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Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar Go Linux 279

Posted by Hemos
from the moving-into-the-future dept.
robinsrowe writes "Most of the major studios use Linux -- such as DreamWorks with more than 1,500 Linux desktops and 3,500 Linux servers. The MovieEditor Conference is an all-day event on computer-based filmmaking in downtown Los Angeles on August 3rd. Studio technology chiefs and other experts discuss ongoing work using Linux in feature animation and visual effects. Presented in collaboration with LinuxMovies.org."
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Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar Go Linux

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  • by Sidde (758228) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:20PM (#13178853) Homepage
    So Steve Jobs runs Linux now?
  • New Linux Software? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aklix (801048) <aklixpro&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:21PM (#13178857) Homepage Journal
    I believe I heard that Pixar released much of their software. Even though these are at steep prices, maybe this will give more companies in the same field a chance to switch to linux.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If, by "much of their software", you mean prman, and some related tools, then yes, they sell licenses. It is not open source. And, FWIW, this stuff has been running on linux for a few years now, so companies in the field have had plenty of opportunity to switch to linux -- some have been on linux since at least '01, if not earlier (Side Effects' Houdini was the first major 3d app to support Linux).
    • I know Pixar pretty much writes all their software themselves, but I wonder what the other guys are using? Are they just using Pixar's stuff, writing their own...or are they actually using stuff like Blender, Cinepaint, and Cinelerra???
      • by dasdrewid (653176) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @05:29PM (#13180827)

        Pixar writes their own (Marionette, I believe its called), Dreamworks uses Maya and a host of internally developed apps and plugins (for example [linuxjournal.com]), but I'd be willing to bet that most of the post-production work is done using Avid or FCP (and of course stuff like AfterEffects), which, for the most part, don't run on linux (Shake does, and it's damn sweet).

        Most smaller companies (commercials, doing stills for magazine ads, and artists) still use commercial products, like Maya, Lightwave, or Animation Master, mostly, I think, for support reasons, but also because, at this stage, they still have features that are missing from Blender (camera/lens types, focal length and depth, and some heirarchy differences). As for cinellera, I don't know many people using it at all (any personally). No one teaches it in film classes, as far as I can tell, and most home users who have the time to mess around with it and understand it either a) also have the money for a cheap mac and use iMovie, which while nowhere as powerful, is good enough for a lot more than you'd expect or b) also have enough time and expertise to get a cracked version of premiere (of FCP if they have a mac) and just use that.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:21PM (#13178861) Homepage
    How much does the selection come down to cost vs customization?

    On one hand, renderfarms of ~5k machines get pretty expensive already, and adding another $500k for windows liscences is no small change.

    On the other, how much of the software is custom/gets customized, and Linux is a better platform for doing custom software and customization?
    • by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:27PM (#13178929)
      Probably due more to custimization. It is just a lot easier to strip down Linux and make it processes data then it is to do for windows. Being that it is free doesn't hurt. Because they have aready used a good portion on their 5k systems. I find I use linux most at work when I need to make a custom appliance. Get a system powerful enough to do the job I need to be done. Set up linux and usally a small custom app and it just runs. Unlike windows where it just get in the way.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Not just that, but you can really fix it when it breaks.

        Currently, if a movie house is using a closed-source toolset, and there is a feature missing or a non-trivial bug causing issues with their workflow, they have to spend a *ton* of money to get the Vendor to 'fix' it for them. With an open-source solution, they can hire someone and fix it/extend it themselves for a whole lot less money.

        Production is *everything* to these kinds of businesses. *Anything* that minimizes disruptions to the production is goi
        • And now you are touching the key feature of open source software in a big buisness enviroment.
          To a small company the windows licenses are cheaper than implementing and testing custom features, but to a company like Pixar og Dreamworks, the cost of a couple of hundred manhours are nothing compared to the cost of waiting for Microsoft to use that money.
        • Currently, if a movie house is using a closed-source toolset, and there is a feature missing or a non-trivial bug causing issues with their workflow, they have to spend a *ton* of money to get the Vendor to 'fix' it for them.

          To be fair, I don't think Pixar would have to scream very loud to get critical issues with OS X fixed exceptionally quickly. Then again, they are in an awfully priviledged position on that one. In general you are quite correct.

          Jedidiah.
      • From what I've heard, Linux and other open-source software is also preferred because of its ability to respond to deadlines. If you're two months from release and an obscure bug in your OS interferes with your rendering, you can't rely on the OS provider to get you a fix in a timely manner, especially if it's a bug nobody else encounters. If it's an open-source system, though, you can fix it yourself.
    • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:30PM (#13178964)
      On one hand, renderfarms of ~5k machines get pretty expensive already, and adding another $500k for windows liscences is no small change.

