Ars Technica Final Fantasy Movie Q&A

Posters Name: Kagato
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Subject: Ars Technica Final Fantasy Movie Q&A

Ars Technica has posted a Q&A with Square about their recently released movie, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The interview focuses on the technical side of developing the movie and offers some pretty heavy data on how much work was required to get it off the ground. Here's a snip:

Could you give us a few more details on exactly how and why the various types of hardware and software hardware are being used, and what their roles are in the production process described above? For instance, what's the role of Linux in the production process? What parts of the work are done on the Octanes, and what parts on the SGI 2000s?

Troy: All the artists have SGI Octanes on their desks (some have two!). That's the main platform for day-to-day work, which is done w/ Maya. Maya is the modeling and animation software, and the interface for setting up all the lighting. Some rendering is done w/ the Maya renderer (mostly effects shots, e.g. explosions), but the majority of the rendering is done w/ Pixar's RenderMan. The Onyxes are used for compositing, and as a platform for our preview system, which lets the artists review full-res playback of long sequences of the movie, spooled on a (very fast) RAID array. The 16-cpu Origin 2000s are primarily used for batch-processing MTOR jobs, which is the Maya-To-Renderman conversion. (This generates .rib files, which are rendered on Linux machines; more on that in a moment.) We also have a number of Origin 200 servers, which are mostly used as disk servers, or to host the backup systems. We have a number of NetApp file servers, that provide most of the disk storage (approx. 4TB of primary disk space). The renderfarm consists primarily of ~1000 Linux machines (PIII, custom-built, rack mounted), running Red Hat 6.2. These machines do all the RenderMan renders, as well as a number of other tasks.
Mmmmmm, renderfarm.

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