Could Clara.io Change the Future of the Visual Effects Industry?
Posted by Dabney B. on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
There’s one thing that absolutely sucks about being a visual effects artist: the ever-changing software.
Oh, don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that the programs themselves are bad (most of them are incredibly valuable)… I’m saying that obtaining the software is bad. Getting the latest and greatest visual effects tools is its own special type of torture. Buying new software can set you back hundreds of dollars, and even then you have to sit through an hour long install while your new program greedily sucks up gigabyte after gigabyte of valuable hard drive space. And once you’re finally done entering all of the product codes and reading half a dozen EULAs, the bills keep on coming! A lot of the programs out there have monthly fees. It’s no surprise that piracy is such a huge problem in this industry.
Well, using new visual effects software is about to get a little bit easier. Clara.io, a web-based 3D creation tool, is finally moving into open beta. The service will allow you to create 3D models from your browser, which means that there’s no gigantic install or rampant piracy. You just go to the website, log in, and start building cool stuff!
It’s only in the beta phase, of course, so it’s difficult to evaluate how much of an impact Clara.io will make on the industry. Even if Clara.io tanks (which would be fairly surprising), I suspect that web-based programs are the future of visual effects.
It’s an improvement no matter how you slice it. Let’s look at it from the artist’s perspective. Working on the cloud means that you can access your work from anywhere, so you no longer need to worry about transferring massive files from one device to another. Also, most of the computational heavy lifting will be done server side, so artists won’t necessarily need state-of-the-art computers that can process incredibly complicated 3D models.
And don’t forget about the accessibility! A web-based program can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. Let’s suppose, for example, that you’re working on a project and you have to send it to your coworker, but your coworker doesn’t have the program that you used. That means that you have to convert the file, or that your coworker has to get whatever program you used. Web-based visual effects tools supply artists with a common resource to make sharing easy-peasy. Plus, artists can use server side computers to render 3D models in a fraction of the time.
Developers have an even greater reason to switch to web-based software. As I said before, piracy is a major problem in this industry. The only way to guarantee that artists don’t pirate your software is to force users to log onto the Internet in order to use the service. That way, the company can be certain that each user has a legitimate copy. A web-based service would be essentially impossible to crack. In the meantime, if you’re sharing work with fellow artists, make sure you use an encrypted file-sharing service like SpiderOak that will keep your files completely safe.
There are a few potential snags with a service like Clara.io, however. Bandwidth issues mean that the server can only send artists reduced representations of art pieces. That alone might be enough to force some artists to stick with installation-based programs.
But here’s the thing: technology continues to advance on a daily basis. The bandwidth issues of today might no longer be a concern a year from now. As computers become more advanced and the Internet becomes faster, it’s entirely possible that a web-based service could be equally as powerful as an installation-based program. In fact, it might even be faster because a couple of different computers could all lend their processing power to a single project over the web.
What do you think? Is Clara.io simply a neat tool that appeals to a niche group of artists, or does Clara.io bring artists one step closer to the future of visual effects?