Jellyfish Pictures Selects Hammerspace to Provide Global Data Environment for Virtual Production

An exclusive with Jeremy Smith, CTO, Jelly at Jellyfish Pictures

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Jellyfish Pictures has deployed Hammerspace to advance its virtual studio strategy and fuel its massive business growth. It also saves 20% on its cloud rendering projects by using Hammerspace to enable content and leverage the most cost-effective cloud compute region without concern for where the content was created.

M&E/VFX companies like Jellyfish are seeing data creation, storage and talent resources become more decentralized and distributed across wide geographies. The Hammerspace Global Data Environment platform is the world’s first and only solution to give high-performance, LOCAL read/write data access to global users and applications, of ALL of an organization’s data, no matter where it is stored. In short, it gives users working from anywhere in the world the ability to use their choices of applications, compute resources, and data to do their jobs effectively. 

In an exclusive interview, Jeremy Smith, CTO, Jelly at Jellyfish Pictures, shares more about the benefits of working with Hammerspace, what other solutions Jellyfish Pictures sought out, and more.  

PH: Can you give me a little background on Jellyfish and the challenges that led you to seek out a solution like Hammerspace’s? 

Jeremy Smith: Our virtual transformation at Jellyfish predated COVID. We built our first virtual VFX and animation studio in 2016 and then went completely virtual by the end of 2019. Then when the pandemic hit in early 2020, it massively shifted how everyone looked at remote work. Even with our previous shift to virtual studios, we were still impacted by the sudden move to remote work and our customers pausing their live shoots. Production plans immediately shifted to more animation and visual effects, which grew demand for our work virtually overnight. We hired a hundred new artists to help carry the load, but we quickly realized that sharing large files across the world to keep the remote artists productive would be a huge challenge.

Not only were our staff members suddenly working from home, but they were working from widely distributed home countries, including the U.K., Canada, the U.S., and India. To support our rapidly growing business, we needed to adapt Jellyfish’s technology architecture to allow us to recruit, and rapidly make productive, new artists from anywhere around the world to meet spiking demand. 

Another challenging issue was the high cost of render workloads in more expensive cloud regions. The rendering work for each project requires hundreds or thousands of GPUs and CPUs. The cost of the compute resources available in different cloud regions can vary significantly depending on how busy the resources in the region are as well as the cost of services in that region. For example, rendering in London or Los Angeles is significantly more expensive than some of the cloud regions located further from the large cities. Cloud-bursting render files in the lower-cost regions made a lot of sense for us but at the same time it added the cost and time of moving files across Azure locations. We needed a technology solution that could overcome the concept of data gravity and move the data to the optimal compute and remote artists efficiently – as opposed to moving the compute and the artists to where the data was located.

PH: What other solutions did you explore? 

Jeremy Smith: Traditional file movement methods like FTP, rSync, and shipping physical media were too complex and inefficient with our increased workload and widely distributed staff. Even in the cloud, continually moving and managing huge files around from region to region in a single cloud vendor is a very manual, slow, and expensive proposition.  Multi-cloud vendors makes this even more challenging. 

We also looked at the options available for data replication and management that are built in to our current datacenter technologies.  They did not offer the low latency, local performance needed to support our remote artists, where not well integrated with cloud services needed for rendering and created added expense by creating multiple copies of content in each location instead of offering metadata interaction at each site while only requiring a single copy of content.

PH: Why did you end up choosing Hammerspace?  

Jeremy Smith: With Hammerspace, we saw the opportunity to drive operational efficiencies by first leveraging available compute resources, which we already own, and then, bursting to the most cost-effective cloud region for cost efficiencies. Hammerspace allows us to move data from one location to another, even if they are literally half a world apart.  And, it’s very quick and easy to do through the integration with Shotgrid. Another huge benefit is that Hammerspace allows us to manage and reduce our render costs without adding more time to an already intensive workflow.

PH: What features and capabilities of the Hammerspace Global Data Environment have been most helpful?  

