SAN DIEGO -- To successfully create and complete Space Chimps, a computer generated
(CG) animated feature film due to be released in theatres by Twentieth Century Fox in Summer 2008, Vanguard Animation has purchased high-performance server technology from SGI (NASDAQ:SGIC). SGI delivered a proven rendering solution that managed the complexity of handling multi-megabyte files throughout the process while delivering breakthrough performance.
Space Chimps, an irreverent and comedic adventure starring three chimps that boldly go where no man has gone before, is the latest project from producer and Vanguard CEO John Williams (Shrek, Shrek 2). The film is being produced through a partnership between Vanguard Animation and Starz Media. It has been pre-sold to over twenty foreign territories through Odyssey Entertainment. The production of the 80-minute feature will require between 180 and 200 people in the 30,000-square-foot space on Production Way in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Aspiring to deliver the highest quality images, the Vanguard team found that it didn't have enough fire power from the older server farm to move and render the large, finely detailed, high-definition files generated by Renderman, a leading animation rendering software running under the Linux(R) OS. At Vanguard, the software renders animations created in Maya, a top-of- the-line animation program. For Space Chimps, Maya files are typically several megabytes in size and it is not uncommon to have hundreds of frames in a shot, starting with a 10MB Maya scene file and generating 100 or 200 multi-megabyte image files. To get the most value out of the Renderman licenses, Vanguard needed to have the most efficient hardware to render Maya files as rapidly as possible.
Along with PipelineFX personnel and data management specialist Seven Group, Vanguard tested a number of servers from various manufacturers running PipelineFX Qube! Render Management software. They found, in a head-to-head comparison, that the SGI(R) Workflow-Ready Solution for Render Management employing SGI(R) Altix(R) XE310 servers came out on top in terms of price- performance. Because of their use of Renderman and Maya, the fact that SGI Altix servers all run the Linux environment and use Intel(R) processors, was critical to the studio.
"The Altix XE310 servers deliver the ultimate performance density; they have given us a 20-30% improvement in speed," said Troy Brooks, on-site Pipeline supervisor at Vanguard. "That's largely due to the fact that the SGI server has 3GHz processors, the fastest available versus the 2.2GHz processors we were using. The two most important things to us are processing speed and I/O, because the data sets tend to be very large and the output images tend to be very large. With the Altix XE310, SGI has taken a dual socket, dual-core Xeon motherboard -- that's 4 CPUs -- and put two of them in a 1U box. That's actually better than a quad socket board because it means I have two network interface cards on two totally separate machines. Rather than having 8 or 16 cores behind one network interface card, I have two interfaces, and it's still in a 1U package. From my point of view, it's overall great: I get better throughput and the system is very size efficient."