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HP Workstations Helped Sinbad Set Sail

HP's Linux-based technology played a critical role in the creation of DreamWorks' SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS, which opens theatrically July 2, 2003. The first film ever created entirely on Linux, SINBAD was developed on HP workstations and servers.

A hybrid of 2D and 3D animation -- what DreamWorks calls "tradigital" - the film leverages the artistry of hand-drawn characters with the visual power of three-dimensional animation and high-resolution animatics to create visually complex monsters, multifaceted goddesses, intricate water environments and special-effect wielding ships. With all core production work conducted on Linux-based HP systems, this marks a strategic shift for DreamWorks in embracing the advanced capability of open systems and platforms.

More than 250 HP workstations running Red Hat Linux comprised the core of DreamWorks' graphics platform. The price and high-performance advantages of Linux-based HP workstations and servers enabled DreamWorks artists to create more animation in significantly less time."HP provides us the tools to push the boundaries of our craft," remarked Ed Leonard, head of animation technology, DreamWorks. "With HP technology we are creating movies that would have been impossible to make a little as a year ago."

Shane Robison, chief strategy and technology officer, HP, added, "Our goal in our alliance with DreamWorks is to continue to deliver more inventive technology that helps DreamWorks to continue to push the envelope of possibilities in digital animation - and in the process, to help them to retain their reputation as one of the premier Hollywood animation studios."

The demands of rendering posed the most difficult challenge to DreamWorks, which required powerful, realtime performance. "We had their frame rates up to 46 frames-per- second after a couple of weeks," Jeff Wood, director product marketing, personal workstations division, told VFXWorld.com. "They knew they had a partner with the Linux open systems environment."

As animated films have become more graphics-intensive, DreamWorks has adopted HP workstations running Linux not only because of its high performance but also because of its greater versatility and scalability, a must for animation.

"Creating a movie that is centered on scenes with water is a huge technical challenge in digital animation, and a challenge met successfully using HP's Linux-based workstations and servers," said Martin Fink, vp of Linux, HP Enterprise Servers and Storage. "Our customers are using the flexibility of Linux on industry-standard hardware and open systems to save money and set new standards within their industry."

According to Wood, HP helped DreamWorks develop ToonShooter on the workstation, which allowed the animators to digitally photograph their hand drawings and integrate them in a 3D scene. "We helped them develop in-test tablet drivers under Linux so they could still feel like they have a paintbrush in their hand with the tablet pen."

With HP Linux-based hardware, DreamWorks also developed the Digital Animation Review Tool, an uncompressed and full resolution color accurate playback solution on the desktop. This tool replaced an Irix-based solution that was cost-prohibitive and limited in functionality. This new system is so cost effective that DreamWorks was able to build more director-review areas, which assisted in the efficiency of the production of SINBAD.

Due to the joint engineering efforts of HP and DreamWorks, 3D accelerated dual-monitor HP workstations were deployed to most artists working on SINBAD. Dual monitor environments increase workflow productivity by allowing artists to have multiple windows open.

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