Industrial Light and Magic

Discussing the move to Linux on ILM's renderfarm, with speed and stability comes responsibility.

Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, released in May 2002, is Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM) first movie produced after converting its workstations and renderfarm to Linux last year. Located north of San Francisco in San Rafael, California, ILM was founded in 1975 to produce the visual effects for Star Wars. Although owned by George Lucas, ILM produces visual effects for more than Lucasfilm productions, such as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Many other studios seeking that bit of something extra on the cutting edge of special effects use ILM. ILM has received 14 Academy Awards, including ones for its work on Forrest Gump, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and E.T.

A scene in Star Wars being edited in ILM's proprietary compositing package CompTime. ILM created its own compositor rather than using a commercial package such as Shake or RAYZ.

“Linux is increasing the quality of our work, not the quantity”, says Andy Hendrickson, director of research and development. Large amounts of processing power enable more user control. He explains,

We often go into a show knowing what we want but are forced to scale back realism with shortcuts because of a lack of processing power. Using Linux we can add more realism. We direct effects. It isn't enough to have a cloud that is an NOAA-accurate model. Artistic staff directs the effects with, “Make that cloud more fluffy”. Or, if we simulate an entire ocean, as in Perfect Storm, “Make that wave larger”.

ILM made a bold move to undertake their Linux conversion in the midst of a major movie production, switching while work was underway on Episode II. “We thought converting to Linux would be a lot harder than it was”, says Hendrickson. “Linux is so like what we had before. We pushed forward deployment in November 2001 and will finish conversion after Episode II.” During the changeover, ILM is supporting existing SGI IRIX machines and Linux PCs to avoid overwhelming users with too much change.

Sequence supervisor Robert Weaver is a technical director on Episode II. Weaver's desk has a Linux PC on the left side and an SGI O2 on the right. Because the Linux desktop is configured to look like the SGI O2, it isn't immediately apparent which screen is which, until Weaver demonstrates the difference in speed. He says,

The old system is so slow that the clones firing lasers appear to be throwing javelins. We've seen about a five times speed improvement with Linux, which is appreciated! I'd say Linux is one of the most successful efforts we've had. I can't say enough good things about it. It is intuitive, incredibly stable, and we can get stuff fixed at a moment's notice. Our renderer hasn't been ported yet but will be by the summer. That's all that's keeping me on the O2.

All ILM 3-D particle simulations are done in Alias|Wavefront Maya. “We have, I'd say, 90% of our Maya users on Linux”, says Weaver. “It seems incredibly stable on Linux. I haven't had Maya crash on me in months. I'm evaluating that the correct cycles have been put in. I do that in wireframe mode.” To extend the functionality of Maya, Weaver writes plugins. “Maya makes writing plugins fairly easy. I add stuff to the shelf.” The shelf is a set of plugin tabs visible across the top in Maya. The ocean in Perfect Storm is an example of the effects ILM achieves with Maya plugins.

“Our compositing software, CompTime, has been ported to Linux”, notes Weaver. ILM created its own compositor with a plugin architecture for doing motion picture editing rather than choosing a commercial package. Weaver writes compositor plugins, too. “The compositor plugins are in Python”, he notes. “We're a big Python shop...and MEL.” MEL is the Maya scripting language.

Maya is considered by ILM a tool best for TDs (technical directors); animators at ILM use SOFTIMAGE. The conversion to Linux triggered a company-wide upgrade from version 3.8 of SOFTIMAGE (on IRIX) to the 4.0 version that recently became available for Linux.

In the years since the first Star Wars trilogy, animation software has become capable of greater facial expression. ILM created their own caricature facial animation application that reads and writes SOFTIMAGE scenes directly, not as a plugin. Senior Digital Model Supervisor Geoff Campbell used this software to set up facial expressions for animation in Episode II.

ILM Model Supervisor Geoff Campbell and Animation Director Rob Coleman working on the character animation of Yoda for a scene in Star Wars.

“There are 11 muscles in the face that are key to giving a performance”, says Campbell. “I can stretch a face in SOFTIMAGE as much as I want. When I like what I've done, I'll save it as a new shape. At my desk I have a little camera and a mirror I use to view my real facial expressions. You invest a little bit of yourself in each character.” Campbell says an important detail in a character's performance is “eye darts”, the little telling looks that performers give each other when interacting. In Episode II Yoda had eye darts even with his eyes closed. “Linda Bell developed an animation of the eyes while sleeping, that is, the eyes moving in REM sleep under closed eyelids.”

