HP and DreamWorks shape digital films' future

HP and DreamWorks shape digital films' future

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and DreamWorks SKG Tuesday marked the latest chapter in their alliance by unveiling technologies for off-site animation rendering and remote collaboration-next-generation solutions that are intended to enable DreamWorks Animation to shape the future of digital film making.

Built on a technology partnership that began in 2001, HP says, the collaboration aims to provide DreamWorks Animation with state-of-the-art technology solutions from HP, which, the companies say, are being used to bring to life some of the most advanced animated images and characters. These will be seen in soon-to-be released feature films "Shrek 2", "Shark Tale" and "Madagascar".

The company says its Utility Rendering Service (URS), developed by the company in close collaboration with DreamWorks, addresses a very real and expensive problem in creating digital animation. URS provides, it says, a simple, flexible and scalable solution to manage the enormous amount of computational power that is needed to render high-quality film animation.

Working closely with HP, DreamWorks developed the Virtual Studio Collaboration (VSC) project to address the need to connect geographically dispersed teams and provide an unprecedented level of collaboration capabilities, the company states. It says that the next generation of the VSC is now under development by HP and promises even more capabilities when enhanced by HP technology.

HP notes that combined, the URS and VSC are allowing DreamWorks to quickly upscale its production ambition and utilize artistic talent from several locations simultaneously.

With the new solutions, HP says, it effectively serves as an infrastructure extension of a premier Hollywood animation studio, providing peak compute power at crucial stages in the production process, and enhancing the creative process across a geographically dispersed organization.

"Through our partnership, we are changing what is possible in animation. With HP we are breaking down technological barriers and achieving great results," says Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks co-founder. "HP enables us to realize our current ambitions, and to feel more confident about dreaming even bigger for the future."

"As a partner to DreamWorks, HP's goal is to deliver technologies like the URS that enhance DreamWorks technologies and like VSC, which free the artistic spirit, improve the collaborative process and cut production costs," says Shane Robison, chief strategy and technology officer at HP. "Together, the two companies will continue to evaluate technology synergies to enhance DreamWorks' reputation."

HP believes that adaptive technology helps to improve cost-effectiveness. It says that the HP URS was built by researchers at its labs in Palo Alto using a 1 000-processor compute farm built on industry-standard systems, including HP ProLiant DL360 servers running Linux and HP ProCurve network switches. The company says it is linked via a secure, high-speed network to DreamWorks Animation studios to provide an extension of DreamWorks' internal data center -- giving the studio a pooled set of resources that can be tapped as needed without having to make a major capital investment.

According to HP, its URS allow DreamWorks the flexibility to add significant peak capacity for the final stages of rendering "Shrek 2", which will be released on May 21. It says that to date, more than a half million individual frames have been processed on the HP URS. The company believes that this may be the first time that a major film animation company has gone outside its gates for a significant share of the critical digital rendering process that adds color, texture, lighting and special effects to 3D character models and scenes.

The company says its HP Labs researchers developed advanced capabilities for service configuration and management and put comprehensive instrumentation in place to collect many terabytes of system data that are used to optimize performance and reliability. The URS data center, according to the company, is a high-density installation that employs HP's "smart" cooling and "smart" power solutions to provide the maximum compute capability in a small and cost-efficient footprint.

As a key element of the HP Adaptive Enterprise strategy, the company notes, utility computing services like the URS represent a new economic model for the entertainment industry with the potential for unprecedented levels of flexibility, performance, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

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