The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind ‘Avatar’
December 22nd, 2009 By: John Rath
It takes a lot of data center horsepower to create the stunning visual effects behind blockbuster movies such as King Kong, X-Men, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and most recently, James Cameron’s $230 million Avatar. Tucked away in Wellington, New Zealand are the facilities where visual effects company Weta Digital renders the imaginary landscapes of Middle Earth and Pandora at a campus of studios, production facilities, soundstages and a purpose-built data center.
The 10,000 square foot server farm manages thousands of work orders and a serious amount of data. Information Management magazine reports on the creative artists and rendering done for the movie, as well as the thoroughbred data center supporting it.
The Weta data center got a major hardware refresh and redesign in 2008 and now uses more than 4,000 HP BL2x220c blades (new BL2x220c G6 blades announced last month), 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking gear from Foundry and storage from BluArc and NetApp. The system now occupies spot 193 through 197 in the Top 500 list of the most powerful supercomputers.
Thirty four racks comprise the computing core, made of 32 machines each with 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of memory. Weta systems administrator Paul Gunn said that heat exchange for their servers had to be enclosed. The “industry standard of raised floors and forced-air cooling could not keep up with the constant heat coming off the machines,” said Gunn. “We need to stack the gear closely to get the bandwidth we need and, because the data flows are so great, the storage has to be local.” The solutions was the use of water-cooled racks from Rittal.
Gunn also noted that tens of thousands of dollars were saved by fine tuning the temperature by a degree. Weta won an energy excellence award recently for building a smaller footprint that came with a 40 percent lower cooling cost for a data center of its type.
For the last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. For a 166 minute movie the rendering coordination was intense.
Based on the #avatar Twitter hash tag comments I would say the visual effects are a success.
We previously discussed the Weta Digital facility last year in One Data Center to Rule Them All.
JustinPosted December 22nd, 2009
I believe Isilon gear is also used in the production of Avatar. There was a press release a few days ago about that.
[...] The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind ‘Avatar’ « Data Center Knowledge. [...]
Impressive geek stuff
I didn’t knew Weta was behind Avatar’s visual effects. I guess this means that “The Hobbit” will be as visual rich as Avatar, which is awesome
MaxPosted December 23rd, 2009
Isilon boxes were used to store the finished product… IIRC NetApp was used for the render farm at Weta.
Pity that after sepnding so much effort and money on the FX, a few dollars had been spent on the script. ‘Avatar’ is certainly spectacular but its also dramatically empty and a bit dull.
[...] stumbled upon this article from Data Center Knowledge which explained the horsepower that was required by Weta Digital to do [...]
[...] The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind ‘Avatar’ [...]
Whoa! Really cool stuff. Now I know how they got all those 3D effects. No wonder the movie was such a high-budget one!
[...] link 2 – Data Crunching Powerhouse behind Avatar [...]
[...] The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind ‘Avatar’ 28 12 2009 via datacenterknowledge.com [...]
MikePosted December 28th, 2009
Will it run Crysis?
FuntomasPosted December 30th, 2009
How much was on the power supplier bill or what’s the power consumption in total?
CalusPosted December 30th, 2009
proberly not Mike
YogiPosted December 31st, 2009
I’d have liked to know about its software infrastructure too.
[...] Center Knowledge has an article about their data center, as well as another one about it last [...]
[...] The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind ‘Avatar’ For the last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. For a 166 minute movie the rendering coordination was intense. [...]
acPosted January 3rd, 2010
As for software, the only sure thing is that it’s Linux.
[...] no SGI here. Instead, we have HP, how surprising! It turns out that a company called Weta Digital based in New Zealand did all the rendering for Avatar and King [...]
[...] on Times Square in VR – [has audio]Top Ten Places You Can’t Go – [fascinating]The data-crunching powerhouse behind “Avatar” – [geek info]Men were there only once, in 1960, for 20 minutes… – [time to [...]
paulPosted January 17th, 2010
I think that they using OS HP-UX
[...] A read into the 10,000 square foot server farm at weta responsible for some blockbuster renderings as king kong, lord of the rings, and most recently, avatar. The weta data center uses more than 4,000 HP BL2×220c blades in a drooling thirty four racks that comprise the computing core, made of 32 machines each with 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of memory. In my mind some smart kid programmer should just make distributed rendering on iphone’s in china when they are all asleep and be done with all this. [...]