“I wanted Yoda to look better than the puppet, to have the lip movements better match the words”, says Campbell. She explains that

The interesting thing with Yoda is George didn't want us to go light years ahead of the puppet's limitations. When Yoda is speaking in Episode II, and he has a lot of lines, he uses phonemes in a very simplistic way. A lot of the shapes we are trying to mimic are the puppet shapes that Frank Oz created moving his hand in rubber.

The later CG Yoda matches the character in other movies in the series, but he has more exact lip phonemes, with the lips curling to make an “M” or “B” sound, than the puppet could create.

For Yoda in Star Wars, ILM used their proprietary facial caricature animation software designed to be file-compatible with SOFTIMAGE. ILM's approach to in-house development includes both proprietary applications such as this and CompTime, and custom plugins for use with commercial pacakges like Maya and SOFTIMAGE.

The hair on Yoda is another character feature manipulated with ILM's facial animation software. Because moving individual hairs would be too cumbersome, there are single control hairs that influence the hairs around them. To style Yoda's hair interactively, speed is important. When running ILM's facial animation software on the SGI O2, it took seconds to redraw the screen after each change, and the delay made work difficult. “With Linux we manipulate high-res models in real time in a way we couldn't with our SGI system”, says Campbell.

ILM still builds some physical models but mostly for backgrounds or for organic-looking things that can be created easier than with CG. Although ILM doesn't construct many spaceship models anymore, their computerized motion control cameras are still shooting background plates nonstop.

R&D Principal Engineer Phil Peterson reports that ILM is about 80% finished with its Linux software conversion. He says, “A team of three people ported over a million lines of code to Linux.”

“The biggest issue we had in porting was the compiler and other tools”, says Peterson. “Newer C++ code is fairly dependent on STL.” The gcc 2.96 compiler included with Red Hat didn't support the C++ Standard Template Library (STL), so ILM uses gcc 3.01 instead. Their multiplatform build environment is customized based on Python cooperating with GNU make.

ILM had to accommodate some CPU differences, such as floating-point implementation and number precision. “In some cases we hand-optimized in-line assembly to get the most out of Linux”, says Peterson. One issue is how to track memory access per thread in Linux, which handles thread IDs differently from IRIX. Another annoyance is that a floating-point exception isn't allowed to throw a C++ exception (because FP exceptions are asynchronous).

In integrating legacy Motif applications, ILM had to overcome some issues with widget differences. “We were using Motif mostly”, says Peterson, “but use FLTK in our latest applications”. ILM made their SGI-based apps look similar on Linux, including the fonts and colors. ILM software projects may incorporate 80 or 90 libraries. For sound ILM uses OSS, but Peterson says they may switch to ALSA. SGI provides the dMedia libraries, but on Linux ILM had to create some of their own media libraries to fill in missing functionality. To play back movies, which at 2k by 1k are more than 27 times larger than typical 320 × 240 PC video, ILM created their own QuickTime-compatible library used in their flipbook player.

For the ocean in Perfect Storm, ILM created a Maya plugin with the capability of directing the intensity of particular waves. A key feature of ILM-developed software is user control.

“With Linux the increase in speed is what everyone is noticing”, Hendrickson says. He says the speed increase is

...not just 20% or 30%, but five times faster. We have an incredible appetite here for computation. It is the limiting factor. If an artist can get more iterations, the result will be that much better. We have lots of Jedi knights, lots of robes to model. Without the speeds coming out of hardware, we would not be able to do it. Before we had to hand-animate approximations. Episode II uses digital stunt double work, blending seamlessly between the live and the CGI performer. We are using CGI to replace rubber prosthetics on actors. We're doing more simulation, more rigid body dynamics. As droids get sliced and diced with light sabers, pieces fly off in realistic ways.

George Lucas, who used 400 shots in the original Star Wars, used 2,000 in Episode II. Creating that required three visual effects supervisors, as if doing three shows. “Expect a jump in what we're able to do after Episode II”, says Hendrickson.

Thanks, in part, to Linux.

The Computers of ILM


Robin Rowe ( is a partner in the motion picture technology company He has led video R&D at a Fortune 500 IT company, taught C++ at two universities and was an NBC-TV technical director. He leads two users' groups: and



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While it may be possible that

Anonymous's picture

While it may be possible that an app will run at the same speed on Windows as Linux the point for a large corporation is that because they no longer have to pay a rent to run a proprietary operating system they can plow that money back into the project to buy more processing power. It is a poor argument to compare running the same app on the same hardware between Windows and Linux without taking this into account.

Re: very cool!

Anonymous's picture

To anybody that knows what a Linux desktop looks like, the pictures accompanying this article speak volumes!

Re: very cool!

