Houdini: Magic Doesn't Just Happen
We all know about those movies with the great special effects: The Matrix, Armageddon, The X-Files Movie, Godzilla, Lost In Space. The list goes on and on. Up until now, most of those effects have been done on SGI workstations. SGI has been a leader in this field for many years. However, in the past few years, a migration to low-end, low-cost, Intel-based PC hardware has occurred. This migration has included Windows, the only OS considered to work well on those Intel desktop computers. That situation is about to change.
Side Effects Software (http://www.sidefx.com/), a graphics software company founded in 1987 in Toronto, Canada, is porting its only product, Houdini, to Linux. This is big news in the graphics world. Houdini is the software used to create many of the stunning effects in the movies I just mentioned. To those in the graphics arts world, this is the equivalent of Oracle, Corel or Lotus porting to Linux. It gives credibility to the platform in an area where it had been mostly a curiosity.
Linux has had a major role in a few movies in the past. Darryl Strauss' article (LJ, February 1998) about Digital Domain's Linux render farm for Titanic proved that, but Linux hasn't been used as the primary graphic artist's platform for these movies. Like so many other industries, the film and video industries have been using Linux as a server, a box off in the corner happily crunching numbers or dishing out files over high-speed networks. Now, Linux gets to take center stage on the desktop.
Side Effects' Houdini product is a complete 3-D solution, encompassing modeling, compositing, lighting, particle systems, texture management, rendering and animation features. Currently in its third release, Houdini was one of the first modeling and animation products to adopt a procedural approach to 3-D. Recently, Houdini received an Academy Award for “Technical Achievement”, presented to four of the company's original developers. Used by companies like Digital Domain, Blue Sky/VIFX Studios and Centropolis Effects, Houdini is a heavyweight in the film industry.
Previously, Houdini has been supported only on SGI Irix workstation class systems. They recently announced support for Windows NT. The port to Linux comes at a time when many hardware vendors are looking for reasons to bring their high-end graphics cards into the Linux fold. Paul Salvini, Director of R&D at Side Effects Software, talks of it as the “chicken and egg” problem:
Doing a product like this for Linux required hardware acceleration to make it really viable, but hardware acceleration often requires applications in order to warrant drivers to be written. From a graphics workstation point of view, Linux isn't ready. There haven't been that many proper drivers for hardware acceleration for OpenGL under Linux. There are a number under development, but as far as state of the art, there aren't that many in production. The reason is that there aren't any applications pushing the need for these drivers. The applications want the drivers; the drivers are looking for applications.
Linux is a viable, popular, rendering platform. Many houses that formerly used SGI servers for rendering are moving to, or at least considering, low-cost Linux platforms for their rendering farms. This might be due to their familiarity with UNIX or concerns with Windows NT stability or even if they just prefer not to have a mixed UNIX/NT environment.
With Linux, most of the current software development is driven from the bottom: what happens in the kernel drives what happens with applications. Side Effects thinks, for the high-end graphics market at least, this needs to be a bit different. Houdini is an application, with low-level needs that aren't quite available the way Side Effects wants them. Salvini said:
What will happen is the missing pieces underneath will just naturally fill in—development is being driven from the top of the software chain. This is an exciting change in the way development happens for Linux.
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
|CentOS 6.8 Released||May 27, 2016|
|Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction||May 27, 2016|
|Chris Birchall's Re-Engineering Legacy Software (Manning Publications)||May 26, 2016|
|ServersCheck's Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor||May 25, 2016|
|Petros Koutoupis' RapidDisk||May 24, 2016|
|The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice||May 23, 2016|
- Secure Desktops with Qubes: Introduction
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- CentOS 6.8 Released
- Linux Mint 18
- The Italian Army Switches to LibreOffice
- Chris Birchall's Re-Engineering Legacy Software (Manning Publications)
- ServersCheck's Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor
- Petros Koutoupis' RapidDisk
- Oracle vs. Google: Round 2
- The FBI and the Mozilla Foundation Lock Horns over Known Security Hole
Until recently, IBM’s Power Platform was looked upon as being the system that hosted IBM’s flavor of UNIX and proprietary operating system called IBM i. These servers often are found in medium-size businesses running ERP, CRM and financials for on-premise customers. By enabling the Power platform to run the Linux OS, IBM now has positioned Power to be the platform of choice for those already running Linux that are facing scalability issues, especially customers looking at analytics, big data or cloud computing.
￼Running Linux on IBM’s Power hardware offers some obvious benefits, including improved processing speed and memory bandwidth, inherent security, and simpler deployment and management. But if you look beyond the impressive architecture, you’ll also find an open ecosystem that has given rise to a strong, innovative community, as well as an inventory of system and network management applications that really help leverage the benefits offered by running Linux on Power.Get the Guide