Avere gives RVX peak performance to scale Everest

Icelandic visual effects company able to scale the heights by enhancing its storage infrastructure with Avere FXT Edge Filers

The growth of visual effects and enhancements in movies and television programs has brought with it added opportunities for studios outside of the main production centers. One such studio is Iceland’s RVX (Reykjavík Visual Effects), founded in 2008 as a creative hub to deliver services for film, television, computer games, and advertising.  One of its more recent  projects was for Universal Studio’s production of the film Everest.

Just before RVX embarked on the Everest project, they decided to move local storage to a data center about 37 miles (60km) from its headquarters. Rui Gomes, CTO at RVX, knew this would increase latency and any incremental latency increase would give rise to complaints from the artists about interruption to their workflow. With such a major project looming, it was necessary to smooth out the company’s operations as quickly as possible.

RVX looked at several solutions but decided that a cluster of FXT Edge filers from Avere offered the best value for its investment. Work on the installation of the new equipment started quickly and completed according to the test plan. The system upgrade was further enhanced by the physical presence of Avere personnel during the installation and setup process. Gomes particularly liked the fact that RVX was given instruction, including tips on best practices, on how to use the management and analytics software to ensure everything ran at maximum efficiency and would continue to do so if future projects necessitated changes.

Gomes says that the management console for the Avere solution has played a major part in saving the company money. The move to the new data center brought with it a leased line for network connectivity for which RVX is charged per gigabyte. Optimizing the traffic flow became a new cost parameter that had to be managed. He said, “Almost everything that goes to the data center passes through the Avere cluster and that enables me to get a good estimate of how much bandwidth we are actually using and allows me to plan usage, especially for future projects.”

RVX uses state-of-the-art applications such as Maya, Nuke, Houdini and PFtrack within an NFS environment. The FXT Edge filers are used to balance the storage access needs of the creative artists using these applications with the needs of  the rendering farm , a common point of contention in visual effects that is exacerbated by distance-related latency.  The Avere cluster has already enabled RVX to avoid at least one costly downtime incident. “We had a situation when the rate control queue filled with rendering requests,” Gomes said. “This resulted in the server taking up to 10 seconds to reply to the render machine; however, the new architecture with Avere ensured that the artists in the office were unaffected. If they had been impacted by the render jobs, they would have been tearing out their hair with frustration. The balancing effect of the Avere solution limited the problem to being a backend issue rather than something the artists felt.”

And with the aid of the analytics module, the RVX team managed to figure out the problem within 40 minutes. It was a rendering request that should have been spread across multiple storage units being stacked up to use a single unit. “It was an issue we could fix rather quickly and it didn’t affect production - but if we didn’t have Avere it would have been a major problem and everything would have ground to a halt. So Avere not only saved us time and money but also a degree of embarrassment.”

Gomes feels that the  Avere Edge filers has not only increased the productivity of the creative team, but has also extended the life and manageability of the storage servers. “We no longer worry too much about the backend storage. If we need another 100 terabytes or so, I will just plug another server into the Avere. It gives me peace of mind knowing it’s just going to perform and will not cost me an arm and a leg. I’m now considering how I can introduce SSD arrays and commodity disks, and looking forward to getting a better server network up and running.”

The current system came into its own during the Everest project. This required RVX to create a 3D model of the mountain – a challenge whose solution gave a great deal of satisfaction to the creative team. By combining images of Everest with footage from the movie, the talented team was able to construct a convincing, fully rendered model which was used in many of the scenes.

“With Avere’s help, we built Everest,” Gomes said.

About RVX

RVX is a visual effects and animation studio based in Reykjavik’s harbor district, fast becoming a creative hub for film and games production. Formerly Framestore Reykjavik, RVX opened in 2008 and has since provided visual effects for numerous films including Australia, Sherlock Holmes, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Contraband, The Deep, Gravity and 2 Guns. RVX has a global list of advertising clients and regularly collaborate with friends and neighbors at CCP Games.