Linux Plays Starring Role in Sinbad

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-07-01 Print this article Print

With HP's help, DreamWorks' "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" becomes the first film ever created entirely on Linux.

The newest animated movie from DreamWorks studios and which opens to audiences this week, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," is the first film ever created entirely on Linux. Mike Balma, Hewlett-Packard Co.s Linux business strategist, told eWEEK in an interview that the company has been working with DreamWorks since 2001 when it helped the movie studio bring Linux graphics work to animated movies. While Linux graphics played a role in the animated movie "Shrek," "Sinbad" is the first movie the studio has made entirely using Linux. "The graphics animation was done on HP workstations, while the back-end rendering was done on Linux servers," Balma said.
"The studio can now do all the front-end and back-end work on Linux, so why would they want to use anything else?" he asked.
In "Sinbad," DreamWorks used a technique called animatics in preshooting the entire film. Animatics is similar to storyboarding but uses a digital format. That, along with the power of HPs workstations, allowed the studio to see the storyboard in real time and make better creative decisions, Balma said. The Linux animation project also blends traditional and digital animation, while leveraging hand-drawn characters with the visual power of three-dimensional and high-resolution animatics. With animated films becoming more graphics-intensive, DreamWorks has adopted high-performance, industry-standard HP workstations running Linux to provide greater flexibility and the scalability required for the animation as well as to save on hardware costs, Balma said. More than 250 mostly 3-D accelerated dual-monitor HP workstations running Red Hat Linux made up the the core of DreamWorks graphics platform for the artists working on "Sinbad." Dual-monitor environments increase workflow productivity by allowing artists to have multiple windows open, he said. DreamWorks has also developed a Digital Animation Review Tool, an uncompressed and full-resolution color-accurate playback solution on the desktop, which replaced an SGI Unix-based operating system known as Irix, which was costly and was limited in functionality, Balma said.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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