Silicon Graphics O2

SGI O2 Workstation

Donated by Blue Sky Studios, Greenwich, Connecticut

20 January 2013

Blue Sky Studios, a 20th Century Fox company, produces computer animated films, most notably the Ice Age films, as well as Robots, Horton Hears a Who, Rio, and the soon to be released Epic.

This SGI O2 workstation, named “onondaga,” was one of 12 that Blue Sky Studios purchased towards the end of 1999, just after starting production on Ice Age. It was part of Blue Sky’s larger effort to ramp up its feature film production capability. This particular O2 was used in the production of both Ice Age and Robots.

All O2s at Blue Sky were equipped with 1GB of RAM and a 9GB disk. Production data was stored on file servers and accessed using NFS; the O2’s disk held no local data, only an operating system.

O2s were appreciated at Blue Sky for their compact size and modularity. Blue Sky also used the more expensive SGI Octane workstation for their more demanding animation tasks. All told, Blue Sky owned about 50 O2s and about 100 Octanes. Workstations at Blue Sky have traditionally been given names of towns in New York State: thus “onondaga.” Other O2s at Blue Sky were called “ontario,” “orwell,” “odessa,” “orient,” “oneonta,” etc.

Because Blue Sky used the Maya animation software, they had to use SGI computers. (SGI owned Alias/Wavefront, the creators of Maya, and released Maya only for the SGI platform to boost sales of their workstations.) Despite being expensive, SGIs were well-known for their solid, reliable operating system, IRIX (a variant of Unix), and for excellent software and hardware support. From the mid 1980’s until about 2002, SGIs were the only game in town for serious computer graphics. But Alias/Wavefront’s decision in 2002 to release Maya on the Linux platform sounded the death knell for SGI’s workstation lines. Suddenly, it was possible to buy PCs from HP, Dell, and IBM with the same graphics capabilities as an SGI workstation, but for one fifth the price.

After converting to Linux on less expensive PCs, Blue Sky put its SGI workstations in storage, and by 2008 had liquidated nearly all of them. As of this writing, onondaga is one of just seven surviving SGI workstations from the early days of Blue Sky’s feature film production.