Industrial Light & Magic

Movie magic doesn't just happen, it requires a lot of work from a lot of creative people to bring spectacular special effects to the screen. It's a complicated job that must be tracked every step of the way to ensure that every shot is completed on time, every time. And that's why key administrative personnel at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) track ongoing projects with FileMaker Pro, the award–winning database software solution from FileMaker, Inc.

Administrators at top special–effects production house track the making of movie magic with FileMaker Pro


  • World–renowned motion picture and commercial visual effects production house
  • Based in San Rafael, CA
  • Approximately 1400 employees


  • Creative Services
  • Entertainment
  • Medium–Large Business


  • Track essential production data
  • Exchange information with Oracle production database through XML and SQL
  • Generate reports

Business Challenge

Since the mid–1970s, Industrial Light & Magic has provided exciting, ground–breaking visual effects for dozens of unforgettable Hollywood productions. In almost any major motion picture you can name—from Jurassic Park, Twister, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump, to Men In Black, The Perfect Storm and, of course, the Harry Potter series—George Lucas' dream factory has created stunning visual effects. From its headquarters in San Rafael, California, the ILM team consistently produces material that makes moviegoers sit up and say "wow!"

Every step of the way all that work must be carefully documented, and the information must be readily available on short notice to administrative personnel, without them having to work through a complicated data–management interface. "Members of our administrative team needed a system with more flexibility for tracking specific projects," comments ILM Database Developer Jim Randell. "They needed to be able to generate reports, change layouts, and make other adjustments on a dime, and the existing Oracle system just didn't have that level of flexibility. So they came up with a FileMaker Pro solution that became so useful it actually began to compete with the Oracle system."

Two parallel database systems in competition with each other threatened to become unproductive. So Jim developed a system in which the administrative staff's FileMaker Pro system and the production staff's Oracle system were able to work together—complimenting each other rather than competing.

Successful Solution

Some thirty people in the ILM administrative office take advantage of the FileMaker Pro system to track ongoing projects, readily exchanging information with the Oracle production database through XML and SQL . "We might have eight films in production at any given time, and each might contain from 50 to 500 different effects shots. At any moment, the administrative people need to know where each of the productions stands, who's doing what and when, and the status of each individual shot," Jim continues. "One frame from each shot is stored in the FileMaker Pro database for that project, along with enough of the production data from Oracle to provide a succinct overview of an immensely detailed process."

At present, each ongoing project has its own set of FileMaker Pro databases, which might contain up to 27 different files and tens of thousands of records. But with the advent of FileMaker Pro 7, Jim anticipates reworking the system into a single set of tables in one file, and separate 'client files' maintaining a customized interface for each project.

The biggest advantage in using FileMaker Pro is its flexibility, and I think FileMaker Pro 7 is a quantum leap forward. Speaking as a developer, I think FileMaker Pro 7 will save me uncountable hours of development time.

— Jim Randell, Database Developer, Industrial Light & Magic

Customer Benefits

Flexibility was a key factor in the decision to develop the original FileMaker Pro system, and Jim expects that with FileMaker Pro 7, that will be even greater. "The biggest advantage in using FileMaker Pro is its flexibility, and I think FileMaker Pro 7 is a quantum leap forward," Jim declares. "I'm especially excited about being able to work with multiple tables in a single file, and the ability to use one script to manipulate multiple tables. But the icing on the cake is that in FileMaker Pro 7 the 'one table away' problem has been solved—you can now write to a 'related table' and to 'related table's–related table'. From what I've seen, FileMaker Pro 7 is a whole new ballgame. Speaking as a developer, I think FileMaker Pro 7 will save me uncountable hours of development time."

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.

For Industrial Light & Magic:

Miles Perkins
Senior Publicist
Industrial Light & Magic

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