Network World - May 17, 1999 - Power Cluster

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This is an excerpt from the article 'Power Cluster' found in the May 17, 1999 issue of Network World magazine.

A Starring Movie Role

Like Monolith, Digital Anvil relies on extra computing muscle to generate cut scenes for its games. Moreover, the production and entertainment firm used the render farm to produce the visual effects for the recent release of Wing Commander, a live action movie based on the game of the same name.

Digital Anvil has adopted a blend of systems to make up its render farm, according to Chris Olivia, visual effects director for the company in Austin, Texas. The render farm included 450 MHz Windows NT Pentium PCs and high-end Unix workstations, and runs on a switched 100M bit/sec network.

Proprietary software distributes the rendering jobs to idle computers, while Digital Anvil creates the graphics using Alias|Wavefront's Maya software suite.

Digital Anvil has had a few problems running multiple platforms in the render farm. The current Maya software doesn't yet provide cross-platform compatability, so the firm needs to run different versions of the product on its NT and SGI boxes.

"It's kind of a hassle to change back and forth," Olivia says. He's waiting for Maya 2.0 to solve this problem, but for now, his NT boxes lay idle because they only support an older version of the rendering software.

Just the same, Digital Anvil is looking forward to growing its farm with the addition of more NT systems in the near future. The NT boxes provide a cost-effective way to put more processors on the job.

As the price of computers continues to dive and processing speed multiplies by leaps and bounds, render farms will give entertainment companies even more power to construct visions that push the bounds of the viewer's imagination.