Ultrafast storage fuels movie's battle scenes

Fiber-channel storage device delivered content at 600-700 MB/sec during production of The Incredible Hulk

Hired by Marvel Entertainment to help bring a 9-foot-tall gamma-powered superhero to life on the big screen, officials at the Soho VFX special effects facility needed massive storage availability to help its artists create digitally-rendered fight scenes for the film, The Incredible Hulk, which opened June 12 in Australia.

Soho VFX used a BlueArc Corp. Titan 2200 series server to generate approximately 150 digital camera frames -- totaling 16TB -- for the live-action movie, said Berj Bannayan, a co-founder and software engineer at Toronto-based Soho VFX. During the peak period of production, the fiber-channel storage device delivered content at 600-700 MB/sec. to the workstations and Dell servers of artists who were simultaneously building the special effects for the movie project.

"Each of those [artist] machines is trying to load all of this data and the BlueArc device has to keep up," noted Bannayan. "It's almost like drinking from a firehose; you have to have fast storage loaded and saved many, many times during the animation process."

Because so many frames of the movie had to be repeatedly produced at the same time, the Titan 2200 box had to respond to split-second demands from artists for hundreds of gigabytes of data-intensive and 3-D files, remarked Bannayan.

The Incredible Hulk tells the story of Bruce Banner, a scientist who uncontrollably transforms into a green-skinned goliath due to an accidental overdose of gamma radiation. In the film Banner, played by actor Ed Norton, is on the run from the US government, which wants to capture and use the Hulk for its own purposes. Near the end of the film the Hulk battles the Abomination, a former British special forces agent - portrayed in human form by Tim Roth - who volunteers to be transformed into a super-villain monstrosity.

Bannayan said Soho VFX was responsible for creating many of the digital effects for two action scenes in the film -- a battle between the Hulk and US Army soldiers in a Brazil bottle factory and a rooftop chase and long fight sequence between the Hulk and Abomination which includes a helicopter crash. "You want absolute visual fidelity to make it look like it's a real environment. There's just a lot of information that goes into making a frame, even turning a digital model into a colored image alone can be many gigabytes of data," he added.

Other scenes in the big budget film created using BlueArc's storage server include shots of the Abomination throwing cars and revealing the muscular progression of Roth's Blonsky character from a "40-year-old guy to a Bruce Lee body" after he is injected with the Hulk serum. "You can see the quality of his skin, he had tattoos and we had to match that - it was just as difficult as rendering the Hulk was," said Bannayan. The 12-shot sequence took 15 artists two to three months to complete, he said.

Soho VFX has created digital effects for other Marvel feature films including The Fantastic Four, The Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and X-Men 3: The Last Stand. When working on a film with Marvel, the visual effects studio sends Marvel Studios updates of film scenes with added images almost daily in high-definition Apple Quicktime formats.

Bannayan said having fast storage capabilities in his IT architecture allows his company to more quickly finish animation and deliver images to Marvel to make desired changes in time to satisfy strict production deadlines.

BlueArc's Titan server has been installed at Soho VFX since late 2006. The storage appliance features approximately 38TB and serves as the company's entire mainline storage backbone including project data, administrative data and user home directories.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brian Fonseca

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?