Weta Digital’s 35,000 Core Ubuntu Render Farm

There isn’t any question about the power of linux/unix on the server and desktop level, but a little acknowledgement never hurts.

I recently posted about the release of Ubuntu 10.10. While this isn’t as fresh, it is equally as interesting. Dustin Kirkland, a core developer of Ubuntu Server at Canonical posted in January about how Weta uses Ubuntu at their studio.

In his post Dustin mentioned how he had a chance to sit down and talk to Paul Gunn, the Systems Administrator at Weta Digital.

It was a great talk, about the type of data center needed to render special effects in today’s blockbuster movies. They have a 2 Petabyte disk array, 10gbps networking, and 35,000 cores (4,000+ HP blades) in their data center, and still it takes 48 hours to render some of their graphic sequences.

That is a pretty respectable data center! And Unbuntu is at the heart of it. The OS is currently running on all of the rendering nodes as well as 90% of the studios desktops. That means that all of those breath taking scenes you enjoyed in films like Avatar made their way through the sudio’s Ubuntu render farm.


I first saw this on Christer Edwards blog, Ubuntu Tutorials. He noted a couple of other films that Weta Digital has work on, these include such blockbusters as:

  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • King Kong
  • Jumper
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Fantastic Four
  • i-Robot
  • X-Men
  • Eragon

Where they also rendered on Ubuntu? That isn’t confirmed but with the size of their render farm you can be sure it didn’t spring up over night.