Anonymous's picture

What, you mean the fact that they could'nt look more like Irix if they had a Mountain View address and a v. large price tag attached..?

5x Speedup? Perhaps.

starvingguitarist's picture

I don't know about rendering and that sort of thing, but I will tell you this- in our datacenter where I work (there are 200+ servers), we are replacing Windows with Linux as much as possible for several reasons, the least of which is the cost involved with using any Microsoft product.
We have a series of servers that run RedHat 7.2 and 7.1 (now 7.3 for several critical ops machines) and let me be the first to tell you that the linux machines will handle more transactions and have less downtime- period. Linux is the IT dream.
As far as rendering and a 5x improvement in speed- I think I buy it. Here's why- having used SGI machines and IRIX I can tell you that they crash a lot more often than SGI would have you believe. A system crash under any modern OS can easily take 5-15 minutes of productivity away from you in time to reboot and get back to where you were. The fact is, that sure, XP and 2000 may be more stable than the 9x or DOS core- but not as stable as Linux. Linux handles processes in such a way that to crash the entire OS, something has to be coded so badly that it reeks from the get-go, or you have a hardware issue. That's fact.
Now, as far as hardware goes- the new Intel core is, frankly unimpressive. I'm test benching two of the Hyperthreaded Xeon 2.2Ghz processors in two servers on my desk right now. I have to admit that for what we paid, I'm not impressed. But this is for handling transactions in a huge database. For rendering, I'm really suprised that a) they were suckered into using Dell, a mistake I will NEVER make again, and b) that they didn't use the new AMD processors. For similar costs they could have used dual Athlon MP processors in thier rendering computers and I am willing to bet that they would have seen a performance increase. But again, I know little when it comes to that sort of thing- what does everyone else think?
-DJ Eshelman, Fort Collins, CO

Re: 5x Speedup? Perhaps.

Anonymous's picture

I agree. Although I know several individuals who purchase AMD chips and have problems with playing DVD on their CPU. So go figure.... I just bought a Dell 530 workstation for my girlfriend. She edits video on her computer. I am also not impressed with the core instruction architecture on the Xeon 1.8Ghz chip. But what else can you do. Last year I build a dual 500Mhz Supermicro board and we ran into problems that we could not fix ourselves the manufacturer stop supporting the motherboard and it was still under warranty. There was a problem with the bios and drivers on the board after several attempts at fixing the board we dumped it. We figured that if we purchased a OEM computer maybe we could get a little bit better assistance from Dell. My thing is that the screw you no matter what. I like the linux OS but what apps run on it.

Re: 5x Speedup? Perhaps.

Buz Cory's picture

I have been running Linux (various flavors) for over 12 yrs and am very happy with it overall. I have been running on AMD for six of those years (first a k6-2 and now an amd64 (AKA x86_64). Granted, the only "number-crunching" stuff I ever ran was still imaging (the GIMP and various display programs).

One of the main uses for my system is as WWW server (starting w/ a 386!), as well as as a workstation.

I was very happy w/ my k6-2 and am even happier w/ my new AMD64 + Debian, even though I am still configuring my new system. It plays DVD's very well, as well as MPEG-1 (I never installed DVD s/w on the K6, so I can't compare).

The most compute-intensive apps I generally run are large compiles (all of gcc, for instance) and they go some 5 times faster on my new H/W w/ a 64-bit kernel but most of my apps & libs in 32-bit mode.

In short, AMD rules, Intel sucks!

Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

I think that this story is way cool, and the increased uptake of Linux by graphics professionals is bound to improve commercial support for 3D graphics hardware under Linux; this is all great.

But it seems to me that to attribute the 5x speedup to Linux is missing the point. You could get the same application-level speedup running Maya or SoftImage on Windows XP on the exact same hardware they are running Linux on. Linux isn't magic pixie dust that you sprinkle on a computer to make it go faster - hey, if that were the case they could run Linux on their old O2s, wouldn't that be super :-) - it's just a way to get a decent OS, which can be easily tweaked/fixed/hacked, running on the incredible bang per buck commodity hardware now being sold.

Linux is great, but it's only an OS/OS kernel (pick that which fits your ideology), it's not the source of all greatness. How would it sound if ILM had ditched their O2s for the same Dell boxes running Windows XP, and ZDNet did an article saying that "Windows brought a 5x speedup" ? :-)

68X reduction in crashes

Anonymous's picture

What you wouldn't get with a Microsoft software is stability. In a recent Department of Defense study, they note that NT crashed 68 times versus 1 time for Linux in a side-by-side comparison. What are the operational costs of endless crashes? Production speed, among other things (like money).