      The choice wasn't Windows vs Linux, it was Linux vs IRIX. This is why SGI's [yahoo.com] stock is in the toilet.
      • No, sorry. No one in his right mind would buy SGIs for a renderfarm, not now and not ten years ago - the price/performance ratio in terms of raw CPU power has been quite bad for SGIs since ages. However, if you want a box for modelers, texture painters, animators etc, then SGIs may have been a good choice. SGI's stock is worthless because powerful 3d graphic cards are a dime a dozen for PCs today, and linux, macOS and windows are all taking over traditional irix applications.

        I can't remember any studio usin
        • ILM used Origin 2000 (Score:5, Informative)

          by green pizza (159161) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @03:49PM (#13179889) Homepage
          From about 1997 to 2002 Industrial Light and Magic had been using huge farms of SGI Origin2000 servers. Price to performance ratio would have been better with PCs, but the benefit of the SGI kit was the number of CPUs per single machine. Some of their render servers had 64 or 128 CPUs (the max # of CPUs for an Origin2K without having to use the special XXL kernel). This helped minimize maintainence.

          Today things like LinuxBIOS and other clustering advancements have made clusters even more reliable and even easier to admin than big iron SGI/Sun/IBM/HP.
      • "The choice wasn't Windows vs Linux, it was Linux vs IRIX. This is why SGI's stock is in the toilet."

        Incorrect.

        The choice was between IRIX--> Linux and IRIX --> Windows with hundreds of MS key account managers in LA throwing lavish parties and handing out gifts for those in the decision making process.

        Considering that, the choice made should not be underestimated in its impact, since it was a *technical* decision, not a "business" decision. Of course, a sound technical decision process will always lea
    • $500K is a lot for most people, but we're talking about movies with budgets in the $100M range, and one installation can serve a number of movies. If Windows provided a noticeably better end result, it would be pretty easy to get the budget allocation.

      It's similar for the high-finance move to Linux. One transaction can be worth over a billion dollars. Paying an extra $500k for a system that prevented the loss of a hundred transactions would be a no-brainer. These people use Linux because it works not b

    • I'll tell you what I find really baffling about this...

      I happen to be an amateur filmmaker... No, really... I really am [durbnpoisn.com]

      I have 3 different Linux machines, of the 5 in my house. But, none of the 3 of them are nearly as practical for all the FX work that I do as my Windows machines.

      And that really sux! I would really prefer to switch to Linux completely... But, the software simply doesn't exist. Unless, of course, you are ILM and have $countless millions$ to afford the top of the line software.

      • you are ILM and have $countless millions$ to afford the top of the line software.

        They also develop their own customized and home-developed Apps. Pixar developed Renderman/PRMan (a huge expense, with many developers involved, if I remember right), ILM has heavily customized versions of their own software, etc. Each place has an army of support staff to support these customized apps, etc.

        They use Linux because they can strip away the crap and customize the heck out of it-- they effectively have custom Linux D
    • This isn't exacly news. The big studios started migrating to Linux years ago.

      All these studios used to be SGI and IRIX based, they are just dumping SGI and IRIX because SGI raw performance is so poor and price/performance is even worse. SGI's only two offerings are MIPS and Itanic, both of which suck for animation and rendering especially compared to dirt cheap, very fast Intel IA32 and AMD CPU's. Maybe SGI has an IA32 Linux box, but why would anyone bother to buy one there.

      Windows was never a viable opt
    • I think it's really a combination cost and customization.

      $500K is no small figure especially with more and more processing power required every year as the special effects get more detailed. I think it is probably #3 on the list of reasons.

      Customization is probably #2. Do you really need a fancy GUI when all you need is sheer computational power? So you can optimize the kernel and apps to run as fast as possible.

      But I suspect the #1 reason is that everybody uses Linux and most applications are written

  • When you need to do some hard core processing, Linux gives you a good bang for its buck. Plus it can be so easly configured that you can just make it process.
  • studio-linux.org (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:23PM (#13178885)
    For an overview of which distros various studios are using (or are migrating to), along with various hardware solutions: http://www.studio-linux.org [studio-linux.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:24PM (#13178890)
    Lameness filter. :)
  • WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by ErikTheRed (162431)
    This is just an agenda for a conference. Are they trying to inform us or sell us seats? Is Slashdot getting a percentage? Do editors edit, or chose stories with a randomized function? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Actually, we already know the answer. Never mind.
    • by HopeOS (74340)
      The conference was news to me. I would have attended if I had known about it sooner. The cost seems perfectly reasonable to cover food and incidentals for the day. I guess I just don't understand what issue you are trying to raise.

