DreamWorks Animation and Intel have formed a strategic alliance to revolutionize 3-D filmmaking. The move is expected to further DreamWorks' goal of rendering all its films in stereoscopic 3-D, beginning next year.
The trailblazing animation studio says it plans to employ Intel's visual computing products and tools for content creation, beginning with the film Monsters versus Aliens, slated for release next March.
"Technology plays a significant role in enabling our artists to tell great stories," said DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. "By utilizing Intel's industry-leading computing products, we will create a new and innovative way for moviegoers to experience our films in 3-D."
Under the agreement, Intel's software engineers will optimize DreamWorks' applications to run on the chipmaker's advanced multicore processors. DreamWorks will need thousands of such chips to create and modify high-quality images.
"When Hollywood does special effects, they have far more computing power at their disposal than what can be found in the most extreme editions of today's personal computers," said Jeffrey Howard, a technology strategist at Intel's Microprocessor Technology Labs. "Quad cores are actually pretty quaint when compared to render farms filled with hundreds of cores."
To bring that kind of computing into a personal computer, one has to think a lot bigger in scale, to the point where trillions of operations can be computed per second, Howard explained in a recent blog. "In Intel's Microprocessor Technology Labs, we call that Tera-Scale," he said.
Intel's future chips for 3-D applications will be based on a new processor architecture for visual computing that is expressly designed to achieve Tera-Scale performance. Code-named Larrabee, the new architecture will integrate a high-performance, vector processing unit (VPU) with acceleration enhancements. Intel plans to offer its first public demos of Larrabee later this year.
Meanwhile, the work continues on Intel's next-generation 3-D technology for home theater, PC, video-game, online and mobile-device applications. "We are about to hit an inflection point toward wanting to put professional-level special effects into the mainstream, and this will result in consumer demand for greater computing performance," Howard said.
AMD Fights Back
DreamWorks' alliance with Intel is a blow to the cinematic ambitions of Advanced Micro Devices, which supplied the processor chips in the Hewlett-Packard server systems and workstations that DreamWorks has used. However, Intel's rival continues to have high hopes for its next-generation visualization platform.
AMD has also developed a graphics processor capable of achieving Tera-Scale performance. A demo last month of the chip code-named RV770 was a milestone for AMD because up till now content developers had to choose between cinematic realism rendered offline, or an interactive experience without ultra-realism, said Charlie Boswell, AMD's director of digital media and entertainment.
"The challenge for any director has always been taking a wonderful vision in the canvas of the mind and translating that to film for the audience to see," Boswell said. "Cinema 2.0 breaks down the time and cost barriers of getting a scene or shot that's just right, and what's better, allows audiences to dive deeper into the experience to explore every part of that director's vision."