Hollywood has found an unlikely ally in its efforts to lower costs in the increasingly complex world of digital filmmaking: Intel. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a division of Lucas Digital Ltd. LLC, today revealed its latest Intel technology deployment of 600 Pentium 4 processor-based animation workstations. ILM is one of many studios adopting Intel technology to assist with the future of filmmaking.
"The visual effects industry has traditionally been a land of proprietary systems and software," said Cliff Plumer, ILM's chief technology officer. "At ILM, we're increasingly using Intel-based systems to expand our range of software choices for animation and compositing. In fact, having Intel at the core of our desktop systems provides greater quality and productivity because the technology can handle more iterations with greater frequency. We can now run any operating system we want."
ILM began using Intel-based systems on "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones," and then with "Men in Black II" and "Minority Report." They are currently employed in the development of "Star Wars: Episode III,""Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,""The Hulk" and "Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines."
Use of Intel technology is on a rapid rise in Hollywood because of the convergence of four key factors. First, the performance of Intel-based systems over the past two years has consistently surpassed that of proprietary systems, while system costs have come down. This has led to significant savings for studios. Next, major studios are increasingly outsourcing the rendering of digital effects to "render farms" that use large banks of small servers, and in that model Intel's high-volume, high-performance, low-cost, any-software approach makes sense. In addition, studios are now using a variety of operating systems, and Intel technology provides them the most flexibility. Finally, the results of Intel's multi-year effort to make movie software more Intel-friendly has borne fruit. Applications from such companies as Adobe, Alias/Wavefront, Digital Domain, Discreet, Macromedia and Softimage have reached critical mass.
Large studios are now using or have recently used Intel technology to help create some of Hollywood's leading movies. DreamWorks, which used Intel-based systems in the Academy Award-winning "Shrek" and recent hit "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," continues to expand its Intel-based work, and is now testing Itanium 2-based systems. Weta Digital Ltd. recently announced it is using hundreds of Intel Xeon(TM) processor-based servers for its work on the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The first movie of the trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings," won four Academy Awards, including Best Visual Effects. Walt Disney Pictures recently disclosed plans to use Intel-based Hewlett-Packard workstations and data-serving computers for work in its animation division. Digital Revelations, a Hollywood studio owned by actor Morgan Freeman, is utilizing mostly Intel Architecture in its development of "Rendezvous with Rama," scheduled for release in 2003. Sony Pictures Imageworks recently used more than 600 Intel processors in creating visual effects and animation for the recent "Spider-Man" blockbuster and "Stuart Little 2," in addition to evaluating Intel Itanium-based systems.
"Imageworks chose Intel-based systems for its newest server farm due to the open, scalable nature of the technology and its superior price-performance," said George Joblove, vice president of technology, Sony Pictures Imageworks.