DreamWorks Studio To Test New HP Workstations - InformationWeek

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DreamWorks Studio To Test New HP Workstations

The idea is to test the xw9400 workstations to see how much more quickly the studio can create advanced special effects. It will help HP iron out the kinks before the machines are introduced next month.

DreamWorks Animation SKG has quietly taken possession of several Hewlett-Packard & Co. xw9400 workstations that are expected to provide faster processing speeds for creating advanced special effects in movies.

Participating as a test site, DreamWorks will help iron out the kinks in the workstation before HP publicly introduces the machine next month. By the end of this year, or early 2007, the studio hopes to begin replacing existing machines with the new systems that will run a Linux operating system.

The HP xw9400, a dual-core AMD Opteron Rev F processor workstation, is based on the highly anticipated dual-core Opteron processor from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc. that will, for the first, time utilize "DDR2 memory," said Derek Chan, head of digital operations at DreamWorks on Friday. "It also will have the latest and greatest generation of graphic cards." (HP declined to discuss the xw9400, apparently preferring to detail the product when it is announced.)

DreamWorks already runs HP xw9300 workstations and HP DL145 G2 rendering servers. Having the ability to put multiple processing cores on one chip gives studios more processing power per box. Chan said it's a big benefit to get the same heat and power capability with more processing power without having to dramatically change the compute infrastructure, such as power and cooling.

"DreamWorks and other movie studios are poster children for increased processor performance, because rendering one frame for theatrical release is incredibly compute intensive," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at market research firm Insight 64. "If the rendering task is set up to take advantage of multiple cores then studios can exploit that either by rendering the movie in the same amount of time with fewer systems, or by using more systems to do the job in less time."

Chan wants to improve efficiencies a notch by turning multi-core rendering into a standard process at DreamWorks. "Imagine having the ability to process one frame in the movie on about 100 machines, and have it come back in a fraction of the time," he said. "Four cores on the same workstation could potentially share enough memory so artists could get an image back in nearly one-fourth the time."

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