Where did Hive VFX’s journey begin?

Bernie Kimbacher, Founder of Hive VFX, set up his studio with a rather unique business model ­– he has been able to build a studio single handedly, collaborating exclusively with a hub of freelancers.

Working primarily with Netflix to date, Hive VFX has most recently completed the Netflix Original Film, ‘Spenser Confidential’. Bernie worked with 11 people for the project, some full-time, some part-time, over the duration of roughly two months. From the get-go the studio was operating using virtual workstations on AWS, giving Bernie the opportunity to grow his team to match their project’s demands, while also adapting his infrastructure accordingly. He was then able to scale everything back down once the project was delivered.

“I was able to scale my business from nothing. Now we can execute on a high volume of shots, and there was no investment needed. I didn’t need loans from banks, and I think that is unique. It just wasn't possible before.”

– Bernie Kimbacher, Founder of Hive VFX

Image courtesy of Netflix

What first attracted Hive VFX to AWS?

Discussing on-premises solutions, Bernie explained the hurdles that start-ups face: “If you want to build a high-performance infrastructure, the cost is such that I don't know how one person starting a studio can do it, without outside investment. It’s next to impossible.”

The fact that Bernie was able to set up a production-grade content creation pipeline on a pay-as-you-go basis was incredibly useful. He explained that not only do you avoid the typical start-up costs that come with on-premises hardware, but also that you can just try it all out, without making any commitments, “If you use it just for a day, you literally pay a few dollars to have a very high performing production environment.”

The flexibility was a game-changer. Bernie loved that he was able to use, test, and play on the most modern infrastructure available for a digital content creation studio ­– and only pay for what the studio used.

“Data security and data durability is obviously a huge deal too. AWS just makes it incredibly easy. Having a multi-region data backup that doesn’t require maintenance is huge.”

– Bernie Kimbacher, Founder of Hive VFX

How did Hive VFX feel about the set-up process?

Coming from an artist background, and self-proclaimed to not be ‘an IT person’, Bernie found the implementation of AWS relatively straightforward, he said: “You build yourself what's called an Amazon Machine Image (or AMI). One machine has all the software, drivers, and everything else you need installed – then you make an AMI out of that. Once you have the AMI, you can just spawn new instances from the AMI and it's more or less the click of a button.”

He went on to explain how he can change the infrastructure, as and when required: “I can spin up an Amazon FSx for Lustre file system in five minutes and it's all managed by AWS. I don't have to worry about the nodes in the background that are running it or the multiple network connections that are happening, all of that is just managed for me. As a small studio, having access to that kind of infrastructure is crucial. AWS just feels more approachable for me, being that I am a creative person and not a tech person.”

“You have direct tech support when you need to figure things out. The support team is very eager to hear about your specific use case to see if they can implement new features that will make things easier for you. Support at AWS has definitely been very, very helpful.”

– Bernie Kimbacher, Founder of Hive VFX

Image courtesy of Netflix

How do virtual workstations on AWS impact Hive VFX’s day-to-day?

Powered by the latest generation of NVIDIA® GPUs, the NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU, AWS EC2 G4 instances also feature NVIDIA Quadro® technology, providing Hive VFX with high-performance simulation, rendering, and design. Bernie commented, “Upgrading from the G3 to G4 instance was simple and in minutes, artists had access to a new generation of NVIDIA GPUs that deliver the latest in computer graphics and performance.”

Being ‘location independent’ and having the freedom to work anywhere was another priority for Bernie – he explained how it’s already proving to be beneficial: “I'm in Austria right now and I was able to continue working on a project that got extended. I can just keep working from wherever I am.” With a comprehensive global footprint of availability, virtual workstations on AWS provide Bernie with the opportunity and flexibility to work with freelancers and customers all over the world.

“We mostly use the Oregon AWS region, but it’s nice to be able to easily switch to one on the East Coast, Europe, or wherever when needed. This gives us more agility because we can tap artists in other locales, including emerging VFX hubs like Toronto.”

– Bernie Kimbacher, Founder of Hive VFX

Image courtesy of Netflix

How does Hive VFX see cloud computing impacting the industry long-term?

With streaming services such as Netflix firmly established, there’s already been a significant shift in the Media & Entertainment industry. Bernie noted, “I find that people really want a different work environment, especially more experienced people.” Looking to the long-term he predicts, “the cloud will just be the norm”, but even in the near future, he anticipates big changes – with previous entry hurdles of funds and technology being resolved for start-ups through cloud innovation. Bernie commented, “You used to have a few fairly large studios and they did all the work. I think now it almost gets democratized, where everybody can quite easily open up a shop.”

What advice would Hive VFX give to a studio considering the move?

Operating in the cloud works for Hive VFX – Bernie explained why he’d encourage others to embrace the change too: “Don't be afraid. I think so many people for one reason or another, dismiss it. It's essentially a free playground. Why don't you just play around with it a little bit and see what happens? Because you have no commitment whatsoever.”

“If you can come up with a good plan and a good team, you can do it now.”

– Bernie Kimbacher, Founder of Hive VFX

Image courtesy of Netflix

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