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Lights! Camera! Linux! - page 3

Linux at the Movies

  • November 11, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

HP announced its entry into the Linux graphics arena back in July of 2000, and right now customers are queuing up for these workstations, anxious to get their creative hands on stable and fast machines.

One of those customers is Moon Crescent Studios, a brand-new movie studio that hopes to leverage the new Intel-based workstations to create its first ambitious project: a full-length animated feature called "PC and the Web," scheduled for release in the Spring of 2002. Moon Crescent may be new, but it is bringing a lot of talent to bear on this project, including Steffen Wild, former digital effects supervisor on "Stuart Little" and "Godzilla" and now the VP of Animation and Visual Effects Supervisor for Moon Crescent Animation.

Wild is looking forward to getting his staff's collective hands on the new Linux workstations, though for now actual production work is still running on NT platforms. The reason for the delay? They're waiting for software vendors to port their graphics software over to Linux.

They will not have to wait long, as several big-name graphics software vendors are falling over themselves to get in on this new market. Among the upcoming offerings are Alias|Wavefront's Maya, Side Effect's Houdini, and Nothing Real's Shake. All of these vendors cited a huge groundswell among their customer base requesting Linux versions of their products.

Matt Ferro, producer of "PC and the Web" and Animation and Visual Effects Supervisor for Moon Crescent Animation, illustrated another reason the independent vendors want to get their products ready. Moon Crescent's work on developing a feature film with its software "represents a proof of concept for these vendors, to show it can be done," Ferro said.

This production would be done entirely on off-the-shelf software, as opposed to the highly customized and proprietary software studios such as Pixar and PDI use for their efforts.

Filip Defoort, Director of Technology, said that while using Intel platforms now is certainly an advantage over SGI machines, working with NT is a strong setback. "NT is not reliable or stable," he said.

"The artists are begging me every day to get rid of NT," Defoort added.

Over 1100 processors will be used on producing this computer animated film, rendering and animating within the Linux environment.

Does Linux make a better movie? Wild does not think so, citing that it's the artists and the storytellers who truly make a movie great. But, he added, Linux is going to give the artists he works with the ability to create what they can dream up faster and more efficiently.

Where will it all end? Ferro sees the future of digital film featuring even more photo-realism. Render times, he said, will probably stay the same, because as machines get ever faster, artists will find new ways to max out those new processor speeds in their search for a new effect to blow audiences away.

Linux may never get star on Hollywood Blvd., but it's definitely becoming a new face in the Southern California sun--a long, long way from Helsinki.

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