Linux Plays Starring Role in Sinbad

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.