January 06, 2010 17:14 ET

BlueArc Storage Solution Powers Visual Effects Behind "Avatar"

Weta Digital Uses BlueArc to Manage Unprecedented Rendering Workloads With High Performance

SAN JOSE, CA--(Marketwire - January 6, 2010) - BlueArc® Corporation, a leader in scalable, high-performance unified network storage, today announced that four-time Academy Award® winning visual effects creator Weta Digital relied on a BlueArc storage solution for artistic rendering of groundbreaking animation and scene development for the major motion picture "Avatar." According to estimates from Box Office, James Cameron's sci-fi film "Avatar" has sustained the number one position in the U.S. box office for the third-straight weekend and has grossed over $1 billion in revenue worldwide, making it the fourth highest grossing film of all time on a worldwide basis and climbing.

"Avatar" is highly acclaimed as revolutionary filmmaking for its 3D viewing and all-digital virtual filming environment, made possible by stereoscopic cameras that were specially designed for the film's production. For Weta, this unique process resulted in unprecedented demands on animation rendering workflows and storage infrastructure. To keep pace, Weta used a clustered system of 12 Titan servers to store and manage over 500 terabytes of data feeding thousands of render nodes acting in concert to produce the special effects for "Avatar," as well as an additional 700 terabytes of nearline storage.

"Going in, we knew this was going to be a big project so we needed a storage solution that could not only handle the immense load, but also have the flexibility to grow with the project," said Paul Ryan, chief technology officer at Weta Digital. "The project grew so big that we ended up doubling our BlueArc storage infrastructure in the last six months of production, and the integration and scalability of the new clusters were quick and painless."

Weta spent close to two years on the production of "Avatar" and it was by far the most data-intensive project that company has ever worked on. Weta had 750 artists and a renderwall of more than 34,000 cores. Even as artists worked around the clock placing constant demands on the storage system, BlueArc delivered consistent performance, allowing Weta to keep production on schedule, without the burden of downtime or aborted jobs.

Weta's environment contains both large and small files, and unpredictable combinations of sequential and random access, producing one of the most demanding throughput and I/O-intensive storage environments in existence. At peak production for "Avatar," the BlueArc system served over 34,000 cores on the render farm, handling 16,000 concurrent read and write processes 24-hours-a-day at a sustained load of 8 gigabytes per second. BlueArc's ability to sustain this level of throughput even as more render nodes were added was critical in helping Weta accelerate workflow for artists while removing major bottlenecks and simplifying data management.

"Various best-of-breed storage solutions make up our computing core, each used for the solutions' unique capabilities and advantages," Ryan continued. "Where we need flat-out performance, speed and reliability in handling work on the scale of thousands of concurrent read and write renders with sustained IOPs and throughput, BlueArc is the clear choice. For raw power and raw throughput, BlueArc rocks."

Weta has been a BlueArc customer since 2006, leveraging BlueArc storage infrastructure to continue a tradition of developing world leading visual effects as for Academy-Award winning works such as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "King Kong."

"We congratulate Weta Digital for its landmark achievements in once again pushing visual effects for filmmaking to new heights," said Mike Gustafson, president and CEO of BlueArc. "BlueArc is pleased to play an integral role in Weta's storage infrastructure and we take pride in helping leading innovators like them realize the benefits of BlueArc's unique architecture to deliver business advantage by accelerating processes through high performance and scalability."

About BlueArc

BlueArc partners with customers to solve their storage and data management-related business challenges. BlueArc's best-of-breed, high-performance, highly scalable and cost-effective storage solutions help to accelerate our customers' success. Information about BlueArc solutions and services can be found at

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