A Few Words with GridMarkets

Having the ability to run simulations on the cloud is my favourite feature of Gridmarkets. Its interface with Houdini is very user friendly and allows me to simulate effects that wouldn’t be an option on a local machine.

Ben Watts, Freelance VFX Artist, Australia

If you’ve been involved any length of time with Houdini, I’m sure you have come across GridMarkets. First, they are one of the biggest supporters of the Houdini community. Through their engagement on a plethora of social media platforms, they support Houdini artists through promotion, feature articles and helping spread the latest news in the Houdini world.

Besides the community involvement, GridMarkets also provides an incredible service for Houdini users. If you have been thinking about a fast, affordable, secure and easy to use way to leverage cloud rendering, you have found it with GridMarkets. The great thing is they also support other platforms such as Cinema 4D and soon Maya and 3dsMax.

If you’re not familiar with cloud rendering technology, the great folks at GridMarkets explain how their service works and how you don’t have to be a big facility to take advantage of their cloud rendering service. As an indie or freelancer, you can be confident in taking on the big jobs that require some computing power through GridMarkets’ fast and affordable service. Grab your coffee and enjoy.

990 Let’s start off with what is GridMarkets? What is your mission statement?

GridMarkets GridMarkets is a cloud rendering and VFX simulation service.

Our mission is to help digital artists succeed in creating art, regardless of their budget, business size or geographical location, by making cloud rendering fast, affordable, secure and easy to use. In short, we aim to democratize creativity – by providing all artists and studios with access to “Disney-class” resources.

Georgios Papaioannou - Still
Georgios Papaioannou – Still

990  Who is behind GridMarkets? Can you give a little background on its founders?

GridMarkets GridMarkets was founded in 2011 by seasoned IT executives and serial entrepreneurs Mark Ross and Hakim Karim. Together they formed and now lead a team of cutting edge IT engineers and experienced Senior VFX artists working to deliver the GridMarkets vision.

990 How did the idea come about and why the Animation and VFX industries?

GridMarkets Mark and Hakim had been observing the increasing demand for computational power across a variety of industries. This trend was particularly pronounced in the Animation and VFX industry: Studios with vast financial resources were able to satisfy their rising computational needs by investing into large data centers or by accessing expensive cloud resources that are challenging and costly to set up and operate. But small and midsize studios were struggling with mounting infrastructure costs and complex cloud solutions. GridMarkets was born to make these smaller studios competitive again by providing affordable and simple access to large studio caliber computational resources.

990  How long has GridMarkets been operating?

GridMarkets It has taken much effort and time to engineer the GridMarkets platform. Since 2011 we have built, battle tested and polished our service with significant feedback and help from the VFX community. My mid 2016, we were confident in the reliability and capabilities of our solution and the decision to move from beta to production was made in September of that same year. Since then the adoption and use of the GridMarkets service has been very encouraging and feedback from the artist community continues to be extremely positive. Tellingly, the main growth driver of our service has been word of mouth – referrals by artists who were satisfied with their GridMarkets experience.

Niels Prayer - Marvelous Machines
Niels Prayer – Marvelous Machines

990 How would you explain the service you provide?

GridMarkets We provide VFX, VR, animation, archviz and gaming artists and studios with a simple, fast, affordable and secure way to execute renders and simulations in the cloud. Through our platform, artists can access thousands of high-performance servers located in highly secure data centers around the world.

We are currently best known for our powerful Houdini/Mantra cloud rendering and simulation service with Arnold and Nuke integrations. But we also serve Cinema 4D users and will soon roll out full support for Autodesk’s Maya and 3dsMax.

GridMarkets supplies render power to small and mid-sized studios, freelancers, renowned artists running personal research projects, VR pioneers and others.

990 Let’s say I know nothing about cloud rendering – how does it work and how will it benefit me?

GridMarkets If you are a small, but rapidly growing VFX studio or post production house in desperate need of render resources, going to the cloud will save you the massive upfront effort and investment and the ongoing maintenance costs required to run your own render farm. What’s more, you’ll be in a position to take on larger projects or additional clients and to grow your business aggressively without increasing fixed costs and risking project quality or deadlines.

With cloud rendering there will be less need to waste time optimizing your render setup to speed it up or to fit it into the configuration of your limited servers.

Imagine having more time to perfect your art and impress your new clients! Because of the cost and speed advantages that GridMarkets offers, you’ll also be able to iterate more. The result is a much improved quality of work that is sure to get you noticed!