[...] La potencia de procesado de datos detrás de "Avatar" http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2009/12/22/the-data-cru… por Harkon hace 2 segundos [...]
[...] The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind Avatar [...]
[...] behind the graphics in Avatar is Weta Digital from New Zealand. Information Management (a website) went to visit Weta Digital to get a glance at what kind of hardware setup is needed for a movie like Avatar [...]
marcusPosted January 22nd, 2010
@Mike – will it run crysis?
with the correct software probably yeah, but that sounds like killing a fly with a gun….lmfao
Ty WilliamsPosted January 28th, 2010
I am so impressed with these efforts to go green and save the environment, especially for entertainment. Can’t wait for DiCaprio’s green resort!
Design-Vorlagen, Shop-Urteile, Avatar Technik > News, Tipps > App Design, Avatar, Avatar Technik, Design-Vorlagen, iPhone Vorlagen, Shop-Urteile, WebmasterPosted January 29th, 2010
[...] ist technisch schon sehr beeindruckend. Auf techpatio.com beschäftigt man sich mit der Technik die verwendet wurde, um den Film zu [...]
Ty WilliamsPosted January 29th, 2010
How green! The Haitians really are impressed wit this use of resources.
LipertyPosted February 5th, 2010
Finally a rig that can probably play Crysis maxed out… ;p
[...] visual imagery that went into the movie, which cost $237 million to make. Datacenterknowledge has the details about the horsepower needed to do the crunching to make the movie. Situated in a 10,000 square foot [...]
With such powerhouse surely there’ll be more awesome movie coming out soon!
Now, that’s more than impressive…I want one in my cellar
3Mo0Posted February 15th, 2010
@marcus – with the correct software probably yeah, but that sounds like killing a fly with a gun….lmfao
I think you mean this is like killing a fly with the World’s ENTIRE stockpile of Nuclear weapons!
[...] Original Article: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2009/12/22/the-data-crunching-powerhouse-behind-avatar/ [...]
[...] datacenterknowledge.com] A look at some of the high-density server and networking gear inside the Weta Digital data center [...]
mePosted June 21st, 2010
If so much heat is produced by these machines why can’t it be sent to where it might be useful, like heating public buildings, or even people’ shomes?
[...] start a discussion about this movie and the rendering needed/ the computers needed to render this. http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/a…behind-avatar/ __________________ We Are Gr33n Machine We Are PhenomIsts! [...]
Hey Fellas!!! Quick Question, know your busy and all… Do you think when your done with that movie thingy – maybe I could use it for awhile? THAT WOULD BE AWESOME
Very impressive numbers, like 107 TB of ram… I cry over 12 gigs for $300 and they have 107 TB lol. The processing speed is crazy; as well as, the staggering numbers on the size of the movie, 7TB per minute? How do they deliver the movie? In a box full of hard drives, lol
If that server is generating that much heat, why is the guy in the picture wearing a beanie? Just kidding, massive cpu power 4 teh w1n.
Now lets run SETI on it.
[...] naar Yottabyte (1.000.000.000.000.000.000.000.000 bytes). Oftewel de enorme toename van data met Avatar als [...]
DavyPosted March 20th, 2011
It feels surreal that all this happens a few blocks from where I live. I’m from Wellington New Zealand, and I know a few people who work at Weta. Of course they can’t disclose any information to me, so it’s just amazing to finally see what tech they have there.
ahmedPosted March 27th, 2011
auwsum … totally kool. now i know from where do dey get dose special effects
Mega machine a true monster, must have been a lot of power being pumped in the making of Avtar.
I thought they just use a powerful computer and some sort of software to do animation.
[...] [...] The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind ‘Avatar’ For the last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. The Data-Crunching Powerhouse Behind 'Avatar' » Data Center Knowledge [...]
But Will It Blend?
Nah Only Joking, that really is a beautiful Server Farm. A great movie to go with it. I wouldn’t mind watching the raw, higher quality rendered version of avatar if only i have a screen that could project that quality
Any Idea of the servers OS and what they are using to share the rendering work load?