DreamWorks: Advanced Technologies Bring Movies to Life

The famed animation studio is moving to cloud systems to supply some of the rendering for its 3D films, including its latest, Kung Fu Panda 2.

Imagine a company spending millions of dollars to buy workstations, software, servers, networking and storage equipment for everyone working on one large project. Then imagine recycling those systems and buying everything new for the next project.

This may seem like IT overkill, but it's a way of life at Glendale, Calif.-based DreamWorks Animation, creator of such highly successful movies as the Shrek and Madagascar series, Monsters and Aliens and the Kung Fu Panda series. It's also what has helped keep the company on the cutting edge of technology animation.

At DreamWorks, a new movie automatically means fresh Hewlett-Packard z800 workstations, new software, additional storage and other equipment for about 500 highly trained artists and supervisors. An animated movie-whether or not it's 3D-takes four to five years to produce, and the equipment stays with the production from start to finish, so the studio gets its money's worth from its investments.

Due to the history and reputation for quality 12-year-old DreamWorks has earned, its movies are virtually guaranteed high box-office returns. The films are also a major driver in the entertainment data storage sector, one of the hottest sub-sectors within the burgeoning international data storage market. In fact, this sector has its own professional conference: Coughlin Associates' 2011 Creative Storage Conference, set for June 28 in Culver City, Calif.

This market category takes in all professional creative media, including feature films, documentaries, corporate videos, television shows and music videos. The escalating use of high-quality video-such as high-definition and super-high definition, which take up more than double the space of regular video-is a major cause of this jump.

Opportunities for new profits in this sector are substantial, to say the least. A report published last month by Coughlin projects the media storage market to virtually double in the next five years-from $3.8 billion to $6.4 billion in revenue, and from 11 exabytes to 62 exabytes in capacity. That's right, exabytes: a million trillion bytes.

"Digital storage requirements are exploding due to use of higher resolution and stereoscopic content in the media and entertainment industry," lead researcher Tom Coughlin wrote in the report.


Central characters from DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" are (L-R) Tigress, Po (the Kung Fu Panda), and Monkey.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...