Sohonet Spotlight on…MPC’s Craig Dibble

MPC has been one of the global leaders in VFX for over 25 years and are renowned for adding visual wonder and creative expertise to the advertising, film and entertainment industries. Some of their most famous projects include blockbuster movies such as The Jungle Book, the Harry Potter franchise, X-Men, Prometheus and Life of Pi, and famous advertising campaigns for brands such as John Lewis, Samsung, Coca Cola, Sony, Three Mobile and Channel 4.

As a leading innovator in the media space, MPC was one of the first companies to recognise how access to “unlimited compute” could empower the creative process to reach new heights.  Craig Dibble, Lead Render Systems Engineer at MPC Film walks us through just how MPC are utilising Sohonet Services to leverage Cloud Platforms securely, in order to deliver award-winning work, in budget and on schedule.  

So, which Sohonet services are you currently using?
The Sohonet Media Network and Sohonet FastLane

What challenges did you face before using these services?
We began working on multiple, increasingly complex projects simultaneously and the timeframes kept decreasing. This made it hard to plan for times of peak hardware capacity. Increasing the size of the render farm has a long lead time, so unexpected peaks due to shifting schedules cause real bottlenecks. The seasonal nature of many of our projects means scaling the infrastructure is not cost efficient.

How are you using Sohonet FastLane
We’ve been on the Sohonet Media Network for the past 20 years, but in regards to Sohonet FastLane; we first engaged with Sohonet on this whilst working on The Jungle Book.

We asked Sohonet to provide us with a VPN connection to the Google Cloud Platform as Google themselves were only able to provide a single 1GB link, which we knew wouldn’t be able to cope with the projected 20,000 cores we intended to run in the cloud in our initial proof of concept design.

Sohonet were able to provide us with multiple aggregated links to give us a 10GB connection, which allowed us to extend our production network into the cloud whilst totally blocking any internet access, to provide us with a secure virtual cloud environment.

How did you work with Sohonet to get this set up?
We collaborated with Sohonet to create secure virtual VPN endpoints in the cloud environment, this allowed us to transparently extend our film and advertising production networks into the cloud. All routing was handled by the VPN nodes so the remote compute nodes “just worked” with our on-premise job scheduler and our network mounted production storage.

How did FastLane help MPC?
We were able to complete The Jungle Book on time and to Oscar-winning standard only because we were able to run millions of core hours (hundreds of years!) in the cloud. The VES award winning John Lewis Christmas advert, Buster the Boxer, was entirely rendered in the cloud, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to create the visual complexity of the animated characters without it.

Using FastLane gave us a solution which far exceeded Google’s own capabilities, and which “just worked”. We knew we had a solution in place which would allow us to scale up our render capacity seamlessly to meet demand.

Why use Sohonet?
Sohonet’s reputation in the Media and Entertainment space, combined with past experience of using them to connect remote facilities long before the invention of Cloud Computing make them the obvious choice to engage with to provide this kind of service.