Shrek and Crew Return with Realism

Technology from AMD and Hewlett-Packard play a starring role in bringing the beloved ogre to life again.

The lovable ogre Shrek, newly married to Princess Fiona and heir apparent to the kingdom of Far Far Away, returns to theaters this weekend in "Shrek the Third," and thanks to a tech boost from Advanced Micro Devices and Hewlett-Packard, it will arrive much sooner and richer than similarly complicated animated feature films.

The animation studio has leveraged its close relationship with chip maker AMD and technology giant HP to make its films more realistic.

"The speed of the technology is nothing less than breathtaking from Shrek to "Shrek the Third," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder and CEO of DreamWorks Animation, in Glendale, Calif. "The richness and details of the environment are only possible through our technology partnerships, like those we have with HP and AMD. It has allowed our animators to create a level of detail that let our characters come to life."

"Technology is essential to what we do," said Ed Leonard, DreamWorks chief technology officer. "With every film, we try to raise the bar visually and enable our filmmakers to tell any story they want without limits."

In all, 150 HP workstations were used in the making of "Shrek the Third," with almost half of those using the standard configuration of HPs xw9300 high-performance workstation, which features two AMD dual core Opteron 275 processors, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation RHEL 4, an nVidia Quattro FX 3450 graphics card, 4GB RAM, a 400GB SATA hard disk, a 70GB SCSI hard disk and dual monitors.

These new workstations were much faster, as much as 50 percent faster for some applications, according to an HP spokesperson.

In addition, DreamWorks animators used HP Halo (Virtual Studio Collaboration) rooms and HP remote graphics software to work in real time with people in DreamWorks studios in both Glendale, Calif. and Redwood City, Calif.

"This Halo system is now pushing the bleeding edge of video conferencing and is the most expensive thing out there," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, a research firm based in San Jose, Calif., pointing to the $300,000 price tag.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about how Industrial Light & Magic stores its content.

Enderle added that the Halo system is still in the nosebleed range in terms of price, but it is the first system designed by the customer.

"As a customer, DreamWorks was uniquely qualified to create a product that is unique and special," he said. "This system was designed for collaborating over distances, bringing down cost and keeping people off of planes. Historically, people havent used video conferencing systems…but this time it worked!"

Telling the story remains the prime goal for DreamWorks—and the company hopes the newest adventures of the green ogre will please audiences of all ages.

"Ultimately, our goal is great storytelling… When audiences around the world go in to see our work, they care about the story and the characters, which can only be told in animation," said Katzenberg.

Next Page: Using technology for better storytelling.