Friday, February 3rd, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

StratusCore launches one-stop cloud service for CG artists

StratusCore has launched a complete new cloud-based production platform for CG artists, enabling users to rent virtual workstations, complete with 2D or 3D software, online storage and on-demand rendering.

The browser-based system enables artists to create content from any device, anywhere with a high-speed internet connection, without needing to worry about software licences or their local hardware.

So who is StratusCore?
Founded in 2011, StratusCore describes itself as just emerging from “stealth mode”.

Up to now, the company’s services have primarily been used by large entertainment firms, with clients including DreamWorks, Sony Interactive Entertainment and Netflix.

According to StratusCore, “more than 45,000 digital artists worldwide have Stratus IDs”.

Rent 2D or 3D virtual workstations with software already set up
Registering on StratusCore’s website enables users to log into a virtual dashboard from which they can rent virtual workstations, buy cloud rendering credits, or access online storage.

Workstations come in 2D and 3D configurations, and while there’s no indication of hardware specs within the dashboard, they’re presumably powerful enough to run standard CG software.

In the case of the 2D workstation, that means Flash and Illustrator, while 3D artists can also choose software including 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, Blender, Nuke and CAD tools like Rhino.

The dashboard itself (shown below) doesn’t list the render engines available, but StratusCore’s website namechecks V-Ray, RenderMan, 3Delight and mental ray.

Rent online render services via Render Rocket
Online rendering is provided by established cloud-based rendering firm Render Rocket, which StratusCore now owns.

Artists can either use Render Rocket’s standard credit-based cloud service, or rent private render machines by the month. These come in 2D and 3D configurations with between 4 and 16 CPU cores.

Online storage, collaboration and artist search tools
Other services include rented online cloud storage, online collaboration through shared project directories and secure private email,

According to StratusCore, its entire platform is Motion Picture Association-compliant, “meeting the highest standards of security required by the industry”.

There is also a ‘Find an Artist’ system, which enables facilities to search for artists with particular software skills and levels of experience.

Both are measured through previous use of the service, so at the minute, the options are limited – you can search for users with experience of Maya 2010, but not more recent versions of the software, for example – but it will presumably become more useful as more users sign up.

According to StratusCore, rental of a virtual 3D workstation costs from $181-273/day – when we tested, we were quoted a figure in the middle of that price bracket – scaling to $6,876-10,377/quarter.

That includes software licences, so you can choose either a single 3D application or all of the options available without affecting the price. 2D machines work out around 50% cheaper.

Cloud rendering is charged at Render Rocket’s standard rates, while rental of a private virtual render machine costs $18-26/day, scaling to $687-1,000/quarter.

Private Tier 1 storage costs $120/month for 1TB, public storage slightly less, and there are also data-transfer fees. Project email and user authentication and permissioning are free.

StratusCore also tells us that it is working on creating “additional bundled pricing to offer further discounts for customers who need more than one of our services”.

A one-stop DCC cloud production platform – although not a cheap one
StratusCore’s service is effectively a one-stop shop for artists needing a complete cloud-based set-up: for example, when working on the move where you only have access to a laptop.

While you could stitch together a similar set-up through online software subscriptions and cloud services – Autodesk has a guide to running its software on Amazon’s EC2 cloud here, for example – the StratusCore system collects everything together into a single dashboard.

The pricing will probably appeal more to facilities rather than individual artists – we can’t see too many freelancers wanting to pay $200+ per day, unless they can bill it to the client – but it may be an option to bear in mind if you need to work on the move a lot, or set up a remote team.

Read StratusCore’s official press announcement

Read more about StratusCore’s cloud-based artist services on the company’s website