Case Study

beloFX: Creating visuals for the world’s biggest movies, with agile cloud infrastructure

Digital Media
Google Kubernetes Engine
United Kingdom

Meet beloFX

beloFX is a next-generation visual effects and technology company providing high-end digital production services to the world’s biggest movie studios, streamers, and broadcasters. Founded in 2021, and based in Canada, the UK, and India, beloFX is built entirely in the cloud, giving it the agility to respond quickly to the needs of its global client base.

The challenge

From the very beginning, beloFX’s founders knew they wanted the company to be built in the cloud. The visual effects industry benefits from government subsidies worldwide, and beloFX’s clients base productions in different regions to take advantage of them. beloFX knew its clients would therefore need it to be flexible about where it could work. Being tied to on-premises infrastructure would have limited beloFX’s ability to set up new projects across the globe. A cloud-based infrastructure would give it the agility to quickly work on new projects regardless of location.

beloFX CTO Graham Jack also wanted to have the company’s compute power near its storage. Visual effects work, such as beloFX’s simulation of underwater explosions for Mission:Impossible Dead Reckoning, generates terabytes of data. The bandwidth limitations and latency of running on physical infrastructure could be detrimental to performance. Jack knew that the high-speed networking of Google Cloud would keep latency to a minimum, allowing for work of the highest quality.

As beloFX set about building its Google Cloud architecture, it wanted to make the most of the cloud provider’s extensive technology stack, while controlling its costs. While visual effects jobs such as simulation and rendering require significant amounts of compute power, it’s only for short periods at a time. With numerous projects overlapping, it is difficult to predict spikes in demand, making managing compute-power expenditure a challenge. For these reasons, beloFX began looking for a cloud partner.

“We are a small team at beloFX, and we like it that way because it keeps us nimble,” Jack explains. “We knew that it would be great if somebody else out there had our back, who could step in when we hit the edges of our knowledge.”

The solution

With a lot of technical knowhow on his team, Jack wanted a partner that would give his team the space to run the project autonomously. “We wanted to have control over what we were setting up,” says Jack. “I spoke to a few different partners and DoiT really impressed me as a highly technical organization that is committed to engaging with their clients at a technical level rather than just trying to run projects for them.”

Building a scalable, reliable cloud infrastructure

beloFX began working with DoiT in 2021, spinning up its infrastructure as code with Google Cloud as it worked to build the agile, flexible architecture its clients required. A crucial part of this process was structuring its compute resources in a cost-efficient way.

Jack knew that using Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) would enable beloFX to scale its compute power on demand to avoid paying more than necessary. When it came to finding the optimum GKE configuration for beloFX’s needs, Jack leaned on DoiT for support.

“GKE is a very technical system, and the DoiT team has a lot of expertise there, so they were very useful from the early days,” Jack recalls. “What I love about DoiT’s approach is that it is not trying to tell you how to run things. We would have sessions with DoiT engineers to talk through the options and set-up, and then we’d be the ones to make that choice and implement it ourselves.”

As beloFX set up GKE, it also relied on DoiT’s close relationship with Google Cloud and its detailed understanding of its tech stack to advise the company on which machine types to use in which regions, ensuring maximum availability and reliability.

Accessing the best resources at the best price

beloFX relies on DoiT to get the best price for its resources. As Jack explains, “DoiT is our first point for negotiating better prices and getting us credits and discounts in exchange for longer-term commitments. DoiT is fantastic at managing that relationship and negotiating on our behalf.”

DoiT recently helped beloFX secure a one-year commitment with Google Cloud, resulting in significant savings, as well as credits that it put toward Google Cloud compute resources. As part of that deal, beloFX was able to access the latest NVIDIA GPUs.

For Jack, having access to these GPUs allows beloFX to remain at the cutting edge of its industry. “The future of the visual effects industry will include AI technology and machine learning in many different areas, so accessing the latest NVIDIA hardware helps us stay ahead of the game,” says Jack.

Gaining a detailed understanding of cloud spend with DoiT Cloud Navigator

Working on various projects in tandem can make it challenging for beloFX to allocate cloud costs and control its expenditures. Therefore, it has relied on DoiT Cloud Navigator to help it manage its cloud spend.

“DoiT dashboards really let you zero in on where you need to focus,” Jack explains. “Once you start digging in, they reveal that maybe your intuition about where costs are going is incorrect, letting you pivot to a different area to bring the costs down.”

This proved to be the case for beloFX, with the company assuming its compute power would be the most costly part of its system. However, using the powerful analytics engine within Cloud Navigator, beloFX realized that its GKE configuration was successfully keeping its costs down, and in fact the bulk of its expenditure was going to storage. As a result, beloFX is now working with DoiT and Google Cloud to develop a tiered storage system that allows it to find the right balance between cost efficiency and performance.

Configuring access permissions with the support of DoiT CREs

beloFX has also sought the advice of DoiT cloud reliability engineers (CREs) on the best way to configure its security setup for its client environment. Establishing the proper levels of access and permissions for all of its users can be challenging, and for Jack it is something that each organization needs to set up to suit its own needs.

Turning to DoiT, Jack’s team got the initial support it needed to master the fundamentals. Jack then used that knowledge to set up role-based permissions for users across the organization, with access permissions changing whenever a user changes role.

The results

Winning more business with agile, scalable architecture

beloFX now has a reliable, agile infrastructure that allows it to work wherever its clients need it to be. This agility has allowed beloFX to win more work more quickly, while the ability to scale resources quickly to meet clients’ demands allows it to work in a cost efficient way.

For Jack, “the scaling of our compute power is probably the single most important thing for us in terms of being able to optimize our costs in the cloud. Without having DoiT to support us, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Significant savings on its latest Google Cloud commitment

With DoiT’s support, beloFX was able to secure a significant discount on its latest one-year commitment to Google Cloud.

Important combined credits for Google Cloud services

As part of its one-year commitment, beloFX also received a large amount of credits, which it put toward the latest NVIDIA GPUs, giving it the cutting-edge compute power it needs to remain at the forefront of AI-enabled visual effects services.

What's next?

As beloFX continues to work with DoiT to find the most cost-efficient way to store its data, it is also planning to incorporate more GPUs into its compute platform. The company is leaning on the expertise of DoiT’s CREs to learn more about the range of machine types available, with a view to taking on even more compute-intensive projects.

“We have big plans, big aspirations, and over the next few years we’re hoping to see continued growth as we take on bigger projects at the high end of the industry,” says Jack. “We’re really looking forward to continuing the journey with DoiT and seeing where it takes us.”

Graham Jack, Co-Founder and CTO at beloFX
“We now have the robust, agile infrastructure to support big projects, confident that we can easily scale up our resources to meet any last-minute client demands.”

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