IT plays a starring role at Canadian visual effects company

As a recent Inside Enterprise IT blog post (“Growing relationship between broadcast, motion picture and information technology,”) pointed out, IT has become a key consideration for media and entertainment companies.

Take the needs of Soho VFX in Toronto, Ontario, which does feature effects for television and films including “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Incredible Hulk.”

In a YouTube video, systems administrator Todd Smith said, “Soho VFX wouldn’t exist without computers. They are the basis of our work, and therefore if we didn’t have an IT solution in place, then we really couldn’t do anything.”

As for the company’s specific needs, “we need very fast workstations for the animators to work on with good, fast networking,” said Berj Bannayan, partner and senior software engineer.

When animators come up against a deadline, “they’re working all day every day” so reliability is crucial, Bannayan said.

In the entertainment business, movie release dates get staked out on the calendar months in advance. Once the studios finalize films’ promotional materials – like trailers and posters – the movies have to be ready to make it into theaters by the release date.

Animators “have to be able to keep up with demand, and any failures can cause massive problems for us,” Bannayan said.

Space in the company’s server room was tight with no room to expand so it went with Dell blade servers, which Smith said he set up 16 times faster than the company’s previous servers. The company’s electrician also expressed surprise at the power savings of the racks of blade servers, which Smith estimated at about 20% over its previous system.

The ease of installation and maintenance were a major selling point because, according to Bannayan, “we only have so many people who have the time and the expertise to manage all of our computing resources.

And on top of that, Bannayan credited the switch to blade servers with boosting productivity.

During the last month of post-production on “The Incredible Hulk,” Bannayan said he didn’t think the servers stopped. That kind of performance played the biggest factor in Soho VFX’s purchasing decision.

As Allan Magled, a partner and visual effects supervisor, put it, “If we didn’t deliver on time, I don’t even know what would happen to us. … It’s just not an option.”

About the Author: Ana Cantu