Visual effects studio VFX Legion began in 2013 with what was at the time a revolutionary idea, that freeing artists to work wherever they choose could produce higher quality work. Tapping into a global pool of creative talent, VFX Legion has built a remote work model where the central production hub is located in Burbank, but the artists doing the work are spread across the world.
From its start in low-budget horror movies, VFX Legion has established itself as a respected provider of quality visual effects for episodic TV. To secure this work, the company first had to build out its vision, prove its viability, and find the talent necessary to fulfill its promise. Attracting the talent was the easy part, as the model speaks to those established artists who no longer want to live in big urban centers or prefer a nomadic lifestyle.
The bigger challenge – building out the operational model – also seemed doable, since a wealth of platforms now exists for enabling remote communications and collaboration. All that was needed was a central hub, a business model, operating procedures and processes, and of course customers.
Almost immediately, however, one significant technological challenge emerged. Traditional TCP-based methods for moving data over the Internet like FTP work well for sending relatively small data sets. But their reliability falters when moving large files over long distances.
These tools also introduce other concerns for businesses doing time-sensitive work on valuable media content. Issues include weak security, failed transfers, file size limits, awkward user interfaces, loss of control over storage of files, or a lack of centralized administration, control, monitoring and reporting on usage.
Recognizing these limitations, VFX Legion initially selected an accelerated file transfer solution from one of Signiant’s competitors. For a while life was good, but problems emerged as the number of remote artists and the volume of work increased.
By late 2016, VFX Legion knew they needed a better solution and set up a trial of Media Shuttle, Signiant’s industry-leading cloud-native SaaS solution for accelerated file transfer. After just a couple of days of testing, the company was sold on the solution, which was fully set up and configured within a single day. Rolling Media Shuttle out to their artists was just as easy, as Andrew Turner explains:
“Compared to our previous system, Media Shuttle was a lot easier for people to grasp and understand. They didn’t have to worry about installing additional hardware or software. It just worked without headaches, which was great!”
Collectively, the ease of use, reliability, improved speed and lower cost of Media Shuttle, provided by Signiant’s proprietary UDP-based transfer technology, has been a big win.
The ease of managing Media Shuttle portals also provides additional security for VFX Legion. With quick turnaround work, the company often contracts pieces out to freelancers. The ability to quickly add and remove users, and to only give them access to the files they need, further enhances the security.
Finally, knowing that their file transfer solution is fully managed and maintained by Signiant in the cloud, that all updates and new features are automatically pushed to everyone, and that a dedicated Media Shuttle support team is only a phone call away, made the transition to Media Shuttle an easy one.
Depending on the task at hand, VFX Legion’s artists use a variety of tools – such as Nuke, Houdini, After Effects, Maya, and RedShift for rendering – to perform the creative work assigned to them. For collaboration, project management and tracking, Shotgun is the primary tool, while Zoom is used for most internal project communications. For sending and sharing files, Media Shuttle is now the tool of choice.
For example, VFX Legion set up a Media Shuttle share portal that gives remote artists access to those portions of the central file tree and element library they need for their work, while the actual files themselves are securely stored on servers in the Burbank office. Media Shuttle allows VFX Legion to send recipients an email containing a direct link to specific content on the Share portal, which they can then download, without needing to log into the portal, or even be a portal member.
VFX Legion is now using Media Shuttle to move multiple terabytes of content on a monthly basis. Considering that, compared to TCP-based alternatives like FTP, Signiant’s acceleration performs incrementally better — the larger the file, the higher the bandwidth, and the greater the distance, the better the performance — it’s a perfect fit for VFX Legion’s operations.
With Media Shuttle performing so well, the company is optimistic about what’s to come. As James Hattin, Creative Director & VFX Supervisor, puts it:
“Media Shuttle is a key part of our business strategy right now. Onwards and upwards together! We are going to do more, larger projects, more TV shows, and we are going to push it to its limit, probably expanding our bandwidth to help.”
We look forward to seeing what else VFX Legion has in store for the world, as they continue to blow up the traditional visual effects business model.