Qube! Powers Award-Winning Medical Animation
Staff Writer By: PipelineFX Press Release
[Source: PipelineFX Press Release]
LOS ANGELES, CA (August 2, 2016) - Not every animation company can say that its work directly helps humanity. But not every animation company is Nucleus Medical Media. The largest employer of graduate medical artists and writers in the world, Nucleus provides animations to clients ranging from hospitals needing to show patients how to care for themselves after surgery to attorneys hoping to clarify the details of court cases. While lives may not literally hang in the balance from its work, justice and patient well-being certainly do.
And to ensure that its animations are delivered on time, on budget - and most of all, without having to compromise accuracy or detail in order to do so - Nucleus Medical Media relies on Qube!, PipelineFX's flexible, intelligent render farm management software.
A world-leading provider of medical animation
Founded in 1997 by Ronald L. Collins and Keith A. Pavlik, Nucleus Medical Media is now one of the world's leading providers of medical illustrations, medical animations, and interactive multimedia. The company employs over 30 people, many of them specialist medical illustrators and animators, with staff educated at institutions including the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Medical College of Georgia, the University of Toronto and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Nucleus' 24,000-plus medical illustrations and more than 1,200 medical animations are seen by millions of people each month, in print, in broadcasting - and not least, on its YouTube channel, which now has over 260 million views. Its work has won multiple prizes, including five Awards of Excellence from the Association of Medical Illustrators, and has been screened three times at SIGGRAPH.
"We have two avenues of production: custom and products," explains Eric Small, Nucleus's Technical Director of Animation: the man responsible for introducing Qube! to the studio. "Our custom content depends on the pharmaceutical and medical device clients our sales team brings in, while our product animations are created to educate people in hospitals, universities and K-12 schools. We also create custom animations for attorneys to educate juries during litigation."
A rigorous choice of render manager
Nucleus' choice of Qube! was completely impartial: before implementing it at Nucleus Medical Media, Small had literally never heard of the software, or of PipelineFX itself. "Prior to Qube!, we were using the built-in network rendering in Cinema 4D, our primary 3D application," he says. "It was a simple Google search for '3D render managers for Cinema 4D' that informed me of its existence."
But while the discovery may have been fortuitous, Small and Nucleus' IT Director, Lutrell Alford, did their research carefully before proceeding any further, rejecting two of Qube!'s competitors on the grounds of price or customer support, and contacting several studios listed in PipelineFX's website in order to get an opinion from previous users.
According to Small, what finally swung the decision in Qube!'s favor was PipelineFX's customer care. "As this was our first time using any third-party render management, there were lots of questions while we were getting set up," he says. "I'm sure it felt like hand-holding to the Qube! developers, but they were very patient and helpful."
Qube! - flexible and stable under pressure
Nucleus Medical Media now uses Qube! to manage its Cinema 4D renders, and plans to expand its use to include After Effects later this year. The studio has an 82-node render farm, with each worker machine running a four or eight-core CPU, plus a supervisor machine with a 12-core CPU, and a NAS with 3 ssd's acting as a file server; while 10 further artist workstations are added to the farm after work hours.
Qube! had to perform right from the start: in the few months that Nucleus has been using the render farm manager, Small estimates that its farm has rendered over 2,000 shots, some at 4K resolution. "As a medical animation studio, we work on a lot of shorter pieces: two to six minutes in length," he says. "Often, an animator may be working on as many as eight animations at one time."
During that time, Nucleus has come to value Qube!'s flexibility. "The fact that everything is written in Python means that it can be customized any which way," Small says. "We can cluster workers however we want, or update them through the command line, and Qube!'s support for Lights Out Management means that the machine doesn't even have to be powered on at the time."
However, Small says that the biggest benefit of using Qube! is its reliability. "Being able to let the farm just render has taken a huge burden off us," he says. "We estimated that the technical department was spending as much as 20 hours a week - half the working week - just babysitting the farm. After Qube!, this has dropped to two or three hours a week."
Taking the stress out of medical animation
"With our production flow, I don't think I could put a value on having a render farm [remain accessible at all times]," says Eric Small. "With eight animators working on multiple animations, all at different phases of production, it is vital to have instant access to a rendering network."
And while Qube! ensures that Nucleus Medical Media's farm always stands ready to respond to the needs of its animators, Qube!'s creators stand ready to respond to Nucleus's own needs - even sending a developer to the studio to do in-house training. "It was incredibly helpful to hear directly from PipelineFX about how best to setup the software," says Small. "It would have taken months to figure out all those tips and tricks on our own!"
About Nucleus Medical Media