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Black Hawk Down' Visual Effects Creators, The Mill, Chooses Foundry Networks for Faster Performance

(January 21, 2002)
The Mill, the award winning visuals effects company behind Black Hawk Down, the Ridley Scott film, has chosen Foundry Networks' high-performance Gigabit Ethernet switches and routers to increase network performance. The company has moved away from an ATM-based network to a Gigabit Ethernet solution enabling staff involved in film and TV production to complete work more quickly.

Black Hawk Down is the story of the longest sustained firefight involving American troops since the Vietnam War. The film recounts, with extensive visuals effects developed by The Mill, how American soldiers, dropped by helicopter in Somalia end up fighting a long and ultimately bloody battle.


Jonathan Brazier, The Mill's systems manager, explains the background to the project, "We used an ATM backbone for some four years with Cabletron and Bay Ethernet switches when 100Mbps wasn't as common as it today. But ATM is astronomically expensive -- the price per port is huge, along with heavy maintenance and support costs. So, as the technology landscape has changed with better price/performance on offer, it made no sense to stay with ATM."

Brazier continues, "ATM was also causing huge bottlenecks -- we needed to increase network throughput so that our people could get data out of our systems faster thereby increasing their efficiency and effectiveness. ATM couldn't cater to our needs so it became obvious that we needed to change and install Gigabit Ethernet between our servers and select workstations."

Working with their reseller, Convergent Network Solutions (CNS), and after a brief testing period, The Mill installed Foundry's BigIron 8000 Layer 3 switch for use in the network core, along with the FastIron II chassis-based switch at the edge. The Mill also purchased Foundry's stackable switching router, the TurboIron II, which offers Gigabit Ethernet backbone routing. The Mill has a complex network with some 200 desktop systems and files servers attached including two Silicon Graphics Origin 2000 file servers and 60 Dell servers which form a render farm where the production, (2D and 3D modelling applications) run.

Brazier explains the reasons for choosing Foundry, "Initially, CNS wanted to install Cisco, but we were impressed by what we had heard about Foundry's switches with their non-blocking architecture so we steered CNS towards them. It's no doubt a reflection of Foundry's excellent technology, but further to their work with us, CNS has since become a Foundry reseller."

Foundry has therefore become The Mill's high-performance network provider of choice with ongoing developments planned to increase Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop for certain applications as well as the capacity of the Gigabit Ethernet backbone. This scalability will be achieved as Foundry offers customers the ability to swap and install new blades to their switches as their business needs demand.

The Foundry technology has been reliable from the first day of installation and has enabled staff using 2D modelling tools, Flame and Inferno(1), and Maya(2), a 3D tool, to shift images around. Brazier explains, "Operators using Flame and Inferno, for example, move files from our servers, work on the images on their workstations and then send them back. It is this large file transfer which requires leading network performance provided by Foundry."

Bobby Johnson, president & CEO, Foundry Networks says, "I had the privilege of pre-screening Black Hawk Down in December. I was truly impressed by the innovation and imagination shown by The Mill in making this film come to life supported by our high-performance networking solutions. We are delighted to contribute to this and the success of The Mill by their use of our technology. Also, we are pleased in regards to the contribution that this film is making to the U.S. military by bringing their story to the big screen."

About The Mill

Established in 1990, and based in Soho, London, Shepperton Film Studios and Los Angeles, USA, The Mill provides a range of technology-based creative facilities to service the entertainment and advertising industries. The breadth of award winning work offered by the group ranges from model making, camera operation, web animation, to sophisticated visual effects on commercials and feature films.

As the group figurehead, The Mill specializes in high-end commercials and music promos. The company has built an impressive client-base of some of the world's best directors and advertising agencies who handle accounts such as Levi's, Pepsi, Guinness, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Mill Film was founded in 1997 to bring The Mill's knowledge of visual effects into the realm of feature film. In 2001, Mill Film received an Academy Award Oscar for the visual effects work in Ridley Scott's Roman epic, Gladiator. In 2001 alone, Mill Film worked on high-profile films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Hannibal, Cats and Dogs, Chocolat and the blockbuster Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone.

The Mill also produces innovative interactive web content for advertising and entertainment as well as providing high-value, high-quality visual effects for episodic television. For more information about The Mill, please visit the web at www.mill.co.uk.

For more information, visit www.foundrynetworks.com.



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