For studios with a local render farm that simply needs a boost, you can supplement your existing machines with render power in the cloud. The common belief that lingers is that the most cost effective way to render and to simulate is to own computing resources. This is only true if you can ensure a consistently high utilization rate. However, as we all know, render needs are rarely if ever constant. Therefore, relying solely on your local renderfarm is usually cost-ineffective and therefore uncompetitive. Machines typically remain underutilized, leading to a low return on your infrastructure investment. The opposite can also be true and you may face a crisis situation involving maxed out machines, costly project delays and expensive last minute attempts to rent or borrow machines. A cloud service can help here as well.

It’s really important to think strategically in order to optimize render costs. We recommend reducing the size of your local farm to ensure that the machines left are functioning at high utilization rates, ideally greater than 40%. Then, supplement your local resources with a reliable and cost-effective cloud strategy that addresses your remaining render needs.

Georgios Papaioannou - Still
Georgios Papaioannou – Still

990 Is GridMarkets geared more towards a studio or can independent artists benefit from your service as well?

GridMarkets GridMarkets supplies render power to small and mid-sized studios, freelancers, renowned artists running personal research projects, VR pioneers and others.

Even major studios who have been traditionally cloud adverse are starting to use our service. These studios see the competitive writing on the wall and are driving to get out of the infrastructure business, move to a variable cost structure and have the opportunity to pursue larger and more complex projects without having to worry about their rendering resources. For good reasons our customers are looking to simplify their render process and to make it more flexible and affordable.

It’s worth mentioning that cash-strapped students can count on our support as well, as we offer student discounts – just register as a student when signing up for our service and provide a valid student ID.

990 How do you get started with GridMarkets?

GridMarkets Getting set up only takes a few minutes. First of all, sign up via our website to access the service. Upon signing up you will receive a “Welcome” email that contains a link to our secure cloud syncing program, “Envoy”, and to the HDA that serves as the bridge between your local Houdini install and the GridMarkets platform. Installing Envoy and the HDA takes a few seconds. Finally, simply place the GridMarkets render node into your Houdini scene. This render node will allow you to launch your render process directly from the Houdini interface. That’s it – you’re all set!

It’s really important to think strategically in order to optimize render costs.

We have many video tutorials on using our service available on our website. These include videos on how to get started, how to install the HDA, how to submit a render job to the GridMarkets platform and even videos on more complex issues such as our security practices.

If you still have questions just email us at [email protected]

Luca Viola - R&D
Luca Viola – R&D

990 Can you explain your pricing and the use of credits?

GridMarkets Credits are the currency used to pay for your Houdini renders and simulations. One credit costs $US1.00. One hour of rendering on a dedicated 12 core machine @ 3ghz/core with 64 Gb RAM costs 1.8 credits. This price includes all license, storage, machine and support costs, so it’s really easy to estimate what a job will end up costing you, namely:

(total frames) * (average machine-hours/frame) * ($1.80/machine-hour)

We recommend running a few test frames to determine the “average machine-hours/frame”.

Once you have a GridMarkets account, you can purchase as many credits as you need through the Render Manager, an interface that can be launched directly from Houdini or accessed via your web browser.

You can pay for your credits using PayPal or your debit or credit card. As a render submission is processed, your credit balance is debited.

Because we are mindful of the budget constraints that many artists face, we charge only for render time used, calculated down to the second. There are no minimum, setup or other extra fees.

990 Once you buy credits, do they expire?

GridMarkets Purchased credits do not expire.

990 What happens if my credits run out during a render?

GridMarkets The system issues a warning when your credit amount is about to drop below a minimum threshold, so you can top up your credit account. If you choose not to top up your account, you can ask customer service to return the frames rendered. If you choose to leave a job pending, it will be kept in the GridMarkets cloud for 2 weeks at no extra cost.

990 What’s next for GridMarkets?

GridMarkets We have been supporting Houdini 16 users from day one and are excited to see more and more users switching to the latest version. Once you have Houdini 16 installed, you can kick off your render job from the Houdini interface, just as with previous versions.

We are also expanding our Houdini to Arnold support to a wider user base and are gearing up to provide support for Maya and 3dsMax users.

Felix Rothschild - Still #2
Felix Rothschild – Still #2

I would like to thank GridMarkets and Patricia Cornet for taking the time to answer some of my questions regarding their fantastic cloud rendering solution. If you would like to know further details, please visit their website gridmarkets.com. There you will find a collection of tutorials to get you up and running. They also offer a free trial so you can take the service for a spin.

Also, keep up to date by following their various social media accounts Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, and LinkedIn

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990adjustments

990adjustments

I am a motion designer & developer based out of South Florida. When not designing or animating pixels, I wrangle some code. If all else fails, I watch Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, or Three's Company reruns.