Dreamworks' revolutionary road

Dreamworks' revolutionary road

'We will not be the state of the art technology storytelling company without IT,' says Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks.

Jeffrey Katzenberg doesn't hesitate when replying to the question of what was the biggest technology challenge he faced as CEO of film animation company Dreamworks.

It was when DreamWorks decided to make all of its movies in 3D and create “a powerful creative story telling tool for filmmakers”, says Katzenberg whose company produced ShrekKung Fu Panda and Puss in Boots. “The complexity of making our movies in 3D is not twice as complicated, it is 10 times as complicated,” he says, speaking at the HP World Tour in Beijing. Katzenberg shared the stage with HP CEO Meg Whitman, talking about how Dreamworks has worked with HP in its transition from traditional animation to a fully digital entertainment company. It began with the original Shrek movie, he says, when HP provided the technology a full year before it was made available elsewhere. This is the key reason why Shrek succeeded in being such a revolutionary film, says Katzenberg.  After Shrek, he says, Dreamworks launched into an uninterrupted string of  17 successful releases, an unprecedented record in the history of movies. HP was a technology partner in each of those movies, and a few years later, oversaw the transformation of Dreamworks into a 3D production studio. “We were the first studio to create 100 percent of our movies in digital,” says Katzenberg. He says the two companies were brought “closer together” when Whitman became CEO of HP nearly two years ago. “I have known Meg since 1989 when we worked at Walt Disney Studios,” says Katzenberg.  The two companies are working as technology partners for Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture between Dreamworks Animation and a consortium led by China Media Capital. Oriental Dreamworks, to be based in Shanghai, will work with DreamWorks Animation to produce Kung Fu Panda 3. With Dreamworks, “we literally started at zero, and build from the ground up,” says Katzenberg.

Oriental Dreamworks will have the best of both worlds, as a “new startup company but with integrated support” of HP. Katzenberg says Dreamworks and HP are also working on another technology project - “scalable multi-core processing” . “It allows our artists for the very first time to be able to work on rich complex images in real time,” says Katzenberg of the process which he says will be the next revolution in filmmaking He explains that today, Dreamworks artists do computations and send their work overnight for rendering. This takes about eight hours and the artists see the results the next day.  “You can imagine how revolutionary it would be for an artists to see their work as they are doing it as opposed to only imagining what it would be,” says Katzenberg, He says this is made possible through technology that HP has helped Dreamworks develop over four years. The first movie that will be completed using this technology is How to Train Your Dragon 2’ which will be out next year, he says. Oriental Dreamworks, on the other hand, will be China’s largest and most advanced animation production base. “China is no longer an emerging market; it has arrived,” says Katzenberg. China is now the second largest market in the world for the movie industry, and he expects it to the biggest in three to four years.  Oriental Dreamworks will use integrated HP products from datacentre to the studio. These include HP Converged Infrastrucutre comprising of Moonshot servers, StoreAll9700 and StoreServe 7000. “We have a very deep and long partnership with HP, we could not make the movies that we make today, not be the state of the art technology storytelling company that we are today, if not for the partnership we have with HP,” he says.   “They actually allowed the imagination of our artists to get translated into wonderful images for movies,” says Katzenberg. “They make the impossible possible for us.” “We truly have made magic together,” says Whitman on HP’s work with Dreamworks. Whitman says the technology industry is standing at the “next major inflection point”, driven by cloud, mobility, security and big data. This shift, which happens every 10 to 15 years, “demands a new style of IT”, she says. Whitman says Dreamworks “are really pioneers” in this space. She says Katzenberg has used technology to fundamentally change his entire business. “Together we have pushed the boundaries of what technology can do for Dreamworks,” says Whitman. “Where they have taken movies today was not possible as recently as two years ago.” A video shown during the keynote states every film at Dreamworks has half a billion digital files requiring more than 60 million render hours. We needed extraordinary size and scale to accommodate our peak needs, and HP was able to step in with a set of services that allowed us to do that in an economy of scale we will not be able to achieve by ourselves, says Katzenberg. Divina Paredes attended the HP World Tour in Beijing as a guest of HP.

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