Issue: July 1, 2009


TORONTO — At Starz Animation Toronto (, a high-end TV and feature film CG animation house, Atto’s direct-attached fibre HBA cards are used for high-bandwidth direct-attached storage in three distinct areas: Avid editorial, color grading and DI, and as backup in the facility’s central core.

The company’s recent credits include 9 — produced by Tim Burton and due for release September 9 — a new feature from the Weinsteins set for big screens next year, and Miramax/Rocket Pictures’ Gnomeo & Juliet, which is currently in production with Starz Animation Toronto as its sole animation studio.

“Atto is the industry standard: We put the cards in and they work — we’ve never had a failure. And their cost/performance is well suited to what we do,” notes Terry Dale, VP of operations for Starz Animation Toronto.

He says that Atto “keeps up with the technology really well,” and his company “usually follows close behind Atto’s jumps” from 2- to 4- to 8GB cards so it can “reap the benefits” of the advances. In addition, “Atto’s products are cost-effective so you don’t have to make a huge financial outlay to take advantage of them.”

According to Dale, “minimal configuration was needed” to get the cards to operate in standard Windows machines. Starz Animation Toronto currently runs five Avid Adrenaline suites with Unity shared storage; editors’ HP 8600 workstations boast 4GB dual-connect cards. The back-up system, which runs over the company’s infrastructure for daily data backups, features a new SGI Altix XE250 server with 4GB quad-connect cards.

The DI system’s new 8GB card talks to an Aberdeen Fibre Channel array that runs Assimilate’s Scratch software. The powerful Atto card allows the company to “achieve data rates never possible before,” Dale reports. “It’s opened up possibilities we never thought about.”

Dale calls Gnomeo & Juliet “probably the most complex film, imagery-wise, that we’ve handled to date thanks to the artistic direction of the film. It’s very visually rich and pushes the boundaries of technology to create a really fantastic look. Our new 8GB Atto card gives us extended bandwidth so we can push bigger and more complex images across the pipeline.”

The 8GB capabilities put Starz Animation Toronto in a good position to take on future stereoscopic projects, he adds. “The higher bandwidths enable us to work with dual streams for stereoscopic playback,” he notes.