You haven't accounted for the inherent instability in Microsoft operating system software when you imply that any of its products could perform as well as on a stable operating system such as Linux.

I'm migrating a small network of about a dozen Windows computers to Linux, and the payback period is fairly immediate, since it is possible to make use of existing hardware.

Re: 68X reduction in crashes

Anonymous's picture

What's NT got to do with any of this. Old software simply cannot be compared using todays standards and the results obviously can't have any relevance on more recent operating such as XP.
For theories sake I am running Windows XP with some decent hardware (AMD64 3200+, FX5900) and I do a lot of graphics editing and other hardware intensive work and Windows has crashed on me what, like once since I built the computer several months ago, and that was the fault of a software application I had installed not windows.
Windows XP isn't as bad as a lot of you make out. I'll agree that previous OS's most especially Win ME and Win 98 are not decent by todays standards but XP does the job, reliably and with speed. I'm not a microsoft fanboy, I've used Linux and I like it, but for sheer compatibility reasons I prefer Windows.
And either way, for better or for worse, Longhorn is going to change the way we look at computing in a big way.

Re: 68X reduction in crashes

Anonymous's picture

I use Maya on both platforms, and have used it on Irix. Irix was the absolutely best OS i've ever seen until Linux which is almost the same thing nowdays... Sgi did offer sources for kernel before but you simply couln't post them to the net you could build your own in-house kernel. Linux has always been open-source, and this is the very fact (beside it being Unix ofcourse, which goes without saying) that makes Linux attractive to studios like ILM, Pixar, Dreamworks etc. They can build their OS FROM SCRATCH if they want/have time to, or they can tweak the existing code and get the most out of it stripping it off of all the useless junk that windoze carry by default. Windoze engineers are simply much shittier programmers than those gurus at ILM and such places, those are the guys that wrote Photoshop (John Knoll) for instance, guys who wrote original Maya predecessors from Wavefront, first ever particle simulators of real world fenomena, most of which hold PHDs in Mathematics, Physics etc. And, don't forget this fact, with Macintosh switching to UNIX (Berkley system development - BSD flavoured open source version) Micro$oft is left as the only commercial OS available wich is - not - UNIX. Watch it and you'll soon see, this is the begininng of their death. The time of dumb "where is the "any" key" users has passed, kids are busy compiling their favourite WindowManagers and porting games to linux through native/wine support. As far as the visual effects/computer animation industry goes, its just the question of time before Adobe releases Linux port of Photoshop. As soon as that happenes, windows will die in even the smallest games company (Maya now costs almost the same as 3D max but has more stuff than Max with tons of comercial packages). Small games companies (low poly market) are abandoning Max for far more powerful Maya, windows is dieing, world is becomming a better place :)

du te du te du

J-Guy's picture

Windows isn't exactly dying, it's the corporate standard for business professionals, and that will probably continue. Windows DOES face competition now and hopefully that will one day turn into lower pricing of the OS. Now, why again, did you make the dumb (no offense) comment "windows is [dying]"? No offense dude, but it's still most of the market-over 90%. A thing that people here forget is that Windows also has a lot of extra crap installed that slows it and causes problems, services that run in the background, etc. You're all calling it crap for this and touting "with linux you can build/customize..." etc. but for 99.99999999999999% of computer users don't want to do this, they just want things to work, and they just want automation; that's why ...doze is the way it is. Also, for ease of use, you usually sacrifice stability. Also, someone commented that Mac OS was now no longer propriety? What the...? Mac is a pain in the butt and it needs to go down. They took free freeBSD and made it propriety! You can't take it and install on multiple computers can you? Nor can you look at the source, nor can you distribute it. Apple is more an enemy to open source than MS. MS does contribute more to the OSS movement in order to keep its presence up (though not its dirt-dragged reputation). Apple simply took OSS, re-tooled it, added guis and made improvements and sold it as propriety. In fact, when at one point Apache had major security issues (that Apple had fixed) they refused to release the improvements (as the licensing of Apache requires if you distribute it) until that fix would no longer benefit anyone. Remember, Linux is a bigger threat to Apple's Mac than Windoze at MS, and Apple plain as day doesn't like it, nor does it willingly contribute anything. Windows: 90+ % of market, Mac: 3-4% of market and losing ground, Linux 3+% of market and gaining; [these are desktop OS figures, not including web servers markets etc. in which Linux rocks!]. Now, who is Linux a bigger threat to, looking at those figures? Someone can choose between MS Windows-propriety OS that's easy to useon cheap, self-maintainable/upgradeable sofware etc. -or-Mac Propriety OS (thieves) on propriety hardware that's all overpriced (scoundrels) -or- Linux OS (free but a pain) on cheap etc. hardware? Mac loses this battle hands down and I'll be glad the day they finally shape-up or lose. I don't even like calling it "Mac OS," as it's FREE BSD!!! FREE. Oh well. Anyways, if you want to continue the boring debate of OS merits, here's something to chew on: Unix/Linux and variants gain much stability for the implementation and structure of the OS that's built-in, so to speak. They are "tree like" and so simpler, but therefore more robust. Windows, unlike these (no it's no longer DOS, who knows what it's called now under those labels) has multiple (many) "roots" and an advanced system structure of things such as the Registry. As with all features to any OS design, they all have their advantages and drawbacks. Now, in terms of usefullness, Windows technically wins out, as it's deployable (again, technicality) more readily and easily to do more with all the extras in the design. Now, programmers would see this as strange, as simplicity seems far more reliable and, of course, easier hands down. However, as PCs with Windows have shown before, each of its drawbacks are usually overcome in time, especially when a competitor shows Windows up, after which MS plays catch up. If you're going for "cutting edge" then actually, Linux still isn't. What MS does that's often so infuriating is that it throws so much in and works out details and bugs later-effectively using the market to find them. Yet, with all the new features etc. it's proven quite successful, even over competitors who were years ahead of their time. What do you think? Flame away if you want, but if you do you're just showing you need to get out more; which reminds me, why am I posting to this again? Man, I have to get out now, this is scaring me-I think I'll go out tonight. :) Good luck. ;)