      -Hope
  • Well, duh! That's one of the things I like about working in computer animation. In my company there's maybe a dozen windows boxes and most of them are used by HR/accounting/reception. All the production work is done on Linux and Mac.
  • Clusters (Score:3, Informative)

    by andrewman327 (635952) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:25PM (#13178915) Homepage Journal
    Studios use a lot of clusters, which are much better (in several ways) on Linux than on Windows.
  • Not just Linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:27PM (#13178936) Journal
    From TFA: "Get behind-the-scenes Linux and Macintosh insights into feature animation and visual effects production in the motion picture industry." You'll notice that one of the apps they highlight is Apple's Shake, and they mention Mac OS X as a desktop environment with Linux servers.
  • Rolling Credits (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:30PM (#13178965) Journal
    It would be be nice to see credit given to even some of the OSS that is used in the movies; CineaPaint, Linux (how about a tux), etc. After all, the movie companies want credit when they help on OSS (look at CineaPaint).
  • by rayde (738949) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#13179012) Homepage
    i understand that things like Maya are available for linux, but are there programs out there that are equivalent to say, Final Cut or Adobe Premier... things that an average home movie maker might want?? if Linux is making such big inroads into this area, I'd like to know what apps fill this sector.
  • by jimbro2k (800351) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:35PM (#13179036)
    I guess they can create their movies on Linux, they just can't check their work.
    That explains their quality.
  • by stevewz (192317)
    As an independent filmmaker and videographer, and as a Mac AND Linux user, I'm curious to see if they use Linux for rendering or editing? There's a huge difference.
  • Who cares! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aergern (127031) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:38PM (#13179063)
    They can do all these fancy graphics on Linux boxes but this same industry still doesn't support Linux users to view the end product. And when someone takes it upon themselves to do so.. they are taken to court and treated like thieves.

    Screw Hollywood.. they use OSS software but do they give back.. nope. Not really.
    • Re:Who cares! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zlogic (892404)
      First of all, they don't have to give anything back. It's entirely their choice of doing whatever they want to as long as they don't violate the GPL of whatever license. And second, they DO help the Linux community by making its userbase bigger. Imagine if some company buys software from Pixar and it says "works on Linux only". So using both Linux and Pixar's expertise in using it for film production makes Linux the obvious choice. And also, if some hobbyist/small TV company wants to do video editing, what
    • Do you really think that Film Gimp [gimp.org] has no Hollywood contributors?
    • Re:Who cares! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by malducin (114457)
      It's not exactly the same industry. Most VFX studios work as paid contractors for films. They have nothing to do with the movie studios and media conglomerates. Would you accuse the guy that caters food on the set, or the nurse on set, or the dog trainer for being part of the "evil Hollywood". Movie studios have nothing to do if X or Y VFX studio uses Linux or not, and VFX studios have nothing to do if media conglomarates or software companies release Linux viewers.

      And VFX and animation studios do give som
  • MultiOS (Score:5, Funny)

    by ndansmith (582590) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:43PM (#13179110)
    Let me see if I can get this straight . . .

    Movies are made with Linux, feature Apple product placement, and are download on Windows machines? Oh, the beauty of 3!

    • Let me see if I can get this straight . . .
      Movies are made with Linux, feature Apple product placement, and are download on Windows machines? Oh, the beauty of 3!


      Yep, that's the Hollywood OS at work! Ever paid attention to the monitors/desktops in the movie Office Space? Or Jurassic Park?

      Hey, it's a Mac. No, wait, it's DOS. No, now it's IRIX. Mac again! Windows! DOS!
  • Irony (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:52PM (#13179196) Journal
    Does anyone else find great irony in this?

    I mean, in order for most Linux users to watch these films they have to break some draconian laws when playing DVD's.

    Yet, the very thing they use to create these films on is Linux.

    Well, if not irony.. some kind of word ending with ony.
  • And this is news? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by greymond (539980) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @02:55PM (#13179223) Homepage Journal
    Taking a look at the System Requirments for the more well known 3D Animation apps we see Alias's Maya and Softimage's XSI run natively under Linux. Which when you are dealing with animations that can take literally days to render for production it's no wonder they'd want to use a Linux machine instead of a Windows machine, I'm sure it cuts the time by at least 30% (totally grabbed that number out of my ass)

    So is it news that the big animation companies also use OS X instead of XP too? I think the only big name 3d animation company that is Windows only is Discreet with their 3ds Max software, which I think is really only used for games, can't think of a movie that it was used for.

    Sys Requirements:
    http://www.newtek.com/lightwave/requirements.php [newtek.com]
    http://www.alias.com/eng/products-services/maya/sy stem_requirements.shtml [alias.com]
    http://www4.discreet.com/3dsmax/3dsmax.php?id=966 [discreet.com]
    http://www.softimage.com/products/xsi/v42/SysReqs/ [softimage.com]
    • I'm quite sure the rendering time doesn't differ more than a low single digit number. It's CPU bound, the OS doesn't do much.

