NAS Storage Performance to Manage Workload Peaks

Rising Sun Pictures Builds A High Performance Infrastructure to Manage Workload Peaks

Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) creates complex effects, destruction, and characters— think flying invasions of soul-sucking Dementors, debris slamming a spacecraft as it dives through the atmosphere, and a realistic yet endearing spider—that turn feature films into Hollywood blockbusters. Headquartered in Adelaide, South Australia, RSP boasts a filmography of more than 100 feature films, including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Gravity, and Charlotte’s Web.

Building a world-class portfolio in the Visual Effects (VFX) business requires talented crew and a compute infrastructure that can turn imaginings into bigscreen reality. To give artists and production teams the power needed to create award-winning effects, RSP utilizes high-performance Avere Systems Edge filer storage systems. Avere solutions help RSP teams deliver higher visual impact in less time and at a lower cost, providing scalable performance to enable more iterations of complex rendering while maintaining maximum responsiveness to artist desktops.

Challenge: Protecting Productivity and Workflows During Peak Loads 

VFX producer Ian Cope says that Rising Sun currently boasts capacity and infrastructure to deliver more than 1200 shots per year on multiple projects. To put that capability in perspective, consider that the stereoscopic 3D re-entry sequence in Gravity spanned just 17 shots for two and a half minutes of screen time—and its design and execution took more than one year. Because of the complexity of the space station, rendering times averaged two and half days per shot. 

Producing scenes like those in the Gravity sequence demands high-speed storage resources capable of hundreds of thousands of file operations per second. “The more complex the work the more data we create,” explains director of engineering Mark Day. “Producing terabytes of data per hour is not unheard of in our industry so our storage systems need to scale in both performance and size to meet demand. We must be efficient in managing that data, and cope with large datasets at peak periods, without impacting workflow. With artist efficiency in mind we set out to find a solution that could accelerate data delivery to our render farm while maintaining responsiveness to user desktops.”



Solution: Avere Systems Storage for Render Power + Drop-in Simplicity

“We considered a number of options,” continues Mark, “including more powerful primary storage The Avere FXT Edge filers proved to be the best solution, giving us more cost-effective and scalable performance, the ability to easily drop the technology into our existing environment, and excellent customer support.” 

At RSP headquarters, an Avere FXT 3200 Edge filer cluster, connected via NFS over 10 gigabit Ethernet, accelerates I/O to render nodes. All production data is accessed through the Avere cluster that services the render farm and hundreds of clients at peak load. The Avere solution supports an application environment that includes Autodesk Maya software, NUKE from The Foundry, Side Effects Houdini, as well as Avid and Apple Final Cut Pro for editing, Adobe Creative Suite, and other VFX applications. RSP visual effects artists and technicians create VFX shots that are completely computer-generated, as well as VFX composited with live-action footage using camera tracking tools like Science.D.Visions 3DEqualizer.

Benefits: Performance, Efficiency and Compelling Images

6X More Render Power

The Avere solution delivers performance in excess of 100,000 I/O operations per second to dramatically reduce rendering times. Accelerated workflows and predictable performance help RSP produce high-quality work, delivered reliably and efficiently to meet aggressive project schedules

Day notes, “With the Avere deployment, we’re experiencing six times faster renders—a render that previously took six days, for example, now takes just 24 hours. At the same time, the latency to our desktops has been reduced during high rendering periods, so we’re able to keep our artistic and production teams working efficiently.”

The Avere Edge filer employs multiple techniques for achieving parallel I/O to hot files. If many clients are accessing different blocks within the same large file, the FXT cluster automatically stripes the file across many or all nodes of the cluster. Alternatively, if many clients are accessing the same block of a hot texture file, for example, the FXT cluster automatically replicates this block on many or all nodes of the cluster. Avere scalable performance ensures that RSP can keep pace with growth and maintain responsive services, even when many rendering nodes are simultaneously accessing the same file.

Avere analytics help RSP characterize workloads, identifying hot files and clients. Heat maps pinpoint specific behaviors, and built-in GUI monitoring enable visualization of throughput for better resource management. 


“The Avere cluster has smoothed out performance,” affirms Day, “hiding any Core filer latency from artists and technicians. To achieve similar responsiveness without the Avere, we’d have had to purchase a much more costly high-end NAS with a combination of expensive SAS disks and solid-state media. 

“In contrast, Avere gives us critical rendering performance, low latency to desktops, and we’re able to use lower-cost SATA drives on our existing Core filers. We’re also saving by being able to prolong the life of existing Isilon systems. Avere makes it easy to combine heterogeneous storage under a single global namespace for added flexibility and easier administration.” 

Very Special Effects

The RSP infrastructure with Avere storage gives visual effects and production teams the render power and responsiveness needed to build stunning, highly detailed pictures that captivate audiences and contribute to award-winning productions like Gravity, Prometheus, and many more. With a busy project pipeline that includes upcoming films Gods of Egypt, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and The Seventh Son, the RSP team and their latest artistry will continue to enrich the visual experience for TV and movie audiences.

About Rising Sun Pictures

Rising Sun Pictures employs a passionate team of artists, producers, and technicians, known for providing complex visual effects and CG character work to feature-film and television clients. With the infrastructure to deliver a full spectrum of services from Design through to Digital Intermediate, RSP boasts a filmography of more than 100 films, including X-Men: Days of Future Past, Prometheus, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, the Harry Potter series, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, The Seventh Son, and The Wolverine. Founded in 1995, RSP is headquartered in Adelaide, South Australia, and serves an international clientele.