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

I would have to say I disagree with your comments in regards to

"You could get the same application-level speedup running Maya or SoftImage on Windows XP on the exact same hardware they are running Linux on. Linux isn't magic pixie dust that you sprinkle on a computer to make it go faster"

It is widely know that the Linux (and UNIX) file system is fast. Much faster that of any of the Micr$oft operating systems, their fastest being NTFS5. Micr$oft knows their filesystem needs improvement, that is why they are working on a replacement for NTFS5.

Linux is good. But not that good.

Anonymous's picture

I find it incredulous that you allow an article to be posted that advertises magical performance increases from using Linux. It would be a very brave man that doesnt suggest that Linux is, indeed, a more robust platform. But to suggest that it offers miraculous performance increases over windows for things like AA or *insert non real time rendering* is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

Linux does not make the processor go faster.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Ok I dare you to run benchmarks on this,

You *will* find that NTFS performs pretty equally

to ext3, and that FAT filesystems plainly sucks.

BTW. compare FAT support in Windows with FAT support in Linux. Windows beats the living crap out of Linux. (Dont argue on that one, its widly know - I suggest a post to lkml if you dont believe me)

Reiser File System

Reiser's picture

Anyone here have tried Reiser File System or Reiserfs running under 7200 RPM harddisk and compared it with NTFS latest version ?

Well, you can always compare

Bestondoa's picture

Well, you can always compare EXT2 or EXT3 suport in Windows with FAT support in Linux. The results should be pretty self-explanory...

one hopes that windows suppor

netmains's picture

one hopes that windows support for its own native file system is better than that reverse-engineered on a 'foriegn' OS

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

It has to more to do with Maya. Maya runs faster on NT 4.0 than Win2000. On the other hand, rendering speed has more do with the hardware. The funny thing about this article, is that they didn't mention how many OSX users worked on the show. One thing is clear, the money they saved on the window tax could have been used to add a few more servers in the rack.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Do this means that they were using Wndows XP on Irix ?

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

I reply 2 myself: Obviously not

WinXP runs on x86 CPU's

But, what about performance comparison between their WinXP and Linux PC machines ?

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Windows wouldn't speed it up. It would stop it in its tracks. While the user workstation would be the roughly the same for either OS. With Linux, your renderfarm does not require a gui interface on every node, no extra services running "on every node" What you end up with is a lot leaner code crunching system.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Now isn't the last line of this article "thanks IN PART to linux" i.e not claiming that linux was the sole factor or am I hallucinating ?


what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

it's totally nutty to compare an old item with a new and then say the new is so much better.

sure it is, it's new!

they would need to compare their 'great new' linux stuff with an octane2 or fuel and not with 3 year old o2s.

in my experience linux is the last choice for highend desktop stuff. even on a new mac maya under osx runs quite moderate.

and apart from this look at the overall quality and performance of the sgi machines. no other system comes even near.

what other system has a bandwith of over 10gb/s for example?

and beside all hardware there's another big big plus: irix.

irix is fantastic; maybe the best os ever been out.

maybe x86 is nice for distributed render stuff but that's the max.

but let's come to the point now: x86 with linux is cheap!

i guess it's no good publicity for a company like ilm to own up to the fact that they have to buy cheap stuff...

look at pixar ;-))

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

> in my experience linux is the last choice for highend desktop stuff

This means you have no experience. Linux is faster and more efficient than a lot of things (Windows, Macintosh)

> irix is fantastic; maybe the best os ever been out.

