USC’s Unreal Course Goes Green

Interview with Sanjay Madhav Unreal instuctor and Associate Professor at USC.

Go Green Video:

Greetings, everyone. I’m Eric Pinkel, and today we’re delving into an exciting development at the University of Southern California. They’ve embarked on a journey towards sustainable cloud computing for their Unreal courses. Our guest today is Sanjay Madhav, an Associate Professor of Practice at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and a seasoned video game programmer with 15 years of experience at USC. He’s here to share how they’re making the switch to Virtual Studio cloud workstations powered by renewable energy.

Sanjay, can you start by telling us about the specific virtual workstations your Unreal class requires?

Of course, for our Unreal Engine programming course, we needed machines with at least 8 CPU cores, a high-performing discrete GPU, ample RAM, and high-speed SSDs.

Switching to cloud-based virtual workstations must have come with its set of challenges. Can you share some of the hurdles you encountered?

Absolutely, this was the third time I taught the course, so I expected some initial setup challenges for students, such as logging into their VMs and navigating Parsec. It’s typical to face these bumps at the start of each semester.

Could you shed some light on why you opted for cloud-based virtual workstations over physical ones?

Well, the decision to use virtual machines was driven by the fact that, while many students have laptops, not all can effectively run Unreal Engine. VMs offer the advantage of accessibility from anywhere and are a more cost-effective alternative to purchasing expensive physical machines. With Parsec and quality VMs, latency hasn’t been a significant issue.

I understand you explored various virtual workstation options. What led you to choose renewable-powered CenterGrid Virtual Studio workstations?

In prior years, I used a different VM provider, which served its purpose. However, I was on the lookout for superior VMs and services. My encounter with Eric and the CenterGrid team at SIGGRAPH sparked my interest, and after discussions with their team members, it seemed like an excellent fit for our needs.

Tell us about your experience collaborating with the CenterGrid Virtual Studio team.

The team at CenterGrid has been a pleasure to work with. They promptly set up over 30 VMs tailored to our specifications in just a matter of days, right before the semester began. We did encounter some connectivity issues initially on campus WiFi, but Greg from CenterGrid invested considerable time troubleshooting. Once we identified a solution, he even conducted individual video calls with students to resolve any remaining issues.

It’s great to hear that. How have your classes been progressing so far this semester?

Once we got past the initial connectivity hiccups, everything has been running smoothly. The VMs from CenterGrid have proven to be more reliable and high-performing than our previous solution. Moreover, CenterGrid met our pricing requirements. Overall, I’m pleased with how this partnership has unfolded, and I certainly intend to continue using CenterGrid in future semesters.

Thank you, Sanjay, for sharing your insights. To learn more about Virtual Studio and its eco leadership in the world of VFX and CGI cloud production, visit