Founded in 2004, leading computer-generated imagery (CGI) production studio Sparky Animation (Sparky) creates 3D animation for home videos, television series, digital games, mobile devices, Internet content and movies. Research and development of proprietary computer graphics, animation and production management software tools are also part of the company’s focus.

Collaborating with producers across the globe, Sparky has invested, codirected and coproduced several animation series, including Dinosaur Train and One Stormy Night. In addition, Sparky delivers outsourced animation projects such as the direct-to-DVD feature Veggie Tales: Huckleberry Larry & Tomato Sawyer’s Big River Rescue and the popular television series 3-2-1 Penguins!
Boosting project productivity with a technology refresh

Investing in advanced technology to support growth

Sparky focuses on producing high-quality shows that are augmented by the company’s proprietary technology and pipeline management systems for animation production. The highly efficient animation production pipeline requires a robust, high-performance fleet of workstations.

Sparky’s successful track record in the industry has resulted in a strong demand for collaboration, creating the need to recruit skilled employees and provide them with the right IT environment to take on the influx of new projects. With existing workstations nearing end of life, Sparky had to evaluate how a technology refresh could help ensure a high level of productivity among employees.

The company worked with long-time technology partner Dell to deploy Dell™ Precision™ T3500 workstations featuring Intel® Xeon® processors and NVIDIA Quadro® 4000 graphic cards paired with Dell UltraSharp™ 1905FP 19- and 21-inch LCD monitors. The monitors facilitate color coordination and consistency among different artists.

Teo How Jiann, Technical Director Supervisor at Sparky Animation, says, “We use the Autodesk® Maya® software for our 3D animation projects, and Autodesk certifies certain workstations to be used with the software. This was definitely one of the reasons for our selection of the Dell Precision workstations.”

The Dell Precision workstations feature Energy Smart technology as well as added energy-efficiency capabilities provided by the Intel Xeon processors. Teo says, “While the nature of our projects demands high usability and reliability from the workstations, we have to balance this with being a small business and our demands to maximize the value derived from our investment. The Dell Precision workstations meet both these demands as they are ideal for 3D animation while being optimized for energy efficiency.”

Enhancing productivity through use of robust servers

Sparky also deployed Dell PowerEdge™ M600 blade servers housed in a Dell PowerEdge M1000e blade enclosure for the purpose of 3D rendering. Rendering is the process of generating an image from a model or models — in what collectively could be called a scene file — by means of computer programs. A scene file contains objects in a strictly defined language or data structure that include information such as geometry, viewpoint, texture, lighting and shading to describe the virtual scene. Depending on the complexity of a scene file, it can take hours to render a large number of images for constructing the frames in an animation sequence.

Sparky previously used several units of rack-mount servers together with artist workstations for rendering. Most rendering tasks had to be executed at night, when the workstations were not being used, to avoid disrupting the artists. Now, rendering can be processed on the blade servers 24x7.

Teo says, “With the ability to perform continuous rendering on the Dell server, our workstations have been freed up and the artists can focus on their work without interruption. As a result, our productivity on projects has effectively increased, allowing us to meet project deliverable timelines more efficiently.”

Sharpening focus with reliable, timely support

The IT team at Sparky has saved a considerable amount of time on maintaining the IT environment through the support they receive from Dell ProSupport with Next Business Day On-site Response Service. The service provides prompt responses and resolutions of any IT issues, which in turn helps project managers plan project timelines accurately and deliver on tight client deadlines without unforeseen delays.

Additionally, Sparky can now maintain an optimal IT team size. Teo says, “Without the reliable support we receive from Dell, we would need to add more members to our IT team to be on standby and resolve any IT issues as they arise to avoid any delays to our projects. But this is an inefficient use of human resources and an added cost that we can now avoid.”

Sparky has a single point of contact at Dell, which has been a great convenience for its IT team. “A single team within Dell takes care of all our IT needs regardless of the product or solution, eliminating the time needed to find the appropriate contact person, which is a huge benefit to us as a small business,” says Teo.

As Sparky expands its business, having a reliable and stable vendor is critical. “Working with Dell provides us with the confidence that our IT environment needs will be met through access to the latest technology,” says Teo. “We certainly want to continue working with Dell on our future projects as we grow as a company.”

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Dell Precision workstations:

Dell PowerEdge blade servers: