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February 2017

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DEPARTMENT 2 POST FEBRUARY 2017 eattle's StratusCore offers cloud-based content production technology for large studios and individual visual effects artists. The company's StratusCore platform provides digital artists with affordable access to popular content creation tools, as well as access to a market- place of projects to which they can submit their credentials. Denise Muyco is the co-founder and CEO of StratusCore. She was initially recruited to work on what was going to be a co-op product between approximately 30 studios and Vancouver- based technology companies. The StratusCore platform has since become generally available to individual artists within the visual effects industry, 45,000 of whom have already signed up to take advantage of its cost efficiencies. Studio clients include Netflix, Sony, Disney, Pixar and ILM, among others. According to Muyco, "latency and security" were two factors that needed to be overcome in order for the StratusCore platform to see widespread adoption. The platform currently allows artists to remotely access tools from Autodesk, The Foundry, Nvidia and Chaos Group. This offers substantial cost savings, which StratusCore estimates can add up to as much as $30,000 in license and hardware fees. The company's pay-as-you-go approach requires that artists only pay for the time they use the tools, removing the high cost of entry and bringing the average cost of entry down to just $1,500. Pricing can vary depending on whether a user is working on a public cloud or within StratusCore's private cloud. A virtual workstation can be rented for as short a period as one day. Rendering is offered on a per-core-hour basis. Storage is available at a monthly rate. The company offers fixed-rate contracts, which offer efficiencies to smaller VFX studios, and a number of rendering options based on a studio's anticipated needs. Muyco says StratusCore has a roadmap for 2017 that will expand the range of content creation tools they offer. "It's all about, what's the priority," she says, referring to customer demands. "We generally let customers dictate what's next. We have a roadmap we want to follow in terms of categories in the content creation continuum. In 2017, we should have a full pipeline and see a full suite of all software in every category." s awards season continues, and all eyes are on the Oscars, there are plenty of other industry trophies and accolades being handed out for those working below the line, such as directors, cinematographers, visual effects pros and the like. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the BAFTA Awards, for instance, not only honors on-screen talent, but also those working to deliver outstanding editing, sound, direct- ing, visual effects, cinematography, animation and documentary filmmaking. The 69th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards were handed out earlier this month. This year, director Damien Chazelle won big for La La Land (no big surprise there). For cinematography, the 31st annual ASC Awards were presented with Lion's Greig Fraser, ASC taking the top film prize, while Game of Thrones and The Night Of grabbed the TV honors. The Visual Effects Society (VES) is celebrating two milestones this year — its 20th anniver- sary and 15th Annual VES Awards (earlier this month). Big winners include The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings and, for broadcast television, Game of Thrones yet again. According to Mike Chambers, VES chair, "There are a few visual effects awards out there, the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs and the Emmys, which have their own version as well, but that just goes to one film, one small group of folks. The VES is an organization that represents the full spectrum of artists, skills and talents. That's something we felt should be reflected be- cause there are a lot of different skill sets — compositing, model making, obviously animation. We wanted to acknowledge the different types of work that's being done." The VES also honored Marvel executive producer Victoria Alonso with its special Visionary Award which, as Chambers explains, "is aimed at somebody who really has had a far-reaching effect on our business and our art. I think it's safe to say that Victoria, who's been in this busi- ness for quite some time, has had a true impact on how the business operates. The business models for visual effects in feature film have changed considerably over the past 20 years, and I think that Victoria and Marvel have been at the forefront of making that happen." Read my full interview with Victoria, on page 16, as well as the complete Q&A with Mike Chambers online at! 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