Ed Leonard, chief technical officer for DreamWorks SKG, told eWEEK that the DreamWorks work flow process has two components: the interactive workstation used by an artist for lighting, animation and rendering, which is then submitted to a render farm batch process that takes it from low resolution to high resolution or across multiple frames. The company decided in 1999 that it wanted to become the first studio to embrace a total Linux desktop company as commodity processors were becoming fast enough. Until then, it had been relying on SGI technology as well as several million lines of proprietary code used in custom tools and the pipeline it used to make these movies.HPs graphics team in Fort Collins, Colo., which had already built its own layers of Xserver and graphics drivers, worked with DreamWorks on these pieces to create the new platform that the company uses today. There was also a huge cost savings involved in moving to a more commodity-based platform from a specialized one, Leonard said. The collaboration between HP and DreamWorks on "Sinbad" builds on a three-year, multimillion-dollar technology strategic alliance aimed at revolutionizing animation production using Linux. In her keynote address at the January 2001 LinuxWorld conference, HP CEO and Chairman Carly Fiorina said the company would provide computing infrastructure for DreamWorks next-generation digital studio, making it possible to create computer-generated animation more quickly and cost-effectively and with greater artistic quality than ever before.
"The biggest challenge was how we got this code over onto an Intel or commodity-based platform. As we were using Irix, it was a far easier transition and migration path to Linux than it would have been to Windows, which we do use for our IT and business automation pieces," Leonard said. "At the same time HP was embracing Linux and had a whole bunch of product plans, so we did an evaluation study and decided this was what we wanted to do. But both HP and we had to invent the many pieces that were missing to make it work on the desktop."