"It started out as his lowest budget movie except the first one (Spy Kids) originally with only about a hundred shots (that needed special effects)" said Rodney Brunet, special effects supervisor at Rodriguez' Troublemaker Studios located at the former municipal airport near downtown Austin. "But then it grow to more than 500 shots. But we kept it in-house and banged out all the shots here." They have four full-time and six part-time artists.
"When we are ready to cook something we throw it to the render farm, which works in the background 24/7," he added.
The render farm is a server room (which they have been expanding for eight years) with 129 x86 machines, including dual six-core and even dual 12-core units, he explained. All are rack-mounted blade servers mostly running Windows Server.
Post-production for the movie took about six months. As for how long it would have taken without the latest hardware, "I don't know, but it would have been a lot longer," Brunet said.
Production is done at a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, and everything is digital, even the cameras, until they get to the point where they make a celluloid version that is sent to theaters, he said. For the working files, storage requirements are about 10 megabytes per frame, and there are 24 per second, he noted.
Images are assembled in layers, The need for multiple versions and 3D images expands the storage requirements, and a project needs a working space of four to six terabytes, he indicated.
They mostly use off-the-shelf software, and their primary 3D cinema package is Softimage. "Off-the-shelf is Robert's mantra," he said. "And without AMD it would be nearly impossible to stay competitive."
One IT person runs the server room and handles backups and archiving. They have one other tech person who writes software scripts, he said.
Meanwhile, the studio is gearing up for Spy Kids 4, for release next summer. An AMD spokesperson said that AMD's Fusion technology with its combined CPU and GPUs should provide further throughput improvements for rendering.