IT costs king as Kong roars at WETA

Keeping costs down was a high priority for New Zealand-based digital effects specialist WETA Digital in bringing Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's US$207 million King Kong remake to life. Click to enlarge"They [WETA] don't have unlimited funds," Gary Collins, the managing director of storage vendor Network Appliance's New Zealand division, told ZDNet Australia last week as King Kong was released to cinemas.

Keeping costs down was a high priority for New Zealand-based digital effects specialist WETA Digital in bringing Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's US$207 million King Kong remake to life.

Kong roars
Click to enlarge
"They [WETA] don't have unlimited funds," Gary Collins, the managing director of storage vendor Network Appliance's New Zealand division, told ZDNet Australia last week as King Kong was released to cinemas.

Both Collins and WETA chief technology officer Milton Ngan said the effects house sought to keep a tight rein on costs, with Ngan describing it as "critical to our process". The CTO was unavailable to comment further.

Collins' company provided a total of 230 terabytes of storage to WETA to help create the digital effects for both Kong and Jacksons' earlier Lord of the Rings trilogy. This included an upgrade to deal with Kong, as the effects work for the new movie outstripped even the Tolkien adaptations.

"King Kong had a hell of a lot more animation," Collins said.

The storage package was a combination of fabric-attached storage (FAS) systems, data archival systems, and an IPSAN storage solution. (An IPSAN is simply a storage area network (SAN) that uses ethernet infrastructure and the iSCSI protocol -- which is based on the Internet Protocol or IP -- to transport data). NetApp also provided support to WETA.

For processing power WETA uses blade servers from IBM. However neither WETA nor IBM were available to comment on the specifics of the implementation.

The executive said WETA used a whole range of hardware from Netapp, from its low-end FAS900 series to appliances from its FAS3000 range.

Several sources who had seen King Kong following its release to cinemas last week agreed the visual effects were generally excellent.

"At no point did you not believe it was King Kong. The eyes were done especially well," said one cinema fan.

However it was agreed one particular scene where real life actors were running in-between the legs of computer-generated dinosaurs was not as well done.

"From what people were saying I was expecting it to be worse than it was," said one source.

"It's not very believable, but it's not as if people were running in front of a green screen -- which was what I was expecting."

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