EMC & Lightstorm Entertainment Redefine the Film Industry for a Digital Future

Lightstorm Entertainment strives to push the boundaries of the film industry; with every movie we’ve done, from Titanic to Terminator 2: Judgment Day to Avatar. It’s interesting creatively for us to do things that stray from the norm, and that culture is reflected in the way we refer to our business.

To me, there’s no such thing as a “film industry” anymore. Nobody works on film anymore; we certainly don’t. We are, unquestionably, 100 percent digital. Movies like Avatar – which grossed more than $2.7 billion worldwide – simply would not exist without digital technology.


Because we’re 100 percent digital, our storage needs have evolved. We have to figure out, for example, how to take all of this data and keep it secure, and share it securely. How do we use digital technology to enhance what we can offer the consumer, or in our marketing of a movie when it comes out?

Additional factors have a significant impact on our storage requirements. For example, these movies have to be designed; every illustration we do, every concept drawing – it’s digital. Every time we come on to a stage and do a test, and our performer does the right thing, the right stunt, the right action, we need to be able to store that data.

With the next three Avatar sequels, we’re going to be pushing the boundaries of technology. These movies couldn’t even be thought about without digital technology, or without strategic partners like EMC that help us to manage all of this data that needs to be stored and pushed out to different teams across the world.

When we were evaluating the EMC Isilon Scale-Out NAS system, our team found that it was the solution that delivers everything. It’s cost-effective, it’s reliable, it’s expedient and it’s efficient in how it operates. EMC was able to offer a package that served all of our data needs, and our data needs are huge.


In the case of our Avatar sequels, the volumes of data are going to be in the numerous petabytes for both our Lightstorm Entertainment team here in Los Angeles, and for the Weta Digital visual effects team down in New Zealand. By comparison, for the first Avatar movie, we had 2 petabytes of storage with the Weta team alone, not including the production side.

With the Avatar franchise, we’re not looking to have a number of partners in every area, we’re looking to have the gold-standard partners. The EMC Isilon system we have created brings us a new realm of possibilities around what we can do and how we can push technology even further.

Truly, the door has just been cracked open on what we can do, and I think all of those answers are digital answers. We want to explore things like higher dynamic range and higher frame rates. We also believe that we’re going to be able to create a much higher-fidelity performance for our computer-generated characters thanks to a closer-knit marriage between Weta Digital in New Zealand and our team here in Los Angeles as we’re making this movie.

Digital technology has enabled us to think of anything, and it’s now doable. It didn’t used to be. Whatever Jim (Lightstorm Entertainment co-founder James Cameron) conceives of, whatever our artists conceive of, we can create it, and we can create it not in isolation but with collaboration from the best of the best from around the world.

To learn more about EMC’s relationship with Lightstorm Entertainment, check out the related video: Lighstorm Entertainment Transforms Film Industry with Isilon Data Lake

About the Author: Jon Landau