Imagine greenlighting the 1993 thriller, Ghost in the Machine, about a serial killer whose consciousness gets sucked into the electric grid and dispatches unwitting victims using household appliances. Only a computer hacker can stop the carnage. Really.
This B-grade film had the misfortune to open the same year as the visual-effects blockbuster, Jurassic Park. You might dismiss it, if it weren’t for those raised neck hairs that beg the question: If an evil force entered our VFX pipeline to wreak havoc with the technology, who would we hire to exorcise it, before it killed our productivity?
To survive in the cut-throat visual-effects industry, VFX studios can hire their own brand of white-hat hackers to safeguard their systems. We’re talking about the highly specialized IT Managed Services Provider (MSP) who remotely monitors and manages the VFX pre-production, production and post-production infrastructure.
A Managed Services Provider can assign an entire IT team to your VFX house and, for less than the cost of one computer geek, keep your systems up and running and your creatives working faster and better. Here’s how they do it.
1. Stop wasting visual-effects artists’ time.
Fans agree, the top box office grossing films owe a chunk of their success to visual effects. The media and entertainment industry’s VFX craze is expected to spur a 12.5 percent CAGR from 2017 to 2025, according to Grand View Research. And yet, Time reports a modest 3-5 percent profit margin for VFX companies.
Visual effects for big-budget films can take months or even years, with hundreds of people working on different parts at the same time. Days are long, budgets are tight, and deadlines are unforgiving. One major setback can squeeze a studio’s margins until they bleed.
Whether you’re the Media Mogul, Creative Director, VFX Producer, Production Coordinator, Artist or Editor, you don’t want creative work to grind to a halt for any reason, least of all technical problems.
The offsite MSP team can run a help desk to answer calls for tech support, triage support tickets and troubleshoot tricky issues. An alert system dispatches specialized support teams to solve problems onsite. The MSP support center is open 24/7/365, so those urgent pleas never go unanswered, and your artists gets back to work faster.
A Managed Services Provider can minimize downtime, allowing your VFX technology to light up creativity instead of darkening the studio.
2. Keep the VFX production pipeline flowing.
Like an ethical hacker looking for vulnerabilities, a Managed Services Provider can monitor the pipeline and run diagnostics that detect kinks in the works. Every component, from workstations to back-up servers, are monitored and maintained. Routine tasks like backups, patches and security scans get done. Period. No delays, no opting out, no unplanned downtime.
Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) prevents issues that can become full-blown problems. Using proprietary tracking tools and best-in-class applications, the MSP’s team gains greater visibility into critical components of your VFX infrastructure.
In skilled hands, these powerful tools prevent the costly IT problems that can clog the pipeline and interrupt your workflow. If a problem does materialize, the MSP’s network engineers do whatever it takes to resolve it—more quickly and skillfully than the typical IT department.
This crack team actively monitors out-of-sight, out-of-mind things like offsite backup. You get peace of mind knowing your backup systems are not only operational, reliable and secure but also MPAA-compliant.
With constant surveillance and diligent upkeep, the VFX technology that supports your Creatives will work as long and as hard as the editing room.
3. Build IT before it’s an emergency.
If your usual M.O. is to fix what’s broken, replace what can’t be fixed and develop what you can’t buy off the shelf, you are overspending your IT budget.
A Managed Services Provider runs a monthly health check that verifies all your systems are running smoothly. Establishing benchmarks and tracking system performance against industry indicators helps to anticipate necessary upgrades and replacements.
The MSP team can take the lead in proactive planning for system expansion, so you have the required hardware, software and network capacity in place before you start the next shot in film post-production. That saves on IT overtime, product rush charges and other cost consequences of last-minute technology purchases and installations.
An added bonus of having meticulously managed VFX infrastructure is that the provider documents the existing architecture as part of onboarding, and every change made thereafter becomes part of the paper trail. Everything is easier to find, especially solutions.
4. Make smarter IT investments.
To compete for future bids from the media giants, you need to know what visual-effects wizardry can set your studio apart, and which next-generation VFX technology can make it happen. From rendering engines to the editing suite, no one knows tech better than the IT team that lives and breathes it.
A good Managed Services Provider has experienced IT strategists who know the current technical environment, understand pipeline performance issues and see how emerging trends could change things. These experts can recommend options for streamlining and scaling your VFX infrastructure to meet the insane demands of the next big shot.
Acting as your Virtual Chief Information Officer (VCIO), the Managed Services Provider can not only help align VFX solutions with your short- and long-term business goals, but also advise on how to budget for them. Entrusting this to a vendor may seem risky, but the payoff is measured in value delivered.
5. All this service and cost savings, too.
By now you’re wondering, what’s the price tag for IT managed services?
Typically, there’s an upfront fee, plus a monthly flat fee that you can build into your budget. Once the Managed Services Provider is onboard, you can cut back on the in-house resources you’ve dedicated to VFX tech support. Your new vendor brings in the best people and technology for the job.
Over time, managed services can reduce your total IT spend by 25-50 percent, according to the Computer Technology Industry Association. But the real value is in reducing downtime. Forrester estimates that every $1 invested in managed services earns nearly $3 in value delivered. That reflects the true cost of downtime and the value of minimizing it.
Put another way, network downtime can cost businesses about 1 percent of their annual revenue, according to technology distributor Ingram Micro. At that rate, avoiding a single outage can pay the annual cost of a managed services contract.
It’s a life hack for VFX businesses
Working in the media and entertainment industry can mean living in fear of the next snafu. The most long-lived VFX houses are famous for both their artistry and their agility. Responding to changes without falling behind schedule means running non-stop at full capacity. There’s no time for a time-out.
A Managed Services Provider can make sure the VFX pipeline flows freely, from pre-production to post-production. By removing the technical blocks to creativity, IT managed services can free your VFX Artists to do their best work, so your studio can deliver incredible content on even the most relentless schedule.
When you invite a Managed Services Provider into your VFX house, you let the heroic hacker exorcise the ghost in the machine and protect your people from soul-crushing technical problems. Creative time is money, and VFX technology powers creativity. It’s an investment with corporeal payback.
Author: Keala Asato, vCIO at GPL Technologies.