LAIKA Calls on IMT for Massive Data to Create ParaNorman Magic

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 Los Angeles, Calif. - LAIKA, the studio that produced the Academy Award-nominated Coraline, has deployed EMC Isilon scale-out NAS from Integrated Media Technologies Inc. (IMT) as the primary storage platform for its end-to-end animation and computer graphics (CG) workflow, simplifying data management to increase artist collaboration and accelerate project completion.  

LAIKA and Focus Features, responsible for Coraline, are re-teaming for LAIKA's next two projects. The first of the duo, ParaNorman will be released nationwide in August, 2012. Following the groundbreaking Coraline, ParaNorman, directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, is only the second stop-motion animated feature to be made in 3D. In the comedy thriller, a small town comes under siege by zombies and calls on misunderstood local boy Norman, who is able to speak with the dead.

During LAIKA studio's production and postproduction of Coraline, they faced a need to expand quickly and to considerably upgrade their storage capacity. With one facility in Portland, Ore., and another 20 miles away in Hillsboro, and their second much-anticipated animated feature already in pre-production, LAIKA didn't want to change course and invest in an expanded brick-and-mortar data center. Instead, they called on Integrated Media Technologies (IMT) to design and implement two portable 20-foot storage containers to house all of their new data transfer and storage solutions.

As a result, LAIKA has deployed more than a petabyte of EMC Isilon scale-out NAS as the primary storage platform for its end-to-end animation and computer graphics (CG) workflow, simplifying their huge data management to increase artist collaboration and accelerate project completion. 

Working with IMT and using Isilon's SmartPools software application, LAIKA has unified three performance tiers into a single file system, consolidating its compositing, computer graphics and stop motion workflows onto a single, shared storage resource, streamlining production operations and improving IT efficiency.    

 "We need our artists focused on the creative process, not waiting for render jobs to finish or content to migrate, so a single, shared storage resource that can accommodate a range of access patterns and performance requirements is a game-changer for us," says Jonathan Rozes, director of IT, LAIKA. "Before Isilon, we had to manage our workflows separately, which made management a hassle and limited our productivity. By moving to Isilon, we've consolidated our entire production operation on one, simple solution, which not only minimized management, but helped expand our bandwidth for new projects."

LAIKA features two divisions: LAIKA's Entertainment division, which produces animated feature films and shorts, including Coraline, and LAIKA/house, the commercial division behind animated campaigns for Frito Lay, M&M'S and Planters. Prior to Isilon, LAIKA's traditional NAS system segregated its range of workflows across disparate file systems, complicating management, slowing application performance and limiting artist collaboration. 

"IMT has an excellent understanding of the feature film industry, and animation in particular, " explains Rozes.  "After we evaluated competitive proposals, IMT asked the most intelligent questions and came up with a solution that was the best fit for us. The fact that they decided to go with Isilon was a reflection of their knowledge of the industry and what our needs were."

Working with IMT, LAIKA deployed three tiers of Isilon scale-out NAS--the high-performance 5400S for its IOPS-intensive compositing workflow, the 10000X-SSDfor metadata-intensive computer graphics applications, and the 12000Xfor highly concurrent stop-motion effects. Using SmartPools, LAIKA has unified these three performance tiers into a single file system, simplifying management to less than one full-time equivalent (FTE) and unifying all its production operations on a single, shared pool of storage."

During the production and postproduction of Coraline, LAIKA faced a situation where their facilities were both in Portland and 20 miles away in Hillsboro. With their second animated feature already in pre-production, they didn't want to change course and invest in an expanded brick and mortar data center. Instead, they called on IMT to design and implement two portable 20-foot storage containers, housing all of their new storage solutions.

"IMT designed our new data centers and helped us through that complex implementation process," says Jonathan Rozes. "Our most critical asset is the animation and CG artists, and the more iteration they can get in a fixed period of time, the better the film looks and the better it is for the studio. Having an integrator that grasps high performance, massive data storage and a reliable infrastructure is essential. IMT understood the sensitivity and pressure of any kind of disruption, and got everything set up quickly and made the transition as seamless as possible."

Using Isilon's cost-efficient NL-Series in combination with Isilon's asynchronous replication application SyncIQ, LAIKA can backup its projects to a secure, highly reliable off-site cluster, ensuring maximum data availability and business continuity in the event of data loss or disaster.   
"Efficient artist collaboration is key to great production in today's media industry and with the influx of big data--created by advanced CG techniques, new media formats and more--leading media companies now have unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and creativity," says Sam Grocott, vice president of marketing, Isilon. "By using Isilon scale-out NAS to consolidate its entire production workflow and scale its storage resources in-line with artists' needs, LAIKA is seizing the big data opportunity and leading the way in a new era of media and entertainment."

"Coraline is a landmark work of art in the history of animation," comments Mike Braico, EVP of Integrated Media Technologies.  "Animation is a passion for us at IMT and working with LAIKA was both a challenge and a dream come true. We are looking forward to their upcoming feature, which is sure to be as groundbreaking."

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