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Dawnrunner with Nvidia Power!

Have you ever seen an Nvidia Maximus System?!  I had never even heard of it – most likely because I considered it out of my budgeting range for our systems.  That is until Nvidia contacted us to test some of their Maximus Systems on our upcoming feature length film – TERRA.  I will save all the benchmarking data, and technical specs for either your further reading – or Geoff’s upcoming posts – what I will cover, however, is the agility and raw unbridled power of the system.  The Maximus System, combined with the power of a Dell T7500 Precision Workstation has unlocked doors which, in all honesty, were barred to the Dawnrunner team.

For anyone who’s been to our office, our sets, or had direct contact with us in any way – you know that we push our equipment and our team to the limits.  During THE DARKEST MATTER post production process it was not uncommon to watch a member of our small team of VFX Artists to pass out at a computer after putting in 30+ hours.  Sleeping between renders, or playing a maniac round of Rock Band to keep the adrenaline pumping were pretty much the office MO.  Our dreams were larger than life, and we were only limited by our equipment.  There were several instances where we had something really quite cool coming together – but when we’d try to finish it up, it would literally crash our entire cluster.  Thus making all that work, fundamentally worthless.  Talk about crushing morale.  There is nothing worse than having the time, skill, and dedication to achieve greatness…only to have the equipment fail you.

Enter Maximus.  I won’t lie to you.  Whenever we start a massive simulation, or render that would’ve taken a ridiculous amount of time on our other computers – the office chants “Maximus! Maximus! Maximus!” ala GLADIATOR.  Fist pumping and everything.  Then we get back to work.  The biggest complaint I’ve heard of the system is that the ability to do, simultaneous rendering and working – means Rock Band has gone into the storage unit.  No more breaks for renders.

From a business owners standpoint however, it’s turned my very-very small post team, which was already nimble and as talented as they come, into an elite force of post-production wizard-ninjas!  Now, with the Maximus, work never stops. Simulations are being tested, perfected, rendered, while we’re compositing in After Effects, and editing in Adobe Premiere Pro.  It has turned – what used to be a 3-4 person pipeline – into something that can happen simultaneously at one workstation, with one person driving.  The ability to have a VFX artist render, composite, and edit into the scene all at once, allows for not only a more streamlined workflow – but more time to tweak and polish, to achieve the highest level of polish.

Take our work with the Game Developers Choice Awards for example.  Maximus literally swept in, and pulled our butts out of the fire. Read the full story here:  Dawnrunner Success Story.  There’s also a video of our recollection of that story – You can check it out here! – which I feel horrible about.  We talked for so long, and were so animated, I’m sure it was absolutely awful to edit together!  Apologies Nvidia!  You did a great job with it – but trust us, we know how much work went into cleaning us up and making our excited chatter into something coherent!

We are so impressed with the Maximus that we’re taking a second look at THE DARKEST MATTER and it’s Visual FX.  A lot of scenes/shots we had planned out were just impossible with our previous systems, and were ultimately cut from the film.  As the Director, that was insanely frustrating for me, so I am very pleased that we’re getting to do my very first – Director’s Cut.  All thanks to the power of the Dell and Maximus System – and of course, the tenacity of my amazing crew.

More later!


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