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November 26, 1998

PIXAR USED SUN, SILICON GRAPHICS FOR “A BUG’S LIFE”

By CBR Staff Writer

Thanksgiving day’s release of the film A Bug’s Life wouldn’t have been possible without the 100 Sun Microsystems Inc Enterprise 4000 servers which brought the tiny animated creatures to life. So says Greg Brandeau, director of IS for Pixar Animation Studios, which spent the last four years creating the film from its headquarters in Point Richmond, California. The servers, each of which contained 14 high-speed UltraSPARC II processors, were used to form a rendering farm, Brandeau said; a non-stop computer processing room where the graphic images created on Silicon Graphics Inc servers are converted into real- life motion pictures. In total, the servers processed 138,000 frames for the film, at the rate of 400 billion calculations per second. Once created, the images, a total of 4.5 terabytes of data, were stored on Sun StorEdge A3500 and A1000 arrays. That’s equivalent of having 1 inch floppy drives piled 8.6 miles high, Brandeau said. He added that the company chose to go with Sun over both Unix and Windows NT systems because of the level of scalability and reliability it offered. The price performance ratio was also best for the Sun servers, he said. The servers achieved unbelievably excellent uptime, he said, some things are always going to break down. On average we lost about one processor in one server per week. But that was minor in the grand scheme of things and didn’t affect the running of the farm as a whole. Brandeau said Pixar’s animators and technical staff used SGI servers on the desktop to create the actual images, design them and add the necessary color, digitally. Both SGI and Sun systems were also behind the company’s last big hit, Toy Story.

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