Big movies, big effects

Written by Monalisa Sen | Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Aug 19 2013, 16:51pm hrs
These days, eye-popping computer-generated special effects have become more and more prevalent in moviesHindi, English or even regional. But it is Hollywood which is at the forefront when it comes to deploying advanced technologymotion capture, computer-generated imagery or 3Dto come up with big movies with extraordinary big effects. Remember James Camerons science fiction epic Avatar, with its breathtaking landscapesall made possible thanks to computer graphics. Or Steven Spielbergs not-so-old The Adventures of Tintin, in which the director has used performance capture technology to see his characters perform in real-time as digital replicas. And, who can forget Spielbergs groundbreaking film Jurassic Park with its extraordinary visual effects.

In recent weeks, DreamWorks Animations Turbo is drawing audiences to the theatres, courtesy computer graphics. This is a high-velocity 3D computer-animated sports comedy film, about an ordinary snail who dares to dream bigand fast! After a freak accident infuses him with the power of super-speed, Turbo kicks into overdrive and embarks on an extraordinary journey to achieve the seemingly impossible: competing in the worlds fastest race, the Indianapolis 500.

DreamWorks Animation tapped technology from Hewlett-Packard to recreate the thrill of the Indy 500, with snails traveling 220 miles per hour and more than 500,000 crowd characters filling a replica of the Indianapolis

Motor Speedway. The American tech majors technology spanning servers, storage, networking, services and management software, as well as workstations and printers helped DreamWorks Animation process massive amounts of data, creating new levels of imagery and powering innovative computer graphics animated movie-making techniques.

DreamWorks Animations alliance with Hewlett-Packard ensured that we had the high-performance computing, continuous availability and streamlined management capabilities needed to accurately depict Turbos dream of becoming the worlds fastest racer, said Derek Chan, head of Technology Global Operations, DreamWorks Animation.

The production of Turbo required 75 million render hours to create fully realised images, including 32 Indy 500 race cars and 32 million crowd character instances, the highest of any DreamWorks Animation film to date. In addition, HP networking technology provided animators with access to a central repository of assets, simplifying collaboration by allowing artists to easily share and retrieve resources across all locations. Also, the reliable network infrastructure allowed creative teams to work anytime from anywhere, with production spread across studios from Glendale and Redwood City, California, to Bangalore.

Hewlett-Packard workstations enabled artists to execute iterations 50% faster than previous workstations and develop increasingly complex camera angles and special effects. When not in use by creative teams, workstation processing power was used to run night-time rendering jobs, contributing to the millions of compute hours needed to produce the movie. Integrated with workstations, HP remote graphics softwarea free HP workstation toolenabled animators to collaborate more efficiently across geographies by viewing ideas and assets on a single display. HP server technology was also deployed to handle the demands of Turbo; these

increased render throughput by 40% and performance per watt by 42%.

Technology from the American PC maker (Hewlett-Packard) has played an integral role in many of DreamWorks films, including the Shrek series, Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, among others. In fact, in Puss in Boots, film makers deployed a range of technologies, from HP workstations to networking products to digital rendering resources accessed via the cloud. In Turbo too, a scalable cloud infrastructure has been deployed in the films creation.

On the home front too, film makers are increasingly relying on computer animation to have the biggest effects and make a blockbuster. The multi-crore Rajinikanth-starrer Robot is still fresh in the minds of viewers with its incredible computer graphics. Thanks to a talented army of 3D modelers, animators and render technicians, more people are making a beeline to the cinema halls to catch up with the latest special effects-powered blockbusters.