James Cameron's Avatar
Moving massive visual effects across the worldAspera software maximizes data transfer efficiency for the production of James Cameron's record-breaking epic
James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment selected Aspera's high performance file transfer software for moving the massive visual effects data in the production of Avatar between their Los Angeles studio and a partner studio in New Zealand.
Like most facilities, Lightstorm has previously delivered the data via FTP or, sneaker net, where data is loaded onto hard drives and hand-delivered. Delivering the large high-resolution video via conventional FTP at intercontinental distances was impractically slow and insecure. Lightstorm turned to sneaker net, although still time-consuming and error prone, and at times, experienced all the usual problems associated with physically transporting critical data, such as lengthy shipping time, damaged drives, and content that had to be dubbed from a master only to be re-ingested on the receiving end.
The Avatar production generates tens of gigabytes of data sets of various formats daily that must be moved to the visual effects team at the partner studio, including small metadata and instructional files, still frames for review, database or Avid bin metadata, Maya files, and large media files from Avid systems. In addition to the daily transfers, the two companies exchange very large files (about 100 or more) twice a month. The entire process needs to be managed and tracked in a secure environment.
Lightstorm needed a high-performance and secure file transfer solution that would move the data electronically in a practical time period, with consistency and security. Upon the recommendation of a major studio partner, Lightstorm deployed Aspera Enterprise Server, built on Aspera's fasp™ 2.0 transport technology, to transfer files to the New Zealand studio. "Aspera software has eliminated the transfer bottlenecks of the past, cutting the total turnaround time for content by about one half, with complete security," says Geoff Burdick, Lightstorm Vice President Production Services & Technology. "We consistently transfer to New Zealand at 45 Mbps over a 45 Mbps link, a 15-30X improvement over standard FTP. Our operators can track the transfer throughout the process and manage the bandwidth used as needed. Additionally, we own the software, so there are no ongoing fees or penalties as we deliver more data. For us, Aspera has been a huge step forward in efficiency and cost-savings."
"Aspera has made all the difference in the world for us," says Steven Madonna, the production's System Engineer. "We're able to have a single, reliable piece of software to support while vendors connect reliably and securely. With other methods we end up supporting many different pieces of client software or hoping the hard drives/tapes we ship don't get mishandled or shipped to the wrong place. The software allows us to deliver full resolution digital assets in much less time than it would take via normal means. From a setup and administration point of view, the software is easier to set up and more secure than FTP. It's also very easy to troubleshoot, and the support has been top notch."
Aspera President and Co-Founder, Michelle Munson states: "in addition to Aspera's underlying fasp™ transport efficiency, our software now also includes a unique file streamlining technique that enables the transfer of a large directory of small files as efficiently as sending a single large file without pre-tarring the files, saving hours in some cases." This capability proved essential in earlier productions moving large sets of individual frame files, and should be valuable to any application that transfers data sets of primarily small files.
"With terabytes of sensitive data constantly being transferred, we need a solution that will let us sleep at night," said Jon Landau producer of the Oscar winning epic movie Titanic and now Avatar. "Aspera is a proven high-performance transport solution recommended by our partners that enables us to contain our costs, and maintain a very aggressive production schedule."
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