Clustered Dell workstations kept Martin Scorsese happy on Hugo

The ability of Dell Inc.‘s (NASDAQ: DELL) new Precision workstations to be rack-mounted may not seem like a big deal, but workstation clustering allowed the team at visual effects studio Pixomondo to keep acclaimed director Martin Scorsese happy during the production of his first 3D film, Hugo.

While many design and animation houses will have workstations at each user’s desk, Pixomondo is trying to pioneer a 24/7 production cycle said Adam Watkins, a computer graphics supervisor at the firm that has also worked on films such as Red Tails, and the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones.

Work on a shot would begin in Los Angeles and at the end of the day be seamlessly picked-up by the Pixmondo team in Shanghai, then passed along to teams in Berlin and Frankfurt before coming back to North America.

“When artists are finished work for the day they put their work onto our global render farm and it gets picked up (in the next city),” said Watkins. “Literally the turnaround is Marty (Scorsese) can ask for a shot at night and get it back the next day.”

Many Dell customers such as Pixmondo that do a lot of rendering are opting to create rendering farms, which is why Dell’s new workstations can be rack-mounted to create compute clusters said Mike Morton, senior lead for industrial design with Dell.

“A lot of times they’ll rack units in the back room, to keep the animator from having four, five or six of these under his desk to be able to accomplish what he needs to do,” said Morton. “Getting these out of their way and putting them in the back so they can go on to other work, and let this just process through the renderings and the videos, and allows them to be able to continue the creative stuff that they really want to do.”

And they’ll be able to do it faster with Dell’s new workstations said Armundo Darling, technical marketing manager with Autodesk Inc., a developer of computer-aided design software.

“It allows architects, engineers and designers to truly be able to model and show their designs,” said Darling. “They’re now able to focus on their designs more, rather than just dealing with the hardware. When we’re giving presentations to clients, we can now manipulate and show them the model in real time, and they’re able to visualize our design intent.”

The model developed by Pixmondo shows the ways users are using workstations is changing said Kirk Schell, vice-president of computing products at Dell.

“We know the world has changed from a 9-5 local workforce to a 24/7 global workforce,” said Schell. “User needs are changing. They want a tablet on the shop floor, a laptop in the field, and a full workstation for heavy creative work. We think it’s all part of a device continuum that we’ll continue to invest in it.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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