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April 2004

HP Labs goes Hollywood

Researchers help bring "Shrek 2" to life


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Still from Shrek 2 movie

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We not only had to build a robust, high-performance system, but also provide a secure, trustworthy environment -- and we had to do it in about 12 weeks.

by Jamie Beckett

Ogres, princesses and fairy godmothers aren’t the usual fare for scientists at HP Labs. But thanks to a unique partnership between HP and DreamWorks, researchers got to play a part in the soon-to-be-released film, "Shrek 2."

The animated fairy tale, a sequel to DreamWorks’ Academy Award™-winning blockbuster "Shrek," came to life with help from technology developed by HP Labs for providing scalable off-site rendering capacity to the production. Rendering is the process that converts animators' computer-generated wire models into finished frames by adding color, light, texture and other details.

The HP Utility Rendering Service ran on a data center researchers built in HP Labs' Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters -- the first time DreamWorks has moved the critical rendering process outside its own facilities.

Resources on tap

The data center became a remote extension of DreamWorks’ IT infrastructure, providing the computing boost needed for peak periods in the production process.

"We had to build not only a robust, high-performance system, but also to provide a secure, trustworthy environment so nothing about the film leaked out," says Gene Becker, who led the HP team on the project. "And we had to do it in about 12 weeks."

The data center that resulted consisted of 500 HP servers (1,000 processors) connected to DreamWorks’ studio 20 miles away in Redwood City, Calif., via a secure fiber optic link. It is an example of HP’s Adaptive Enterprise model for computing as a service, in which companies can draw on expanded computing resources when they need it most, without having to purchase or manage physical computing assets.

Breaking new ground

In working with DreamWorks, HP researchers developed advanced capabilities for service configuration and management of data centers. In addition, they created comprehensive instrumentation to collect terabytes of system data used to optimize performance and reliability.

The data center also uses HP’s "smart" cooling and "smart" power solutions to provide the maximum compute capability in the smallest, most cost-efficient footprint possible.

HP’s partnership with DreamWorks began in 2001, when the companies worked together on "Shrek." HP provides the filmmaker’s computing infrastructure, which DreamWorks has credited for helping it break new ground technically, creatively and financially on several feature films.

"Shrek 2," to be released on May 21, picks up the ogre’s story after he and Princess Fiona are married, and the newlyweds' parents extend an invitation to the couple to visit.

 

Related links

» HP and DreamWorks Give Innovation a Starring Role in “Shrek 2” (press release)
» Animating research: A closer look at HP Labs' role in the making of "Shrek 2"
» HP's Adaptive Enterprise
» Capitalizing on the digital entertainment revolution (speech)
» "Shrek 2"
» Internet Systems and Storage Lab

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DreamWorks artist Vanitha Rangaraju

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