HP Technology Powers DreamWorks Animation’s 3-D Film “How to Train Your Dragon”

The power of HP (NYSE: HPQ) technology and the creative strength of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) fuse once again as the studio’s bar-raising achievement in 3-D animation, “How to Train Your Dragon,” hits theaters today. Audiences will experience thousands of fire-breathing flying dragons and hundreds of armored Vikings along with crashing waves and lush forests - all in spectacular 3-D.

The film’s technological breakthroughs are due in part to the unprecedented power of the HP technology that helped bring to life the characters and story of “How to Train Your Dragon.” This includes HP Z800 Workstations, HP ProLiant blade servers, HP Halo Telepresence Solutions, HP DreamColor displays, storage solutions and HP Designjet printers.

“How to Train Your Dragon” is an adventure comedy set in a mythical world of Vikings and wild dragons that is based loosely on the book by Cressida Cowell. The film tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s long-standing tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

For ultimate performance, production artists at DreamWorks Animation used powerful HP Z800 Workstations to design everything on the film from characters to lighting. According to DreamWorks Animation, the HP Z800 proved to be significantly faster than its predecessor - providing speeds up to 50 percent faster.

“At DreamWorks Animation, technology and creativity go hand in hand and a large part of my job is to ensure that our filmmakers can dream without boundaries,” said Ed Leonard, chief technology officer, DreamWorks Animation. “With the help of HP’s amazing technological breakthroughs, our artists are able to bring our worlds and characters to life on screen in sequences that are just as detailed and visually rich as they can possibly imagine.”

Released in 2001, Dreamworks Animation’s original “Shrek” film used more than 6 terabytes of data and required nearly 5 million render hours. With the artistic bar rising ever higher, the production of “How to Train Your Dragon” used nearly 100 terabytes of data and more than 50 million render hours.

DreamWorks Animation’s current render farm - a grouping of computers that work in concert to process animation sequences - is the largest and most powerful render farm ever used in the studio’s production of a computer-generated (CG) animated film. Relying on a render farm that comprised more than 25,000 computing cores, the production of “How To Train Your Dragon” kept nearly 10,000 cores busy almost 100 percent of the time - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 28 weeks.

“DreamWorks Animation is a leader in bringing the next big thing in animation,” said Jim Zafarana, vice president and general manager, Workstations Global Business Unit, HP. “HP thrives on working with customers like DreamWorks that continually push us to bring them the technology they demand to make their business more productive.”

To achieve new looks in lighting, DreamWorks Animation worked with award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC. Using HP Z800 Workstations to control a powerful array of back-end HP ProLiant blade servers, Deakins was able to interactively explore and design the lighting in full final-frame quality with DreamWorks Animation VFX and CG supervisors.

HP Halo helps DreamWorks Animation connect

DreamWorks Animation teams are enjoying deeper, more effective collaboration as the studio continues to use HP Halo Telepresence Solutions. For “How to Train Your Dragon,” creative teams in Glendale and Redwood City, Calif., met face to face, virtually, via HP Halo. Using the system’s high-definition collaboration screen, teams were able to work on the detailed, CG characters and environments that bring the film to life.

In particular, HP Halo was an instrumental part of collaboration between directors, art designers and the effects artists on “How to Train Your Dragon.” The filmmakers’ ambition was to match the unique personalities of each dragon with a distinct fire style while maintaining the overall artistic direction. Having the ability to pull the different development teams into one virtual room for reviews and feedback helped to enable that artistic achievement.

Fun facts about ”How to Train Your Dragon”

  • At 1,630 shots, the film has the highest shot count produced by DreamWorks Animation
  • More than 800 Vikings appeared in a single shot
  • More than 2,500 dragons in another single shot

    DreamWorks Animation uses HP Designjet Z6100 Printers in nearly every production to print large color images, such as visual development shots for large landscapes or final character images for marketing, tours and presentations. A printed drawing allows the production crew to see both the larger picture and the subtle nuances of the shot.

     [March 30, 2010]

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