?
You can expect more software of VFX pipeline to become available, especially from non-Foundry vendors. We are also working on projects to leverage machine learning and AI to help customers optimize costs and predict usage patterns.
Kudos to technical team of Foundry Athera to give such high powered and cost effective solution for post production pipeline.