Big movies, big effects

Aug 19 2013, 11:21 IST
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SummaryFilm makers are increasingly relying on computer-generated special effects to make their movies a visual treat and a box office hit

These days, eye-popping computer-generated special effects have become more and more prevalent in movies—Hindi, English or even regional. But it is Hollywood which is at the forefront when it comes to deploying advanced technology—motion capture, computer-generated imagery or 3D—to come up with big movies with extraordinary big effects. Remember James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar, with its breathtaking landscapes—all made possible thanks to computer graphics. Or Steven Spielberg’s not-so-old The Adventures of Tintin, in which the director has used performance capture technology to see his characters perform in real-time as digital replicas. And, who can forget Spielberg’s groundbreaking film Jurassic Park with its extraordinary visual effects.

In recent weeks, DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo is drawing audiences to the theatres, courtesy computer graphics. This is a high-velocity 3D computer-animated sports comedy film, about an ordinary snail who dares to dream big—and fast! After a freak accident infuses him with the power of super-speed, Turbo kicks into overdrive and embarks on an extraordinary journey to achieve the seemingly impossible: competing in the world’s fastest race, the Indianapolis 500.

DreamWorks Animation tapped technology from Hewlett-Packard to recreate the thrill of the Indy 500, with snails traveling 220 miles per hour and more than 500,000 crowd characters filling a replica of the Indianapolis

Motor Speedway. The American tech major’s technology spanning servers, storage, networking, services and management software, as well as workstations and printers helped DreamWorks Animation process massive amounts of data, creating new levels of imagery and powering innovative computer graphics animated movie-making techniques.

“DreamWorks Animation’s alliance with Hewlett-Packard ensured that we had the high-performance computing, continuous availability and streamlined management capabilities needed to accurately depict Turbo’s dream of becoming the world’s fastest racer,” said Derek Chan, head of Technology Global Operations, DreamWorks Animation.

The production of Turbo required 75 million render hours to create fully realised images, including 32 Indy 500 race cars and 32 million crowd character instances, the highest of any DreamWorks Animation film to date. In addition, HP networking technology provided animators with access to a central repository of assets, simplifying collaboration by allowing artists to easily share and retrieve resources across all locations. Also, the reliable network infrastructure allowed creative teams to work anytime from anywhere, with production spread across studios from Glendale and Redwood City, California, to Bangalore.

Hewlett-Packard workstations enabled artists to execute iterations 50% faster than previous workstations and develop increasingly complex camera angles and special effects. When not in use by creative teams, workstation processing power was used to run night-time rendering jobs, contributing to the millions of compute hours needed to produce the movie. Integrated with workstations, HP remote graphics software—a free HP workstation tool—enabled animators to collaborate more efficiently across geographies by viewing ideas and assets on a single display. HP server technology was also deployed to handle the demands of Turbo; these

increased render throughput by 40% and performance per watt by 42%.

Technology from the American PC maker (Hewlett-Packard) has played an integral role in many of DreamWorks’ films, including the Shrek series, Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, among others. In fact, in Puss in Boots, film makers deployed a range of technologies, from HP workstations to networking products to digital rendering resources accessed via the cloud. In Turbo too, a scalable cloud infrastructure has been deployed in the film’s creation.

On the home front too, film makers are increasingly relying on computer animation to have the biggest effects— and make a blockbuster. The multi-crore Rajinikanth-starrer Robot is still fresh in the minds of viewers with its incredible computer graphics. Thanks to a talented army of 3D modelers, animators and render technicians, more people are making a beeline to the cinema halls to catch up with the latest special effects-powered blockbusters.

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