Jeremy Smith: Jellyfish Pictures needs to have the ability to ramp up remote artists quickly and efficiently when we take on new projects.  These artists may be located in nearly any country around the globe.  The Hammerspace ability to make a metadata view of content available to remote artists nearly instantaneously was the primary reason we selected Hammerspace. We need to enable new creative teams fast to keep pace with the growth of our business.  Hammerspace also makes our operations much more automated and efficient.  The integration with our workflow management tool, Autodesk ShotGrid, provides push of the button content orchestration for creation, editing, and rendering using the tools our artists are accustomed to working with.

PH: How does Hammerspace work with the storage system(s) you have in place?  

Jeremy Smith: Jellyfish Pictures owns existing storage systems and compute render farms in our data centers.  We also use a variety of cloud services, in multiple clouds.  Hammerspace assimilates metadata from content in existing storage systems into a single namespace, creating a single global data environment that can use the hardware or cloud services we are already invested in.  Hammerspace also provides the ability for our team to render on a choice of compute environments, ideally fully leveraging owned assets but then also having flexibility to burst to the lowest cost cloud region all to optimize cost of compute while also keeping production on schedule.

PH: Can you describe the top 3 benefits you have experienced with the Hammerspace solution? Any quantifiable results you could share are appreciated. 

Jeremy Smith: First, by dynamically combining Hammerspace on-premises resources and cloud instances with low-cost cloud regions, we were able to optimize our business for fast growth, scalability, and revenue. Hammerspace saves Jellyfish an average of 20% on cloud rendering projects by enabling content and leveraging the most cost-effective cloud compute region without concern for where the content was created. For companies such as ours, this approach can drive millions of dollars in savings annually if substantial public cloud resources are needed for burst rendering.

A second key benefit is that artists can log in from anywhere via the Hammerspace Global Data Environment, making it possible for any user, any application, and any location to share the same data set or content repository. Files appear as local files to users, and artists access their work without making copies, increasing storage efficiency and eliminating version control issues. 

Another crucial advantage is that Hammerspace’s dynamic workloads are always available, so staff in different time zones can work on the same projects without disrupting each other. Our artists can apply custom metadata tags to files through Autodesk Shotgrid or directly through the Hammerspace API, simplifying downstream orchestration and processing. 

Finally, our workloads are also quite demanding from a performance perspective requiring hundreds of simultaneous render jobs accessing Hammerspace from Windows workstations over the SMB protocol. In addition to IOPS and throughput performance, Hammerspace has introduced us to a new way to think about performance, enabling the locality of data at a file-granular level so that users have the files they need when they need them.

PH: From a business perspective, what are the business benefits or outcomes from using Hammerspace’s solution? What has it allowed Jellyfish to achieve? 

Jeremy Smith: Hammerspace plays a core role in Jellyfish’s strategic vision, helping us expand our global workforce in a highly competitive industry, increasing our productivity to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations while greatly reduce costs on multiple levels. The intelligence of the Hammerspace solution gives us far greater control of our data, provides quantifiable and tangible value to our business, and supports faster, more profitable growth.

PH: What are the future plans for your team? What are some of the challenges you’d like to take on next?  

Jeremy Smith: Jellyfish pictures has been on the frontier in creating virtual studios.  We have done this to keep pace with the massive growth in our industry and the rapid requests for our leading creative team to take on new projects.  By deploying Hammerspace we have taken the concept of working from home or a home country to the next level for our industry.  Our plans include expanding our footprint to additional countries and expanding our creative team to further reaches around the globe.

PH: Finally, is there anything else that you’d like to add or want people to know when considering Hammerspace? 

Jeremy Smith: The Hammerspace Global Data Environment is the first technology we’ve found that enables content to be utilized with high-performance local access by artists wherever they work and allows rendering to be performed in any cloud region without creating workflow inefficiencies or multiple copies of data. 

Deploying Hammerspace has enabled us to continue to take on new projects without the worry of finding sufficient local creative talent. Plus, it has saved us about 20% on average on our cloud rendering costs by enabling us to leverage the most cost-effective cloud compute regions regardless of where the content is created. Those are huge benefits Jellyfish and applicable to any company managing distributed workforces and workflows.

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