ILM doesn't seem to think so.

> maybe x86 is nice for distributed render stuff but that's the max.

Linux was originally cloning Minix to x86, but it's not just that anymore. Linux on a SPARC, for example, runs pretty damn sweet. IBM recommend Linux for s/390 (Thats mainframes, which are definitely not x86).

> but let's come to the point now: x86 with linux is cheap

If you're referring to how it does stuff, I don't like you, demon, because you tell grave falsehoods - Linux is about as structured and properly connected as it gets. It needs to be, with all these developers. Otherwise, if you're referring to the price, remember that these (ILM, not neccessarily Lucas* anymore) are people for which quality comes first. They have a reputation for it, why spoil it? Windows is about the most expensive OS out there still (even considering the price for site licenses of other OSes), which would definitely be killing that. Smarten up, more expensive doesn't mean better.

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

> in my experience linux is the last choice for highend desktop stuff

This means you have no experience. Linux is faster and more efficient than a lot of things (Windows, Macintosh)


this means i have at least more experience than you and you can't read ;-)

i said it's not good for highend desktop stuff. i don't care other stuff. i just talked about highend desktop stuff. and xfree and the gnome or kde desks are definitely just 2% compared with the sgi xserver.


> irix is fantastic; maybe the best os ever been out.

ILM doesn't seem to think so


the statements from ilm are not complete and seem like pulled out of context. further you don't know ilm's reasons to choose linux in some areas. i guess they wouldn't tell some website 'we have to save...'


> maybe x86 is nice for distributed render stuff but that's the max.

Linux was originally cloning Minix to x86, but it's not just that anymore. Linux on a SPARC, for example, runs pretty damn sweet. IBM recommend Linux for s/390 (Thats mainframes, which are definitely not x86).


i know the history of linux but that's absolutely not the issue here.

however, tell me some apps like maya or flame for linux sparc.

nothin? well, i'm not surprised.

and for ibm: a guy at redhat told me it'd be a pain to run linux on the s/390. you just can't compare a 'developer's toy' with REAL enterprise software.

seems like you don't know much about big systems and their main focus but believe me linux can't stand the competition with the proprietary system at the moment (might change someday). for now it has exactly one plus: it's free!

but remember: it's only free if your time is worthless ;-)

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

>irix is fantastic; maybe the best os ever been out.

Wow. You've never worked with Irix, have you?

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

Re: what a silly article (Score: 0)

by Anonymous on Thursday, June 13, 2002

>irix is fantastic; maybe the best os ever been out.

Wow. You've never worked with Irix, have you?


i only work with irix!!

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

I was just getting ready to state the same. :) However, BeOS [RIP], now *that's* an OS to behold.

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

Everything that is new is not necessarly better. Tablet computers are new (or were new), and not a single one of them have succeded. When Windows98 (the first one) came out it was new, but full of bugs. Was it better because it was new? I don't think so. New does not make things better.

Re: what a silly article

Anonymous's picture

Tablet comupters ARE better. They just aren't cheap...

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Actually, it is a magic pixie dust. The article mentions nothing about hardware upgrades whatsoever, you know why? Because there were none. Linux is faster, it essentially *is* a magic pixie dust because it utilizes hardware much better than any other operating system available today. Linux is extremely advanced and extremely powerful. Move to Windows XP? Ha! You would see a tremendous drop in performance simply because Windows doesn't send instructions fast enough and hogs resources to itself - and there isn't anything you can do about it. Linux can even be specialized, there are versions dedicated to being routers, extremely secure, extremely graphical, minimal, customizable, user friendly, or in this case, optimized for graphics. Linux is the ultimate operating system, and I would actually find it interesting to get a custom version of OS depending on your usage intents - gaming, web server, etc etc.

