Introducing Autodesk Flame on AWS
Marking a major milestone for an application celebrating it’s 30th anniversary that was once only available on dedicated hardware, Autodesk has enabled Flame 2023 to run on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Autodesk ® Flame ® provides high-end 3D visual effects (VFX), finishing and color grading software used across advertising, and episodic and feature film VFX projects, empowering editorial and compositing artists with cutting-edge tools.
Looking towards the future, Autodesk recognized that a cloud-based solution could provide new, valuable options for their users:
- Artists can now use their single user subscriptions to enable an on-demand, pay-as-you-go model for their high-end workstations, rather than incurring up-front costs for hardware.
- Artists can now embrace remote work with ease, using Flame anywhere an internet connection of suitable bandwidth allows.
- On AWS, artists can quickly iterate and test new, flexible workgroup configurations distributed services in Flame such as Project Server and Autodesk Backburner.
- Studios can now modify underlying hardware configurations, adjusting and scaling elastically to suit the type of project and collaboration experience required.
Autodesk and AWS collaborated for the multi-year effort to define and unlock that ideal cloud experience for Flame. A charter program of lighthouse customers was then formed to ensure that Flame on AWS would be a customer-led success. This charter program included cloud-based companies, such as Untold Studios and Preymaker as well as remote work-friendly companies such as Carbon VFX and Assembly. Systems integrators like Gunpowder rounded out the effort by helping onboard additional studios that prefer to work with an AWS partner.
The Flame on AWS charter program provided a forum to exchange experiments, resolve bugs, and share overall experiences. This built the foundation that allows Flame on AWS to be enabled by Autodesk.
“Now that Autodesk supports Flame on AWS, we can direct all of our Flame clients to supported configurations, in the cloud” – Tom Taylor, CEO | Gunpowder
Flame, on demand
Flame artists regularly conduct live working sessions with clients who need high-performance compute and storage to ensure a smooth and productive client experience. So, selecting the optimal mix of AWS services and architecture to achieve that high performance was critical to ensure an uncompromising experience on AWS.
Flame joins a growing list of content creation workflows, such as editorial and VFX authoring, already present on AWS. With existing services like Amazon Nimble Studio or Studio in the Cloud virtual workstations using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances, AWS knew that finding an outstanding solution for Flame would require the careful consideration of several key factors:
- GPU Capabilities, including VRAM and Tensor Cores
- vCPU Count
- Total Memory
- Bandwidth of EBS Storage for local framestores
- Network Bandwidth for Media Collaboration
- Overall Costs
Collaborating closely, AWS, Autodesk, and members of the charter program quickly identified that EC2 G5 and G4dn instance families, with their A10G and T4 GPUs from NVIDIA, large memory, vCPU count, and high bandwidth, made them the ideal choices for price and performance.
“The G4dn.8xl is our go to instance type, users say it really hits the sweet spot for performance and cost in Flame.” – Brian Sullivan, Director of Cloud Engineering | Assembly
Narrowing down storage configurations from the wide range of AWS offerings was done carefully. For the storage needs of an individual artist, Autodesk used Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS). Configuring EBS with 4 throughput-optimized ST1 volumes, combined into a single RAID 0 volume on the workstation, provided the latency and aggregate bandwidth requirements to play back uncompressed 4K EXR image sequences, or multiple 4K streams of Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHR footage. AWS Storage partner offerings were also used by some customers, such as WekaIO for AWS or pixitmedia’s Pixstor.
Maintaining full frame, high-quality playback in the Flame Player involved changes in the Flame software and a critical Linux kernel improvement, due to running without a physical graphics monitor locally attached.
Using multiple high-resolution monitors, pressure sensitive Wacom tablets and Tangent control surfaces have always been mainstays of the Flame experience. Remote display options like NICE DCV or Teradici PCoIP deliver a familiar and uncompromised Flame experience.
All this is available on-demand, with no large hardware investment, providing a pay-as-you-go infrastructure for your Flame workflows.
“Smaller studios are spinning up so quickly, and scale constantly based on projects. An on-demand Flame allows them to get work done without huge up-front costs” – Tom Taylor, CEO | Gunpowder
Scaling Flame workflows
Autodesk Flame comes with a host of infrastructure services to build workgroups that can be used to collaborate across multiple artists, perform media I/O in the background, and scale rendering options using Autodesk Backburner. These include:
- Backburner for queue management of Autodesk Burn nodes
- Autodesk Wire for media sharing and collaboration
- Autodesk Wiretap Gateway
The team identified the most suitable way to deploy and scale these services elegantly in the cloud to build elastic workgroups, based on artist needs. This includes the ability to share projects across multiple offices, as well as include remote artists in collaborative workflows.
“The ability to scale out at a moment’s notice is other worldly. What used to be a week-long lead time and thousands of dollars to provision a new Flame, can now be done in minutes, at a fraction of the cost. The cost just to ship a Flame to Chicago, could be more than running one on AWS for a month” – Jeff Drury, Director of Editorial Engineering | Carbon VFX
Using the AWS Well-Architected Framework, AWS provided users with best practices for Security and Networking to leverage Flame workgroup components on AWS. AWS Transit Gateway was added for its managed multicast support, which further facilitated Flame workgroups.
“We couldn’t get the Flames to talk to each other so reached out to Autodesk and AWS and were able to solve that by using the Transit Gateway” – Brian Sullivan, Director of Cloud Engineering | Assembly
As workgroups scaled, the high-performance local storage needed to be replaced with durable, scalable shared storage. Once again, the wide range of options provided by AWS and its partners allowed companies in the charter program to test, validate, and tune their solutions to fit their needs. There were a number of solutions capable of meeting Flame’s bandwidth requirements for real-time, high resolution playback, such as Amazon FSx for OpenZFS for a scale up NFS filesystem or partner solutions like WekaIO and pixitmedia’s PixCloud.
“We now have 16 Flames running on AWS, with artists collaborating all across North America. With artists from as far away as Vancouver and Mexico collaborating on projects based in Chicago, New York and LA” – Jeff Drury, Director of Editorial Engineering | Carbon VFX
When customers need additional rendering capacity, Autodesk Burn can leverage additional G4dn or G5 instances, to provide artists with background GPU-accelerated rendering which can quickly scale for increased capacity.
Flame artists can now embrace working anywhere a suitable internet connection exists. The procurement of Flame suite hardware once limited a studio’s ability to scale, but cloud infrastructure now allows teams of artists to be created faster than ever before. Collaboration is no longer bound by the locality of the hardware, allowing projects to draw upon artists from across continents.
By freeing those artists from legacy hardware, they can take advantage of the latest technology available, modify the infrastructure to suit each project’s need, and embrace new features such as Autodesk Machine Learning models.
With Autodesk Flame on AWS, the Flame experience is elevated to a new level. If you would like to take part in that experience, you can find more information by following the links below.
- Autodesk Flame on AWS Implementation Guide
- Autodesk Flame System Requirements
- Autodesk Flame on AWS FAQ
Ready to get started?
The following list of Autodesk resellers and AWS Partners have successfully deployed Flame on the cloud and are equipped to help with your workflow, deployment, and configuration needs.
As a world leader in 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software, Autodesk delivers the broadest product portfolio, helping over 10 million customers, including 99 of the Fortune 100, to continually innovate through the digital design, visualization, and simulation of real-world project performance.