Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Creative Cloud? Give Me a Cloud That Can Cook

I’ve got some time on my hands. Twenty-five hours and seven minutes, to be exact.

I’m working on a new short film that I can’t wait to share with you. But I have to wait, because it’s rendering. This thousands-of-frames-long Adobe After Effects project is rendering really, really fast. But also really, really slow. And so I’m waiting for it to finish rendering on one blazing fast (but agonizingly slow) computer.

When I wrote about the After Effects ray-tracing renderer (which this project doesn’t use, by the way), I think I buried perhaps the most important point way at the bottom:

Along with CS6, Adobe unveiled Creative Cloud, which includes subscription pricing for the Creative Suite applications. But is that really what After Effects power-users need from “the cloud?” What if that subscription also gave me access to a cloud-based render farm that is constantly Backblaze-syncing with my work directories and is ready to instantaneously render my 1,000-frame animation on 1,000 virtual machines at the push of a button?

Then what if Adobe removed the button?

It used to be my dream that After Effects would speculatively render my work in the background, using every ounce of my computer’s processing power. Now I want the same thing, but with Adobe supplying the processors. That would be worth a subscription fee.

The “big iron” days are over. Simplicity is the new powerful. Fast is the new good. The computer is the new hardest working guy in the room. Except it’s no longer in the room.

What I want from my Creative Cloud subscription is access to an infinite render farm that I only pay for when I need it. Adobe needs to productize what my friends at Atomic Fiction have built for themselves—an infinitely scalable, virtual render farm—that they’ve never seen with their own eyes.

What I meant by “removing the button” is that Creative Cloud should be like Tony Stark’s Jarvis. “I rendered those 3,000 frames for you sir, would you like to take a look?” This isn’t new technology I’m talking about—it’s simply smart use of existing technology. Which, by the way, is actually what Adobe’s good at.

I’m not a Creative Cloud hater, and quite frankly I find the backlash against it tiresome and paranoid. But Adobe did themselves no favors by launching their cloud initiative first as a new way of paying, without simultaneously offering new functionality made possible only by a massively distributed architecture.

Want to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of your customers Adobe? Make Creative Cloud not just mandatory, but indispensable. And maybe give it a British accent.

I’ll be waiting.

Reader Comments (13)

One thing I've always wondered is why there are no P2P rendering services like SETI or Folding initiatives. I have a small farm (12 machines each with AE, 3dsMax licensed) that I would love to contribute to other folks projects when not in use.

Is this a Kickstarter away from reality?

Also - shout out from a Bay Area filmmaker. I work at Twitter :)

October 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterCharles Wood

This is a huge upcoming issue for me as on my project for IMAX theaters, In Saturn's Rings, we have a huge render, probably the largest AE render ever attempted (scale photographic model the the known universe). There are volunteers on the AE-LIST to create an informal volunteer group of rendering machines but that's obviously awkward to manage and implement - but it's the only option right now.

This would be a tremendous idea although controlling render hogs (like me) would be important.

October 2, 2013 | Registered Commentertest

Sounds great. The biggest issue I would anticipate is plug-in support. But if they can solve that, it would definitely be a compelling reason to pay a subscription. And pirates wouldn't get this performance boost, which may be an even bigger reason for Adobe to explore this route.

One option for the plugin mess: support only the latest versions of plugins that have also moved to a subscription plan. How would you, as a developer, feel about that?

October 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

I agree. Adobe's Creative Cloud seemed to me to be all about solving Adobe's problems rather than solving my problems. It would have been much better if Adobe made it seem more an upgrade for the benefit of its users -- which incidentally helped solve some of their own business issues. A giant as-needed render farm built-in seems like an excellent start.

October 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterChristopher Werby

An AE equivalent to C4D Team Render would be brilliant. Distributing tasks peer-to-peer using 2 - 3 towers and a laptop would be better for simply iterating design concepts / animations, and cheaper than paid access to a farm. These days, everyones building a pile of computers. Render farms are best suited for tough deadlines and good budgets.

October 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterAndres Torres

Adobe Customer Survey. If you are not happy with CC being the only choice, let them know.

October 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterTom Daigon

I'm very satisfied about the CC subscription, cheap and easy !
But when reading their Blog;
"One Million Members" on Creative cloud,
I was stunned !
1.000.000 * 50$ = 50 million dollar a month that they are earning !
euh ...
Is this all we get for 50.000.000 $ a month ?

AE CC still can't match Nucleo Pro (someone remember that plug-in ?)
Or the early version of Gridiron X-factor ! that was promesing !

