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Sony’s ‘Angry Birds Movie’ Powered by Dell & NVIDIA Technology

Dell and NVIDIA host technology and creative workflow panel at Sony Pictures Imageworks featuring VFX supervisor Danny Dimian and layout supervisor Steve Childers.

Last week, while the film was still firmly under wraps, Dell and NVIDIA visited Sony Pictures Imageworks to host a sneak peek of The Angry Birds Movie, the CG-animated feature written by Jon Vitti and directed by Fergal Reilly and Clay Kaytis and based on Finnish developer Rovio’s addicting mobile video game franchise.

With a storyline taken straight from the game, the movie begins on a tranquil tropical island populated by flightless birds who become wildly distressed when their eggs are stolen by a boatload of piggies. The main trio of Angry Birds is led by Jason Sudeikis as Red, with Josh Gad as the speedy Chuck, and Danny McBride voicing the volatile Bomb. Supporting them are Bill Hader as a piggie, Maya Rudolph as Matilda, and Peter Dinklage as the Mighty Eagle, joined by Keegan-Michael Key, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale, Ike Barinholtz, Hannibal Buress, Cristela Alonzo, Jillian Bell, Danielle Brooks, singer Romeo Santos and YouTube stars Smosh. Whew, that’s a lot of talent.

Produced for just under $80 million, and with a marketing budget rumored to be at roughly $100 million, The Angry Birds Movie debuted at the top of the domestic box office chart with a $38.2 million bow, according to Box Office Mojo, and has gone on to earn a $43.7 million in its first five days of release. Overseas, where it released a week earlier, the movie has made a total of $111.9 million for any early total of $155.6 million worldwide.

The VIP screening event featured a panel discussion moderated by USA Today tech columnist Jefferson Graham on the technology and creative workflow behind the movie with Sony Pictures Imageworks VFX supervisor Danny Dimian and layout supervisor Steve Childers, both of whom worked on the film, joined by Dell exec Karl Paetzel and NVIDIA senior product manager Austin Robison.

SPI’s technology pipeline allowed three remote teams across Southern California and Vancouver to securely access the same data and information in real time via PCoIP. The infrastructure powering the film employed 1,000 Dell Precision Workstations outfitted with NVIDIA Quadro M6000 24GB, M4000, and K2200 high-end graphics cards, and included a whopping total of 40,000 render cores.

The panel recounted that rendering a complex 30-second sequence from The Angry Birds Movie would have taken 18 years to complete using a conventional, off-the-shelf consumer PC, a task that would take roughly an hour using the Dell Precision Workstations at SPI.

There were a range of animation challenges for the more than 300 Sony Pictures Imageworks artists and other staffers who worked on The Angry Birds Movie, from creating 130 different types of birds and ensuring each feather moved with an accurate range of motion to building a non-static, live setting surrounding the characters with details such as rustling leaves on trees, water simulations, and explosions.

The Dell Precision workstations allowed the Angry Birds team to iterate more with limited interruption to their workflow “…at a scale that was never possible before,” according to Robison. “When technology doesn’t stand in the way of the creative process, something magical happens,” he said. “Despite huge complex datasets, NVIDIA Quadro professional GPUs allowed Angry Birds artists to reach a new level of creative freedom.”

The best part of the presentation came when, to switch things up, the panelists fielded questions from the younger audience members. The first question, “Did you make any mistakes in the movie?” earned a laugh from the audience, to which Childers responded with a firm “No.” The panel then struggled to define “iterate” for the little ones (lots and lots of drawings), and ended up describing the rendering process as “making a drawing and then coloring in the drawing.” There, now it’s all clear.

Despite the countless iterations sacrificed during production, The Angry Birds Movie is a hoot, and audiences are flocking to see it. Check out the official trailer in the player below:

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.