Epic Storage Powers ‘Clash of the Titans’

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BlueArc Mercury storage unit

A BlueArc Mercury storage unit like that used by CineSite in creating visual effects for "Clash of the Titans."

“RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” You may have heard Liam Neeson utter this phrase repeatedly during the flood of advertising to promote the Warner Brothers movie “Clash of the Titans.“ In creating the computer-driven animation for the film, special effects wizards weren’t able to summon legendary monsters in their data center. But there was some epic storage involved.

Silicon Valley storage specialist BlueArc announced this week that visual effects house Cinesite used BlueArc storage systems to support the artistic rendering of animation and scene development for the new version of Clash of the Titans. Cinesite used a new BlueArc Mercury system to store and manage almost 200 terabytes of data, concurrently feeding over 2,500 render cores to produce the visual effects.

Storage growth
Cinesite was faced with increasing storage capacity requirements, but didn’t want to add to their old cluster and be constrained by the performance of the existing storage nodes. In choosing BlueArc, CineSite said it relied upon a series of tests performed on BlueArc and other vendors’ storage, as well as word of mouth reputation from other visual effects companies in London that use BlueArc systems. 

Driving CineSite’s evaluation process was the understanding that its storage requirements will continue to scale as Hollywood visual effects evolve along with moviegoers’ expectations in the post-Avatar world.

“The next challenge for us is going to be stereoscopic content,” said Anthony Hunt, managing director of Cinesite. “This will see storage requirements double; maybe triple again, along with a corresponding increase in rendering. We feel confident that the BlueArc storage is going to elegantly grow to those levels and not constrain us.”

Tiered data
Image data and 3D movie files are managed on the Mercury virtualized storage pool of tiered SAS and SATA disks. Tier one uses high performance SAS disks for handling files comprising thousands of image files per frame and thousands of frames per shot and tier two SATA disks provide high bandwidth access to randomly accessed files such as raw scans which are fed sequentially into the pipeline. An additional 36 terabyte tier of near-line archiving is provided by Cinesite’s old storage system.

San Jose based BlueArc provides high performance unified network storage systems to enterprise and data-intensive markets. In March of this year Garnter positioned the company in its “Visionaries” quadrant for midrange and high-end NAS solutions.

“We believe this industry evaluation recognizes our innovation and ability to uniquely address the evolving enterprise storage challenges, and the demand we’re experiencing from customers and partners confirms our approach,” said BlueArc CEO Mike Gustafson.

BlueArc also provided a clustered system of 12 Titan servers to store and manage over 500 terabytes of data feeding thousands of render nodes to Weta Digital in the making of Avatar.

About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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