Taylor James Powers Remote Creative Workforce Using AWS
Creative production studio Taylor James needed to support a remote workforce and upgrade aging on-premises hardware. The company’s New York office housed nearly 100 blade servers, most of which were 9 years old and due to be replaced. Additionally, the team began working remotely, and the company reconsidered its office footprint to favor sustainability and a coworking-style environment with a focus on lower overhead operations.
Taylor James chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its cloud provider and migrated its workflows, storage, and render farm to AWS. The migration supported the company’s move to a smaller office footprint and improved remote work possibilities. Using AWS, Taylor James increased the flexibility of its rendering solutions and improved the performance of its teams while saving money and providing better results to its customers.
Using AWS, our IT environment has been materially transformed, and our new approach is generating a much happier business."
General Manager of Creative Production
Migrating to AWS to Support an International, Remote Workforce
Taylor James produces high-end computer graphics and visual effects in print, digital, TV, and experiential media. The company has offices in Los Angeles, Mexico, Buenos Aires, and the United Kingdom, with its biggest office in New York City. Taylor James needed to be able to transfer data between locations, and when employees began working remotely in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating workloads in the cloud became even more critical for the company. Additionally, the hardware that Taylor James used on premises needed full-time support, with many of the machines in the New York office due to be replaced, potentially costing up to $1 million. Artists were spending time troubleshooting hardware issues instead of focusing on their creative work. These factors motivated Taylor James to transition to the cloud.
In 2021, the company moved the New York office to a smaller location, and the Taylor James team had 3 months to virtualize the on-premises artist workstations, render farm, and storage workloads on AWS. Taylor James chose AWS as its cloud provider in part because the company was already using AWS services for storage and virtual machines, so it was simple to migrate quickly. Taylor James was also using AWS Thinkbox Deadline, a hybrid administration and compute management software for render farms. “AWS Thinkbox Deadline is a huge driver of managing our rendering environment, providing us with rendering support and visibility on what and how much we’re rendering in the cloud,” says Mark Knowles, general manager of creative production at Taylor James. “We have used AWS Thinkbox for some time, and knowing it was interoperable with the rest of our AWS cloud infrastructure made our migration a lot simpler.”
Improving Efficiency and Decreasing Costs Using AWS
To render in the cloud, Taylor James uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides resizable compute capacity for virtually any workload. Using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, which are available at up to a 90 percent discount compared to Amazon EC2 On-Demand Pricing, has significantly boosted the company’s rendering capabilities. “Spot Instances are fantastic because we can spin up machines quickly whenever we need rendering capacity and can scale that capacity to the appropriate size of the job,” says Knowles. “We had only 100 machines on premises, but now if we need 200 machines to get a rendering back in 1 hour, we can do that.” Taylor James also uses NICE DCV, a high-performance remote display protocol, to run graphics-intensive applications remotely on Amazon EC2 instances. The company’s virtual workstations are powered by Amazon EC2 G4dn Instances, cost-effective and versatile GPU instances for graphics-intensive applications. Using AWS, Taylor James can spin up a workstation in about 2 hours, compared to days or weeks in the company’s on-premises environment, and the company can choose the operating system that works best for the job.
Because of the improved rendering capacity on AWS, artists at Taylor James can spend more time creating rather than waiting for renderings to complete. “Historically, on premises, we’d render a job three times in total,” says Knowles. “We can now vastly increase that number of iterations to improve on quality, client feedback, and turnaround time, resulting in a much better customer experience.” Using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances and AWS Thinkbox Deadline, the company experiences rendering times that are about 20 percent of the old turnaround times, with teams seeing results in a few hours rather than overnight. Because Taylor James teams can render more iterations, the results are better, leading to more satisfied clients and artists. “Now that we’ve migrated to AWS, the hardware is secondary, and our artists can create without worrying about how or why the solution works,” says Knowles.
Using AWS also facilitates better connections between Taylor James office locations. “The beauty of migrating to AWS is connecting to a giant pipe that connects all the way around the world,” says Knowles. “We can get data back and forth more quickly, and our teams can get to work faster.” This connectivity is especially important for the team in Mexico, where hardware procurement can be difficult. Using AWS, artists working in Mexico and New York on the same job are working from the same server at their individual workstations. Taylor James has 1 PB of data in storage using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)—an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance—including 600 TB of archive data transferred from tapes into Amazon S3 Glacier storage classes, long-term, durable storage classes for data archiving. All this data is accessible remotely using AWS.
Transforming the Commercial Model to Stay Competitive
After using AWS solutions for 1 year, Taylor James is gathering valuable data on which machines produce the best results for its various types of workloads. The company will use this information to be more efficient, cost effective, and competitive. “Using AWS gives us transparency over what rendering, storage, and hardware costs on a per-project basis,” says Knowles. “We can aggregate that data and come up with a more effective commercial model for the business, understanding the true cost of production.”
Taylor James artists are equipped to be fully remote using AWS, and the company has received positive feedback from employees. “We know that computer graphics and postproduction teams work really hard, and we’ve tried to bring the work-life balance back into the business by having a fully remote solution using AWS,” says Knowles. “Using AWS, our IT environment has been materially transformed, and our new approach is generating a much happier business.”
About Taylor James
Taylor James is a full-service, integrated production studio that specializes in translating creative ideas into high-quality content through concept design, computer-generated imagery, 2D and 3D animation, live action, photography, visual effects, and postproduction.
Benefits of AWS
- Increased flexibility to spin up machines
- Improved rendering performance by 5x
- Increased iterations per project
- Enhanced quality of work because of increased iterations
- Facilitated remote work
- Improved connection between different Taylor James offices
- Increased financial transparency and cost efficiency
- Boosted workforce happiness
AWS Services Used
AWS Thinkbox Deadline
AWS Thinkbox Deadline is a hassle-free hybrid administration and compute management software for Windows, Linux, and mac OS based render farms, supporting more than 80 different content creation applications out of the box.
Amazon EC2 Spot Instances
Amazon EC2 Spot Instances let you take advantage of unused EC2 capacity in the AWS cloud. Spot Instances are available at up to a 90% discount compared to On-Demand prices.
NICE DCV is a high-performance remote display protocol that provides customers with a secure way to deliver remote desktops and application streaming from any cloud or data center to any device, over varying network conditions.
Amazon EC2 G4dn Instances
Amazon EC2 G4 instances deliver the industry’s most cost-effective and versatile GPU instance for deploying machine learning models in production and graphics-intensive applications.
Organizations of all sizes across all industries are transforming their businesses and delivering on their missions every day using AWS. Contact our experts and start your own AWS journey today.