It seems technology vendors just love the movies. Nvidia today said its graphics chips played a role in compiling and restoring footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing — a feat of image processing. Also today, Analog Devices, a maker of micro electromechanical machines (MEMs), said its accelerometers and gyroscopes would be used in motion capture suits for the final “Harry Potter” movie. And last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a story touting the use of graphics processors in the most recent “Harry Potter” movie. Many blockbuster movies combine two elements the computer industry loves — a need for processing power and a way to show off what the latest sliver of silicon can do.
Intel last year signed a deal with DreamWorks under which the film studio will use Intel chips and technology for its 3-D animations. Meanwhile, director Robert Rodriguez of “Sin City” and “Spy Kids” fame uses AMD gear. Like climate simulations, seismic charting in the oil industry or gene research, filmmakers have a huge need for processing power to make special effects look real and to even capture motion. Sometimes this enormous need for compute power is fulfilled in-house, and other times it is sent to the cloud. Last month, EnFuzion announced that it had built a rendering cloud for graphics on top of Amazon’s Web Services.
Making movies puts enormous demands on servers, storage systems and even networking resources, as directors create and then manipulate huge files of images. And as the imagery gets more spectacular and goes 3-D, it’s only going to need more compute cycles. For example, “Monsters vs. Aliens” (in 3-D) required 100TB of storage for the images and had more than 30 sequences, which could have taken more than 1,000 years to render on a single workstation. That was eight times the processing power needed for “Shrek” a few years back. Coincidentally, Hewlett-Packard gear worked with storage software from IBRIX on “Monsters,” and HP recently purchased the company. Perhaps, like the overall union of tech and film, it was a match made in Hollywood.