DreamWorks Animation "Shrek the Third": Linux Feeds an Ogre
Why don't the movie studios contribute some of their millions of lines of Linux code to open source? Many studios have developed proprietary Linux video playback and editing software, an area where open source is deficient. Could they give that to open source? Today's treacherous patent landscape is one obstacle, but beyond that is the cost to maintain it. For example, ILM found it more work to open the OpenEXR image format than expected. The studios are busy making movies.
The film industry does sometimes sponsor outside open-source efforts, such as deep paint support for GIMP in 1999. Unfortunately, 16-bit per channel paint was never released as part of GIMP. It did later see the light of day as CinePaint [an OSS project I lead]. But rather than use CinePaint and have to retrain Photoshop users, DreamWorks Animation, Disney and Pixar provided some funding to CodeWeavers to make Windows Photoshop work on Linux under Wine in 2003.
The film industry may not like free software that cuts too close to its domain. The freeware renderer BMRT, developed by former employees of Pixar, was discontinued as part of an infringement settlement in 2002 between Pixar and NVIDIA (which had acquired a more sophisticated version of the BMRT render technology from the company Exluna to support Cg GPU rendering).
“CG filmmaking is one of the few places where there's a tight bond between technology and the art of filmmaking”, says Leonard. “Technology is enabling artist vision like no other time in the history of our business. We continue to invest heavily into rendering techniques such as global illumination to make lighting better and easier. The original Shrek movie did not use any global illumination. Shrek 2 used it in a very limited way, and Shrek 3 uses it broadly across the film. The result is better lighting to enable better storytelling.”
“Beginning in 2009, we'll be releasing all of our films in native stereoscopic 3-D”, says Leonard. “Our films will be created, from the start, with 3-D stereo in mind. The result will be a whole new level of experience in theaters.” Monsters vs. Aliens (tentative title) and How to Train Your Dragon will be the first 3-D films from the new 3-D pipeline. Since Shrek 3, the studio has built a new system for creating all storyboards digitally from inception in 3-D.
DreamWorks Animation has more Linux geeks on tap than most Linux companies or open-source projects do. If you're interested in working on Linux in the motion picture industry, DreamWorks is advertising job openings for Linux technologists, including Systems Architect, Senior Systems Administrator, Senior Systems Developer, Systems Engineer, Animation Tools Software Engineer, Core Libraries Software Engineer and Software Engineer Manager.
Robin Rowe is an executive producer at the Comic Strip Network. He's the founder of LinuxMovies.org and the project manager for CinePaint.org. On weekends, he hosts events in Hollywood for ScreenplayLab, a group of 1,400 screenwriters, actors and filmmakers. He's a former studio technologist for DreamWorks Animation.
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