Lets face the facts, there were no hardware upgrades and they saw a vast improvement, the same went for Dreamworks. Linux is far superior because of its flexibility and amazing Kernel. You will begin seeing more and more of Linux in the news as it begins to take over, and I welcome it. Imagine, not a company, not a dictator, but everyone taking over...well, everyone. Linux isn't powered by a single company, investors or one man, linux is powered by everyone and anyone that uses it. Welcome to the new world, welcome to Linux.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

the magical pixie dust is grown and sprayed throughtout the crops in order to make the faster linux pc;s.... duh... but if u dont know that why are u here?

its 4 in the morning... i mbugged out from "signs" - keep it real

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture


read the article before you post. There were upgrades.Perhaps you should try posting you little comments to slashdot instead.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Pentium 4's offer WAY more number crunching power than the old 400-600 MHz MIPS cpus that you find in SGI machines. This is the case no matter what OS you arer running. They also cost far less.

The article was really biased and should have pointed out that it is the hardware that should be thanked for the performance, the OS just enables the use of commodity hardware.

Windows 2K or XP would provide the SAME benifits and is more useful to smaller design shops that don't have their own IT staff and need to use off the shelf software like Discreet Combustion, Adobe After Effects, and Maya.

I have yet to see a commercially (or freely) available video compositor for Linux.

~William Milberry

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

WinXP is simply not an option for ILM or most of the hollywood companies they simply have to much inhouse unix code (millions of lines) porting this code to linux is easy. To winXP prohibitiably hard.... Linux lets them run their unix code on fast intel workstations with very little effort. In that sense it is a magic pixie dust....

There are compositors for linux. Shake & Silicon Grail (for the next year at least.) At least one company is releasing its inhouse product soonish and afaik discreet is porting....


Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

This whole thread was a trap to spur a discussion of XP. The ILM migration was from Unix to a similar OS (Linux). It has nothing to do with XP. Doubtful that XP was ever seriously considered.

The questions for the Linux community to ask every business they talk to are:

How will Microsofts new licensing policy impact your business?

How are you planning to avoid mandatory Microsoft audits and legal actions against your company?

How does your company benefit from these licensing changes?

Why do you think Microsoft is changing their policies, if you don't see any benefit?

When do you think they will make further changes that impact your business?

Who has the leverage in your relationship with Microsoft? Have you maintained the right to say "No"?

Please copy, add to, modify, and most of all ask these questions as many times as possible between now and August 1.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

There were hardware upgrades. They had been running ALL SGI before, and the reason to switch to Linux was to save money by NOT running SGI anymore, so they bought Intel based systems. NEW systems with top CPUs and memory.

As for the Linux vs. XP debate. I've run Maya on both platforms, and I'll atest that it runs faster and much more stably on Linux. Plus there is the previously noted fact that the OS has an open architechture which XP and IRIX don't have. Allowing ILM to optimize their software's use of the hardware.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

You are wrong. The hardware was changed(read:upgraded) from SGI O2's running IRIX to Dell p4's running RedHat. Pixie dust or not, there was a hardware change.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

You wouldn't, in fact, get the same performance on these machines running WinXP, because it is an extremely inefficient operating system, although it's probably true that the hardware is partly responsible for the speed-up.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

>> it's just a way to get a decent OS, which can be easily tweaked/fixed/hacked

You said it all, and exactly for this reason Windows simply wouldn't do.

These guys do very specialized work and, if they could, they would rely on other people's work -- if only to save time.

But they can't, because nobody does such a good job for a reasonable price. So they do it themselves. Linux just makes it possible by being open.

Re: Linux is not the source of the 5x speedup...

Anonymous's picture

All of this is no excuse for Jar Jar.

keep on rockin in the free world ILM !

Anonymous's picture

I think its great that ILM have gone the Linux way
(although they r not the first big studio to do so )

to shed some light on some of the previous posts ( especially the vague ones ...:-) )

Most of the posts were moving towards the fact that they could have switched to WindoZe n got the job done ... lol

Linux IS FASTER and
DEFINATELY MORE STABLE ( a whole lot more stable ) on similar hardware
with regard to number crunching apps ( ie Maya etc )
Im not so sure about Open Office but then i use plain ASCI !

ILM has a huge asset of code in custom apps plugins etc created over the years for IRIX it makes sense to port it all to linux,i dont think
its possible to port it to windows .. (ever heard of 3D Studio MAX for IRIX or Mac OS or Linux NO its designed for windoze technology hence impossible... vice versa)
.Possible but would have to be completely rewritten.(n include ..time, money, manpower, testing etc...)

also keep in mind they had to resuse a lot of their old hardware and probably all of their renderfarm.