The people at Maxon keep amazing me when they rewrite their code en you get faster render times and faster viewport-speeds.
We can only dream about a faster AE-version ! instead we get an Alpha-release of Cineware :-(

October 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterJan Scheirlinckx

Unfortunately, you probably won't see unlimited compute for a fixed price any time soon. Adobe would have to pay for all that equiptment and energy and bandwidth, and while they could easily monetize it through a pay-per-use just as Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace, Google, and others do, they simply can't make it free, or everybody would abuse it and Adobe would have either terrible QOS or they'd be spending $500M a month in electricity and computer leases.

Now a "free" swapping of compute power might be interesting. I let you render on my machine for 5 hours, and you give me credit to render on your machine for 5 hours when I need to sometime in the future. Of course such bartering is impractical, so we need a market, but it can still be free. Let's say Thinkbox Software (or whoever) were to do that with Deadline... For every 100 "units" of computing power you let someone use, you get 80 "units" of future credit. Thinkbox (or whoever) would keep resell the other 20 "units" to cover their costs and to allow people who have money but no render power to trade to get in on the market. An open market could exist too, where I sell credits at whatever the going rate is, too.

Yeah, yeah, security, and such... Or you could just use a dedicated cloud service like EC2 or Azure... The technology is there, if you can stomach getting your assets uploaded.

October 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterChad Capeland

Who said fixed price? Adobe is welcome to charge me for the CPU time I use.

October 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterStu

A p2p market makes the plug-in situation even more complicated.

But let's run some numbers...
My very-powerful-but-not-particularly-special PC consumes around $0.06/hour in electricity when running at full-speed (I pay $0.21 per KWh, it consumes 300W if using CPU+GPU, 200W if using CPU only).
If you can divide your 25-hours job into 100 smaller jobs, you can get your render in 6 minutes, plus whatever the break-down and upload-download process takes. You'd have to pay $1.50 just to cover the electricity cost of the people running the render. Make that $5.50 and having CC is actually free for anybody willing to offer 10 hours per day of computing power to the p2p network. $3 and $11 if the break-down and upload-download overhead doubles the total processing time (it will probably be much worse than that!).

October 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

I have a hard time understanding how people hem and haw about the cost of the subscription service period. If you're using this software to make a living, it's a no brainier TAX DEDUCTION.

October 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterBen Ellis

What they should do is give you access to the world's computers over Adobe Anywhere. Really powerful technology, just not set up for out of the box use.

From what I understand it does what you're saying but takes it a step further, putting even preview renders on remote machines and streaming you the result.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with the CC direction. When things like this month's release are done as a point release... (The first CC point release!) I have much to be excited about.
Announcement of v12.1
v12.1 Details

October 12, 2013 | Registered CommenterPaul Slemmer

Is Adobe Anywhere anywhere? Or is there no there there? I'm looking for stories about how it works in the field. Does anyone know a facility that's bought it, and has gone on the record about their experience? I'm sure it has had some bumps as it first becomes adopted, but I'm rooting for it.

As for Creative Cloud... sigh. There are lots of reasons for a software company to move to a subscription based business model. Some of theme have to do with improving the product. But for a public company like Adobe, there's also this reason: quarterly earnings reports.

With a subscription based system, Adobe can post better earnings quarterly, instead of delivering a biannual sine wave of revenue going up and down as updates are released. So fine, charge me for the month, if that helps. As content creation becomes ever cheaper, the prosumer to mid-level production pros that Adobe serves are making slimmer and slimmer margins, so it also helps to be able to scale our seats up and down when necessary. Soon, running a video production company will be like running a pizza parlor-- staffed by teenagers, with a couple of pieces of expensive equipment, and regular utilities to pay. And Adobe wants to be one of those utilities.

So yes, frequent updates with new features are nice, but I'd appreciate a little honesty about what these changes really mean-- Adobe needs to refine its revenue stream, and artists need to be able to plug in and out of services when they can. It's like Vimeo's new announcement of the newest features for Vimeo Pro-- they announce new features for pro members while subtly implying that yes, Vimeo is about to start sticking ads on your videos, unless you upgrade to Pro.

Let's not make the cloud into more than it is. Too much hype might make it a target for attack.

Like, you know, from hackers.

October 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Alejandro
Member Account Required
You must have a free and harmless member account in order to post comments. Log in to your account to enable posting. I don't use your information for anything, I just want you to be who you are.
« M is for Marmalade—Watch and Vote! | Main | Taking The Movies Out of The Movies »