Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Sohonet Spotlight On: Jonathan Brazier, Group Computer Systems Manager at The Mill

Asset Management, distribution and software
London, UK
Sohonet talks to The Mill’s Jonathan Brazier about how the visual effects house is utilising their cloud services
The Mill is one of the top visual effects and content creation studios collaborating on projects for the advertising, gaming and music industries. Playing home to many talented artists and technologists, The Mill is no stranger to the industry--regularly partnering with the world’s leading agencies, groundbreaking directors, creative firms and visionary brands.
For the past 26 years, The Mill has been consistently recognized by peers and clients for delivering outstanding work and has earned the most prestigious industry awards for craft, creativity and innovation. Some of their most outstanding accolades include Cannes Lions, AMPAS (EMMY), D&AD, VES, British Arrows, LIA, Shots, CLIO, and of course the Oscar they won in 1991 for Ridley Scott’s epic, Gladiator.
Some of The Mill’s most recent and notable works include; John Lewis’s ‘Moz The Monster’, Heathrow’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Flight’ and Bud Light’s ‘Wizard’.
In this spotlight, Sohonet talks to The Mill’s Jonathan Brazier about how they’ve been working with Sohonet to do exactly that.
Q> Jonathan, could you give us a short overview of the role your team play at The Mill?

JB> In addition to overseeing the management of The Mill’s global network & infrastructure, our team is largely focused on developing solutions and innovations to further The Mill's digital post production business in its London, New York, Chicago & Los Angeles offices.

Q> Great, and which Sohonet services are you currently using?

JB> The Mill is a longstanding customer of Sohonet’s, we’ve been on the Sohonet Media Network for a number of years now, but more recently we began to utilise Sohonet FastLane; a product which serves as a direct connection from our offices directly to the industry’s major cloud service providers.
Q> What was the incentive to start using FastLane?

JB> The Mill was looking at the use of cloud service providers such as Google and Amazon for 3D rendering. As a bit of context, before using the cloud, burst capacity for rendering was only possible by renting hardware and shoe-horning it in wherever we could find space in the office.

It was a constant challenge, with many companies chasing the same rental pool and then once you had the hardware, finding space, power and cooling to install the kit in the building. The cloud provided the solution, the question was, how do we reach it securely and quickly without blowing the budget?
Q> Have you got any examples of recent major projects that Sohonet has helped you with?

JB> I’d say the move of our London office to a new location was a pretty major undertaking. Sohonet is always extremely responsive and eager to help with finding a solution to a problem. If a service they provide doesn't exactly fit the bill for a customer's need they're more than happy to look at creating a more bespoke solution. The London office move is a great example of this, where Sohonet engineered a point-to-point 10Gbit/s link to enable us to run both offices at the same time. As a result we achieved the move with absolutely zero downtime over a period of three weeks.
Another more recent project involved us creating a direct connection from our London office to Google's Belgium compute region, so we could run some proof of concept 3D rendering tests. We knew of the Fastlane service, which Sohonet had developed to allow easy connectivity from a corporate network over the SMN into a cloud provider's network, so we asked for their assistance. The team worked with us to keep the bandwidth commitment to a minimum so our initial costs didn’t sky rocket.
Q> Was FastLane quick to set-up then?

JB> Setting up the service was very straightforward. We finalised the networking details and passed those on to the Sohonet provisioning team who set up the FastLane connection over our existing SMN link. After some initial bandwidth tests, we were pretty much off and running and able to create our first cloud render nodes.
Q> What key results has your team seen from using FastLane?
JB> After only a couple of days of using FastLane and running our initial batch of cloud nodes it was apparent that this way of working was going to radically change the way we dealt with burst rendering requirements. Since then we've not had to rent hardware for rendering in the London office, we instead burst to the cloud over FastLane when we need extra capacity. We've also rolled out a similar setup for the other Mill locations using the same FastLane service so all Mill studios can benefit in the same way.

The combined Fastlane/Cloud solution is cheaper and more efficient than renting hardware, and we can now can provide extra capacity in minutes whereas before it could take at least 24hrs to obtain extra hardware.
Q> Big question - would you recommend Sohonet?
JB> Absolutely. We use Sohonet because they're approachable and extremely knowledgeable about the post-production industry and its often-unique requirements. They're also great at helping out with more unusual one-off requests extremely quickly. We know we can trust Sohonet to engineer cost effective reliable connectivity solutions for the Mill.