Page Two

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2003-08-04 Print this article Print

The studio isnt the only one that has taken advantage of open-source software. DreamWorks SKG, Pixar Animation Studios and Lucas Digital Ltd. LLCs Industrial Light and Magic, among others, have moved their animation platforms to Linux during the last few years. DreamWorks latest animation feature, "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," was the first movie ever created entirely on Linux.

Read "Linux Plays Starring Role in Sinbad."
Although CrossOver Office and CrossOver PlugIn enabled Brooks to run Windows-based and non-Linux applications such as Apples QuickTime and Microsoft Corp.s Office on his desktops, he had no way to run Photoshop for the 200 employees who use it on a regular basis. CrossOver Office did not support the illustration application, and Adobe made no commitments to porting its product to Linux.

Although Brooks considered and even tried to use several open-source alternatives, including GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program (see related story), and Cinepaint (formerly FilmGimp), he said he ran into performance issues with the two programs. Artists also found the open-source programs less intuitive to use than Photoshop.

And while Photoshop is the program of choice among Disneys artist base, Disney is keeping an eye on Cinepaint and is even using the program in a few cases, Brooks said.

"Theres this whole artistic community built around Photoshop, and we couldnt easily move these people to free alternatives," Brooks said. "[But] we hope [Cinepaint] will get to the point where we can use it for more tasks."

Brooks considered dual-booting the workstations with Windows and Linux but found the management to be too expensive and labor-intensive for his four system administrators. He also looked into using VMware Inc.s VMWorkstation but decided against it because it would require purchasing a Windows license and would create performance limitations.

Today, Brooks runs Photoshop 7.0 on CrossOver Office on more than 200 workstations. CrossWeavers, in turn, has added support of Photoshop 7.0 to its CrossOver Office product.

Experts say the use of Wine by a corporation such as Disney to solve a technology problem gives legitimacy to the idea of running Linux on the desktop.

"Corporations [are] in a quandary—they are dissatisfied with Microsofts product line and licensing/pricing policies, but they have blocking factors preventing them from making a move," said Robert Frances Groups Robinson. "CodeWeavers efforts could be the deciding factor in resolving this issue. ... I can definitely see enterprise deployments taking advantage of this in the future."

Photoshop has performed well on Red Hat, Brooks said. Saving files is faster on Linux than on Mac OS machines also running Photoshop, he said.

Brooks said it took some time to convince Disney attorneys that he wanted to pay for the development of the porting solution but did not want to own it. However, Disneys legal department has developed a policy that enables Disney to protect its intellectual property while keeping within the statutes of the GNU General Public License, he said.

Last month, production of animated films that started on SGIs Irix was complete, enabling Brooks to deploy Linux on those machines. He is now planning a migration from Red Hat 7.2 to Red Hat 9.0 for his workstations and rendering farm.

"For a lot of years, a lot of the industry was focused on SGI, and only one player was involved," Brooks said. "By and large, weve made a huge transition."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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