Just as ever-cheaper storage space and chip-speed made it possible for boutique EFX houses to compete with the big guys in the 1990s, now economical high-speed data transfer technologies are helping keep the smaller houses in the game.
The cost and complexity of reliable high-speed networking previously prevented independent producers from scaling up to compete with the industry’s biggest players. Today this is changing, due in part to a powerful Gigabit Ethernet network from 3Com Corp.
Zoic Studios, a Los Angeles production house launched in August 2002, is using the affordable 3Com Gigabit Ethernet network to serve high profile clients such as Fox, UPN and the Sci-Fi Channel. According to Zoic, the high-speed Ethernet delivers the reliable, high-speed data transfers the studio needs to create riveting visual effects while meeting tight production deadlines. "Downtime is a killer in our business," says Zoic Studios chief engineer Saker Klippsten. "Besides $50,000 a day in lost productivity, it’s the fastest way to lose clients. Fortunately, with 3Com switches, it’s no longer an issue."
For series such as Fox’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Zoic artists used network-based Maya 3D software from Alias to create effects that make a body appear to turn to dust. For Sci-Fi’s upcoming Battlestar Galactica miniseries, the 3Com solution allowed Zoic artists to create photorealistic CG scenes utilizing 2D and 3D graphics applications such as Discreet Combustion and Newtek’s Lightwave. This season they intend to bring these solutions to CSI Miami and Century City for CBS.
"3Com gave us the best and most affordable way we found to get a Gigabit network that always works and can scale to meet our needs however they evolve," Klippsten continues. "It puts us on an equal footing with our bigger competitors and is invaluable to the creation of our visual effects."