ZYNC

CGSociety :: Technology Focus

8 January 2013, by Paul Hellard


Brian Dewes, Sean Devereaux and Todd Prives have officially launched the ZYNC Render system. Brian Dewes is CEO of ZYNC, coming from a distinguished slot as Head of Production at Brickyard Films. Sean Devereaux is an industry veteran with a history spanning through Digital Domain, ILM and Hydraulx as a Lead Inferno artist and then VFX Supervisor at his own company ZERO VFX. Todd Prives got together with Sean to help bring the ZYNC Render system together, bringing outstanding experience in application development at GenArts, Inc.

ZYNC has been three years in development and used as an inhouse tool at Zero VFX. The beauty of this system is that ZYNC is infinitely scalable for on-demand rendering for all sizes of studio. Designed to work as a replication of a local system. Users may never know they are working on the Cloud. Applications that are available at launch for use within the ZYNC system are NUKE, NUKEX, Maya, V-Ray and mental ray.

ZYNC runs as a pay-per-hour, secure cloud-based rendering and storage program that works on existing bandwidth. There is a small client-based application and plugins that allow the jobs to be run directly from NUKE and Maya. Its also a web based management so it doesn't matter if the studio is PC, Linux or Mac-based.


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When launched straight from Autodesk Maya, ZYNC Render system allows the user to launch as many instances as they require, then drop them when they don’t need them, using Amazon EC2. It’s up to the user how many machines they want and how fast they want the job done.

The software vendors each have an agreement with the client that may differ. ZYNC treats the vendors as partners and not so much as just software resellers. They’ve worked out great arrangements with Autodesk, with Chaos Group, NVIDIA and The Foundry for NUKE licensing and that gives the client access to a pool of unlimited render licenses. “Of course, as ZYNC is successful, the software companies become part of that success, and the whole creative process is so much more seamless to the studios and the artists as well,” explains Todd Prives.

The guys tell a good story regarding the cost of hardware when licenses are bought for productions. “If you’re speccing out a render farm and its a 15-node farm, your cost isn’t built around render licences. If you can only afford 50 blades, that’s what your limit is,” says Prives. “But with this arrangement, we’re seeing that people will be able to render more. They’ll be able to pick off hundreds, if not thousands of nodes if they need it, and then only pay for rendering as a utility without having this upfront cost of having to buy this whole farm.” Todd talks about a situation he heard about where a director needed a change and was coming in, in two hours. The outfit needed the power of 500 nodes. With ZYNC, the solution was possible with the flick of a switch. “This would spur on smaller studios to take on more GUI seats of Maya, more GUI seats of NUKE and V-Ray, because they now don’t need that huge capital investment to buy a render farm,” adds Prives. “In the end, for the artist, it doesn’t feel any different to having a local render farm.”


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Images courtesy of Zero Visual Effects.

Amazon handles all the renderfarm hardware requirements for ZYNC Render. There is CPU rendering for the tools through ZYNC, but as the tools come in to use more GPU rendering capabilities, like the i-ray GPU accelerator renderer from NVIDIA, the more ZYNC can support. “The support for 3ds Max and i-ray will drive the hardware sales to Cloud providers out there, like Amazon,” explains Prives. “There are also up to five nodes in NUKE 7 that are GPU-accelerated and over time, we’ll see more and more existing products move from CPU to GPU power and we’ll be able to provide that on the Cloud.”

After three years of beta testing and industry testing, ZYNC Render has a grand bunch of pre-release users. ZYNC has been getting feedback in user-experience, the billing, and have done work on unmentionable projects but beyond the major Hollywood film work that has been done, the interesting work has been the smaller facilities, and even down to the individual artist users. Atomic Fiction is a great example of what you can do as a smaller studio working in Cloud computing with other huge studios on large project and heavy pressure, ZYNC has a list of individuals who have created amazing work with really heavy lifting graphics, working from home as a freelancer. Alex Brubaker, does work for ESPN on their opener graphics, can start off with a 15-node render job without any of the worry of getting render hardware of his own.

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'Flight' images courtesy of Atomic Fiction and Paramount Pictures

Open API

ZYNC is designed by artists, for artists, with an Open API which is shipping with the ZYNC version and this has had some work to integrate within the project management software Shotgun. “Those guys have been really supportive, and we’ve made it so when a client has jobs, when they’ve done rendering, ZYNC will update inside of Shotgun,” explains Prives. “With the Open API, even if you are using another commercial tool or inhouse tool, integrating ZYNC into the pipeline will be really easy.”

The release for ZYNC in slated for mid January and a little later the services will be available from Europe and Asia.