Animal grows with Tiger

A still from the spot Animal produced for Mike's HardFor Animal, success has meant growing operations and increasing efficiency, and a need for greater shared storage capacity

Pittsburgh-based veteran industry professionals Jim Kreitzburg and Michael Killen made a name for themselves with the talking animal effects in the famous Taco Bell Chihuahua and California Dairy Board Happy Cows campaigns. With a goal of offering this high-end work nationally, they chose the name Animal for the company they opened with Kathy Dziubek in 2001. Animal (www.animalvfx.com) offers the full range of production, directorial, editorial, and post services including visual effects with Flame, 2D and 3D animation, and grading with Scratch.

Jim, Michael, and Kathy continued their signature talking effects on the Taco Bell and Happy Cow campaigns, as well as numerous other commercials. If a spot features a talking animal, there’s a decent chance Jim and his team are behind it.

“Using Tiger software and off-the-shelf storage fit our budget way better than adding more proprietary gear.”

Advanced production and post at this level require not only high-end creative tools, but also an infrastructure that makes the creative process easier, letting the Animals focus on the work they are best at. Jim himself is firstly a Flame artist and 3D animator, but like in a lot of creative agencies now, also acts as the engineer, system administrator, and all around technology guy.

From the Mike's spot produced by Animal“Our startup was one Octane 2 with Flame and Smoke, one PC with 3ds Max, and one Discreet edit – 3 machines and a used digibeta deck. Our collaboration back then was a shared folder on each machine, and then a few years later we added a NAS. We then tried a system from Facilis that never worked that well for us. When we needed to increase our storage capacity again, using Tiger software and off-the-shelf storage fit our budget way better than adding more proprietary gear.”

“The amount of machines we’ve got, the amount of work we’ve got going to and from those volumes, it’s golden.”

Animal continued to grow and expand, and added an animation render farm, and increased the number of workstations needing to access their central storage to over 20, with a mix of Linux, Mac, and Windows OS. Now a typical job will be worked on by a large team of artists.

The famous Talking ChihuahuaFor example, a recent Mike’s Hard Lemonade spot Animal produced was worked on by more than 10 artists using 15 machines over a week and a half. The spot was shot at 4K with their RED cameras, edited on Mac OS Adobe Premiere with ProRes and DNxHD dailies generated out of Assimilate Scratch with a RED Rocket card, CGI elements created in Maya and Cinema4d and composited with Nuke, and then finished with two Flame systems at once.

“It works. It supports the three OS I need, and the technical support is as good as it gets.”

“The size and complexity of our operations now mean that there aren’t a lot of choices of shared storage that will work. We talked to Howard Solomon at Creative Business Technologies and he recommended a Tiger Serve. We also talked to Quantum about a StorNext system but their proposal didn’t work for Animal at all.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 2.31.22 PMCreative Business Technologies worked with Animal to set up an 8Gb Fibre Channel network with a Tiger Serve storage workflow controller attached to off the shelf storage. This configuration gives the Animals all the speed they need to do creative editorial with their Adobe Premiere editing systems, and high-resolution grading and finishing with their Flame and Scratch stations. It easily integrated with the 10Gb near-line backup storage and LTO tape archive systems also sourced from Creative Business Technologies.

“I’d recommend a Tiger Serve to anyone looking for shared storage. It works. It supports the three OS I need, and the technical support is as good as it gets. I can easily add capacity. The amount of machines we’ve got, the amount of work we’ve got going to and from those volumes, it’s golden. It’s very nice because I don’t have to do much.”