(then only to be slowed down by your investment lol )

inspite of this if ILM felt that on the X86 if windoZe was faster than linux they would migrate to it ... after all they are concerned with makin great movies not saving money

someone mentioned piXie dust .... dude can i have some ... :-)

someone mentioned IBM ....
(who was your guy at redhat some M$ employee ... why dont u ask him to tell his supervisor what he told u ... lol )
also Flint is available on the X86 on IBM workstations and running Red Hat .. the only other platform outside IRIX its available on

someone mentioned Pixar ... lol

PIXAR renderman (Renderman Atrists Tools the full deal not just the renderer) is available on Linux so it can be used on a workstation not renderfarm, on a Linux box.

High End Digital Content Creation Software available on Linux

for 3D ... Maya , Houdini , Softimage 3D and XSI
(ps u can do a distrubuted render in these above packages on IRIX and Linux .. on windoZe ... hahah sorry :-) )
for compositing , FX and editing ... Shake , Flint and Smoke
(maybe im missing something .. dunno )

i think that speaks for itself on the future of Linux in the DCC market.


who are you ?

who am I's picture

Almost everyone who said that ILM choose Linux because it is much better compared to others does not explain why. That is why SGI supporters said that it was probably the hardware. That is why Windows supporters said that ILM choose because of cost.

I think the previous posting already answered some of the arguments on the availability of multimedia applications in Linux, SGI and Windows.

There are even some who argue that Linux could not cope with high-end machines. For your information, at my workplace, we are running opteron and Itanium 2 clustered servers running with Redhat Enterprise, connecting to SAN.

I also wanted to explain on why Linux is much faster then others. This is what most comments in here does not explain.

You see, for a server (other than rendering farm) running database, the key to performance is the speed of the I/O and memory. It is not really about the CPU. And one of the fastest filesystem around are Reiser File System or Reiserfs. It is damn much faster then even NTFS.

Memory management in Linux is also quite impressive in that it used up all of the free memory for buffers. That is why you can see that most Linux servers "eat" up more memory then Windows, sometimes. In Windows the memory management is not as good as in Linux or Unixes or *BSD. I don't know why.

I have read this article

I just found out that ILM use NFS. I believe I understand why but I don't want to explain it here. One other reason to choose Linux/SGI because NFS does not exist in Windows. Even if they have something like NFS, such as Windows Sharing, it is probably could not accomodate when sharing "online" I/O access from hundreds of farm workstations/servers.

For rendering, what important is the CPU power and the number of instructions in it. Unfortunately MIPS processor only have less instructions compared to CISC. Linux does have SGI version, but why ILM does not choose it ? Probably one of the reason why because CISC processor is much more better for rendering compared to MIPS processor based hardware compared to SGI. But this is only my theory.

To the arguments that Windows is better because it is more userfriendly and have very good support. Well, Microsoft developed it for end-users. In ILM even their artist are very technical. They don't need point and click support. In fact, they might even have more working experience in Linux desktop than any of us in here. Company such as SuSe and Redhat do provide support. HP and IBM also support Linux. HP have some extensive certified hardware list. So, nowadays, Linux support is not that difficult to find. Even so, Linux has a very large-based community support worldwide. You can get any kind of support even up to getting drivers for SAN in Slackware if you wished. (although I don't recommend that). We used to had Slackware server here running perfectly well while using SAN storage.

Ohh and yes, company such as ILM do cares about cost. If you open the URL that I have mention above, you will come across some statement that support this. However, the most important thing for them is to make movies in a shorter time. Just imagine you have to render 1 frame per hour compared to Linux method where you can render in real-time. It would take much shorter time to develop the movie if they could shortern the time of making their animation and effects would they ? And of course, time is money. They shorter the time, the better the cost. That is why they need to fully utilize their machine power so that it could give more power for rendering. That is also why they wanted to use Grid computing. So that they could parallel the rendering process.

In order to fully utilize their machine power, they need a flexible OS which they could customize, put out all unnecessary codes and even recompiled their kernel.

We can modified Linux kernel source code and modules and recompiled ourselves if we have some technical knowledge in Linux kernel and how Linux operates. Can you modified Windows kernel source code and recompiled Windows kernel by yourselves ? From what I read from the articles and from the comments in here, the ILM people have a very high technical skills and cannot even be compared with most of us in here. Just imagine they have only 3 people rewriting the codes from SGI to Linux ? I believe this 3 people does not just simply migrate applications from SGI to Linux by simply recompile codes using some standard migration process. If they do that, they would not be able to use all the hardware power. In fact, I believe they also modified the Linux kernel codes, modules codes and probably drivers to fully utilize the machine capabilities and the NVIDIA graphics cards and then recompile them. They also would have modified the applications codes so that it would tuned to the new hardware.

Believe me if I said, that we all are uncomparable to those Linux people who worked at ILM.

Afterall, who we are to argue about ILM decision to choose Linux ?

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