Thinkbox’s Deadline Streamlines Compute Management for Pixomondo’s Global VFX Pipeline

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There’s never a dull moment at Pixomondo, where artists and production juggle feature film, TV, theme park rides and commercial VFX projects between offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Shanghai and Beijing. The Academy and Emmy award-winning VFX studio securely manages its on premises compute resources across branches and keeps its rendering pipeline running 24/7 using Thinkbox’s Deadline. After standardizing on Deadline in 2010, Pixomondo has continued to deepen its use of the software, identifying and implementing tactics for improved efficiencies with each new version release.

In recent months, Pixomondo has increasingly been computing workstation tasks on its render farm via Deadline, and has moved publishing to Deadline as well. “By offloading more to Deadline, we’re able to accelerate production. Our artists don’t have to wait for publishes to finish before they move onto the next task, and that’s really something. Deadline’s security is top-notch, which is extremely important for us given the secretive nature of some of our projects,” shared Pixomondo Global Head of Pipeline Sebastian Kral.

Kral is particularly fond of Deadline’s Python API, which allows his global team to develop custom scripts to minimize the minutia that artists must deal with, resulting in a huge productivity boon. “Deadline gives us incredible flexibility. The Python API is fast and reliable and more usable than a command line entry point, so we can script so many things on our own, which is convenient,” said Kral. “We can build submission scripts for texture conversions, and create proxy data when a render job is done, so our artists don’t have to think about whether or not they need a QT of a composite.”

Kral and team are currently migrating to a new pipeline infrastructure, a process that has only cemented their appreciation for Deadline’s full offering. The ability to set environment variables for renders or render as a specific user, allow Pixomondo’s artists to send tasks to the farm with an added layer of security. With seven facilities worldwide and the possibility of new locations based on production needs, Pixomondo has also found Deadline’s ability to enable multi-facility rendering invaluable the intuitive nature of Deadline an added bonus.

Deadline is packed with a ton of great out-of-the-box features, in addition to the new features that Thinkbox implements in new iterations; we didn’t even need to build our own submission tool, because Deadline’s submission capabilities are so versatile,” he explained. “It also has a very user-friendly interface that makes setup quick and painless, which is great for getting new hires up to speed quickly and connecting machines across facilities.”

Pixomondo’s more than 400 digital artists are productive around the clock taking advantage of alternating time zones at facilities around the world, and Deadline is constantly in use. Nearly every rendering decision at the studio is made with Deadline in mind, as it presents rendering metrics in an intuitive way that allows the team to more accurately estimate project turnaround. “When opening Deadline to monitor a render, it’s always an enjoyable experience because all the information I need is right there at my fingertips, unlike other solutions that require custom scripting,” noted Kral. “It provides a meaningful overview of our rendering resource spread. We just log in, test renders and we have all the information needed to determine how long each task will take using the available machines.”