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The Digital Eye: HP Halo Brings the Kingdom of Far, Far Away Much Closer

In this month's edition of "The Digital Eye," Darren Podrabsky describes the collaborative role that HP Halo played in facilitating the making of Shrek the Third.

Image courtesy of Deron Yamada. © 2004 DYA367.

In 2001, DreamWorks Animation released Shrek, which broke box office records and went on to win the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. To further its success, the DreamWorks Animation team set an aggressive goal of releasing two animated films per year -- a huge challenge considering it typically takes three years to complete an animated film. To meet this goal, DreamWorks Animation needed a way to overcome the difficulty of limited talent availability within the animation industry and surpass another huge obstacle, geography.

DreamWorks faced a problem as the companys story, animation and production teams were spread across two campuses -- in Glendale and Redwood City, California -- nearly 350 miles apart. While DreamWorks was planning for Shrek 2, Andrew Adamson, the director of Shrek, had also committed to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and was unavailable to travel back and forth from Glendale to Redwood City. To surmount this ogre of a problem, DreamWorks Animation ceo, Jeffrey Katzenberg, challenged his team of technology experts to develop a solution that would allow teams at both of DreamWorks campuses to work together as if they were in the same room without the hassle of travel. The goal: travel less and collaborate more so the teams would be less exhausted and more creative.

Enter HP Halo, a video collaboration technology that allows meeting participants to be there without going there. Halo was first developed by DreamWorks Animation and then perfected and brought to market by HP.

The Science of HP Halo

The result of several years of experimentation and innovation, HP Halo is able to provide meeting participants with a natural, personal connection through innovations in design, audio and video.

The innovations contributing to this environment are intentionally subtle so that Halo meeting participants focus only on their meeting and not on the technology. The relative sizes and positions of the monitors, cameras, furniture, microphone and speakers were chosen to present an illusion that the meeting participants are seated at a common table, and look and sound to each other as if all were in the same room. The textures and colors of the walls and table, and the positions and intensity of the lighting are similarly tailored to foster this illusion.

Unlike traditional video conferencing technologies that are cumbersome to set up and even more difficult to use for meetings, Halo features an award-winning, natural user interface for establishing connections with up to four studios around the globe and controlling all studio features. As a truly turnkey solution, Halo allows users to initiate connections and utilize studio features with little or no introduction to the interface. Additionally, because Halo is a fully managed service from HP, customers dont need to hire additional IT resources to maintain the technology.

Connecting it All -- The Halo Video Exchange Network (HVEN)

Underlying the entire Halo experience is HP Halos most far-reaching innovation, HVEN, a private telecommunications network that is dedicated to real-time audio and video transmission. The HVEN was created especially to transport video -- a bandwidth intense application that continues to be a challenge for corporate networks. The HVEN provides full-duplex audio visual transmission with minimal latency. It also guarantees bandwidth to ensure the image reliability and sound fidelity needed for effective human interaction.

The HVEN is the most important element that makes it easy for customers to use Halo. For example, HPs HVEN Operations Centers provide end-to-end solution accountability and highly responsive, worldwide support, including remote diagnostics and calibration, ongoing service and repair and a 24x7 concierge service. This allows for extremely high reliability and quality of performance.

The HVEN differentiates HP Halo from its competitors who instead sell customers the networking equipment but fail to manage the service. In essence, these competitive offerings sell customers the parts to the car and tell them build to their own road. When customers purchase Halo studios, they know theyre covered, and if they have any problems, the Halo concierge is just a phone call away. Because of this, Halo is always on and always ready.

HP Halo Helps Bring the Kingdom of Far, Far Away to Life

HP Halo has fundamentally changed how DreamWorks Animation does business by not only shortening the companys production schedules, but also allowing it to marshal the best talent available while eliminating the lost productivity due to travel. Says Katzenberg, Halo enhances collaboration. It enhances creativity. It allows much great spontaneity. Shrek the Third is being made in Redwood City; its being made in Glendale, adding that You always want to be as close to the decision as you can, and this allows you to be pretty much anywhere.

During the making of Shrek the Third, the latest feature in the Shrek series, DreamWorks Animation again looked to HP Halo to travel less and collaborate more. The ability of Halo to blend the virtual and the real, creating a setting where relationships can be built and ideas can take shape is crucial to DreamWorks business. Specifically, DreamWorks has termed this ability to have back-and-forth, realtime discussions as audio chaos. This chaos is particularly important for artists and storytellers who see the ability to interrupt one another as a crucial part of the creative process.

HPs Halo Collaboration Studios and Remote Graphics Software enabled the collaboration of dozens of cross-site artists between DreamWorks Animations studios in Glendale and Redwood City. Halo studios played a key role in the collaborative efforts on every part of the filmmaking process -- from story development through production to planning final film release.

HP Halo Collaboration Studios also allowed production teams to share valuable resources and talents at each site to review storyboard and visual development pitches and participate in artistic collaboration meetings. For example, when designing the pattern for Queen Lillians dress, artists were able to share actual fabric swatches using the high-definition document camera and collaboration screen. By placing the swatch on the table and zooming in on it with the camera, the team was able to capture the textures and exact colors of the fabric and reproduce them on the big screen.

Darren Podrabsky.

A Powerful Partnership

Partners since 2001, HP and DreamWorks Animation are working together to bring a new dimension to both animated film production as well as revolutionizing how companies around the world do business. With HP Halo, companies can transcend time and space to collaborate in realtime with colleagues and partners around the globe. Just as DreamWorks Animation has leveraged HP Halo to speed production times and gain access to talent located around the globe, Fortune 1000 companies such as PepsiCo, ABN AMRO Inc. and Novartis can utilize this technology to make fast, sound strategy decisions and to communicate with globally dispersed industry experts.

In short, Halo is an experience, not a physical space. It is an experience represented by real-time, natural, personal connections that allow executives to be in more places in one day, to be engaged in more team discussions and to be more involved in the decisions that impact their business. However, a true understanding of the possibilities of Halo can only be gained by experiencing it for yourself. Id like to personally invite you to experience Halo in one of our demonstration centers, so you can begin thinking about what it can do for your business.

Darren Podrabsky is the marketing manager for the HP Halo Collaboration Studio. He brings 10+ years of marketing experience at HP to this position. Prior to this assignment, Podrabsky served in a variety of marketing and business strategy functions at HP, including worldwide category manager for digital projection systems. Podrabsky has also served as a future product manager and current product manager in the inkjet business unit. Prior to his marketing roles, Podrabsky was a senior buyer and business process analyst. The HP Collaboration Studio represents the latest startup venture that Podrabsky has played a significant role in developing.