DENVER — International engineering services company WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff specializes in civil infrastructure and architecture. In collaborating with its clients, visual communication is a crucial storytelling tool, for which the company leans on a dedicated Project Visualization division. Offering services that span design visualization, Web development, multimedia and graphic design, the group is based in WSP-PB's Denver office, with a small contingent in Seattle and New York. On average, the 30-person group juggles 20 to 30 projects at a time, relying on Thinkbox Software's Deadline (www.thinkboxsoftware.com) to stay organized and optimize resources.
The team leverages a 50-machine Windows-based render farm spread across WSP-PB’s Denver and Seattle offices. Deadline unifies the machines into one farm and helps keep them running efficiently. Deadline has also proven an effective tool to deploy software patches and updates to machines, without working through IT.
WSP-PB project visualization technical lead Mark Kauffman, who manages the technical aspects of production, the render farm and IT infrastructure, shares, “Quick turnaround is paramount. When something goes wrong with a render, we need to be able to resubmit failed jobs quickly. Deadline enables that and also helps us spit out and manage animation frames. We’re generating hundreds of thousands of frames a year, so every second counts.”
The team primarily uses Deadline for Autodesk 3DS Max project renders, though it also comes into play for distributive rendering in Chaos Group’s V-Ray and Adobe After Effects. “We use a lot of products across projects, and Deadline works with a lot of software; it’s more than paid for itself,” adds Kauffman. “It’s the simple things Deadline allows us to do that make it so great. We can break jobs into parts, quickly render passes, send them to After Effects, process files and spit them out for encoding.”
Deadline’s Jigsaw feature makes it easy for the team to isolate and render specific areas of extremely high-resolution images and spread the job out across multiple machines. “Jigsaw has been a big bonus for us,” Kauffman explained. “For a new Chicago Transit Authority station, we were looking at 14 hours to render one interior shot, and Jigsaw made life a lot easier.”
WSP-PB recently served as part of the engineering team on LaGuardia Airport’s (LGA) redevelopment, and delivered a range of animations, stills and interior renders for the project. Tapping Deadline DBR, the team was able to complete V-Ray distributed rendering through 3DS Max – a task that formerly required manual oversight and tied up workstations. “We used DBR hard core for this project; it allowed us to bring all the machines online in the farm, bang out stills as fast as we could and edit them to meet client requests on the fly,” Kauffman said. “With all fair conscience, we couldn’t have accomplished what we did so quickly on LGA at the scale we did without Deadline.”
For Fort McMurray (pictured), a major Canadian oil production hub, the team developed a promo video featuring animations, stock photography and other visuals illustrating how the city would look once redeveloped. Deadline enabled rapid access to 3D models for re-rendering on client-demand. “With Deadline, we can fix issues without dilly dallying, and saving 5 minutes here and there makes a huge difference in delivering on time,” says Kauffman. “We select machines for jobs gone wrong, remove them from the farm and resubmit in two minutes, which would’ve taken an hour before Deadline.”
When tasked with producing a high volume of visualization work for Presidio Parkway, a revamped roadway linking the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to San Francisco, the team also banked on Deadline to render multiple passes, in floating point and color, and manage After Effects renders. Whatever the project, Kauffman is confident that the team will be able to tackle it with Deadline, and if they need assistance from Thinkbox, support is easy to access. “The nice thing about Deadline is that it’s extensible enough that we can develop custom scripts to make changes, but it’s already such a great turnkey solution out of the box,” he notes. “And if we run into any issues, the Thinkbox team is awesome. They listen to and value feedback, which we appreciate.”