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6/4/2010
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Lamont Wood
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HP Servers Created Avatar

HP can now claim that it was involved in winning an Oscar, as its servers were behind the special effects used in Avatar.

HP can now claim that it was involved in winning an Oscar, as its servers were behind the special effects used in Avatar.Hewlett-Packard has announced that one of its blade server models was used to create the special effects of the CGI-heavy motion picture "Avatar," which won a 2010 Academy Award for visual effects (plus direction and cinematography.)

The CGI was done with HP ProLiant BL2x220c units, which contain two independent servers in a single blade, allowing twice the computer power in the same space.

The model is rack-mounted and prices start at about $10,000. It will support up to 32 server nodes per 10U enclosure, with two six-core Xeon 5500 CPUs per node, with up to 96 gigabytes of low-power DDR3 memory per node. A 42U rack can be populated with 1,536 cores.

The servers were owned, and the award-winning special effects crafted by Weta Digital of New Zealand. Weta, incidentally, was co-founded in 1993 by film-maker Peter Jackson, and was involved in his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It now works with other Hollywood directors as well, and was involved in the more recent "District 9" and "The Lovely Bones."

Using servers for CGI is nothing new, by the way. Some years ago I did a customer testimonial for a client concerning workstations used in the TV industry, and somehow ended up talking to the man who did special effects for the series "Xena: Warrior Princess," which ran from 1995 to 2001. The star of the show was Lucy Lawless, another product of New Zealand, whose undeniable acting talent was often overshadowed by other endowments. The source gave me a lengthy account of the effort he had to expend, using CGI, to mask her bra straps. He talked about other things, too, but I dont remember any of it.

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