      It's just licensing cost. When you've got a render farm of 100 machines, Linux is way cheeper than Windows.

    • Re:And this is news? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NanoGator (522640)
      "Taking a look at the System Requirments for the more well known 3D Animation apps we see Alias's Maya and Softimage's XSI run natively under Linux. Which when you are dealing with animations that can take literally days to render for production it's no wonder they'd want to use a Linux machine instead of a Windows machine, I'm sure it cuts the time by at least 30% (totally grabbed that number out of my ass)"

      You're right, you really did grab that number out of your ass.

      There's some truth to it, though: Sup
  • Why are they switching to Linux instead of, say, Windows or Mac OSX?

    I'm a Linux user so I'm definitely happy about this move. Really I'm just looking for some good arguments for the next "My OS is da best" flamefest at work.
    • Why are they switching to Linux instead of, say, Windows or Mac OSX? My guess would be that Linux networking is the best. For something like this render farm, I would suspect that much of the efficiency is tied up in how well the computers talk to eachother and Linux probably does it best. I'm a Mac fan but word that comes back from friends that test such things is that OS X networking can't be pushed as far as Linux's can be.
      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by delire (809063) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @06:43PM (#13181409)


        Having done alot of work on high end Linux (Maya, Blender), Windows (3DSMax, Blender) and OSX (Maya, Blender) workstations, it's safe to say one can't look past Nvidia on Linux for raw polygonal churning power. Linux is an industry standard 3D animation platform, renderfarms aside.

        Perhaps with a substantial license deal Apple may deliver a distribution of OSX to fit, but out of the box it's a poor performer. Of note is that the proprietary Aqua interface hits the GPU for fast 2D blitting. The last thing you want is a DE that hogs your precious GPU for mere interface beautification. Similarly relative customiseability is important where mission critical work is to be done, for this reason OSX is significantly less viable. As for Windows, it's barely safe for home users let alone dear Gollum [findarticles.com].

  • by delire (809063) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @03:06PM (#13179348)

    I read somewhere that there are a ridiculous number of Nvidia developers working on Linux driver support - hundreds comes to mind - and it is largely due to the fact that Nvidia nailed contracts with the feature film industry.

    The proprietary Linux ATI drivers (if you want pixel and vertex shader support, this is a must) now perform incredibly well, though are still an annoyance to install for many. Given that ATI seem to be the card of choice for mobile machines, I look forward to the day ATI competes in the feature film market.
  • The entertainment industry is full of people that have very light workloads, and get paid the same no matter "how productive" they are. Therefor system license savings drop right to the bottom line.

    But the writers and the execs are using macs or pcs, I guarantee you that, locked into place by the likes of Final Draft.
    • The various screenplay templates for OpenOffice.Org are ready for primetime NOW. I use OO.o instead of Final Draft, even though I own two licenses for it fair and square, because I know that even if OO.o dies I can retrieve my work. Who knows what will happen if Final Draft dies? Yeah I can save as text or save as .PDF but that's not so great. This way my files will theoretically always be able to be edited.

      And yes, I live in LA, therefore I am working on a screenplay. As are most of us Angelenos.
    • "But the writers and the execs are using macs or pcs, I guarantee you that, locked into place by the likes of Final Draft."

      Then why not lobby the company behind Final Draft to release a Linux version?

  • by SQLz (564901)
    Studios moved away from SGI a while ago and most employ Linux as a cluster as well as on the desktop. Thats old news. Linux is big in entertainment. Even Darl McBride brought this up in an old article with Forbes.

    Sony Imageworks gives their old SGI[ machines to employees for free.

  • Whatever happened to the big push that Apple was going to make with its "Pixlet" codec that it built into Jaguar. I thought it was interesting that there was no mention of it anymore with Quicktime and the big push was behing H.264 HD. I know Jobs wanted to move Pixar from linux or OS X but I guess that just didn't go anywhere...
    • I've seen Pixlet used quite a bit in the past two or three years. It's just one of many codec options when shuffling video around in the Mac OS X environment with apps like Final Cut Pro and Shake. Pixlet offers excellent quality and a small file size at the cost of CPU cycles, so it's often used for archiving raw and final edited clips in a very high quality format.

      Today H.264 HD is a much more common format and an open standard (at the cost of even more CPU cycles!) so I'm sure it'll be the push from now
  • by delire (809063) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @03:24PM (#13179551)

    Weta studios had an absurd number [findarticles.com] of IBM IntelliStations (Maya, Renderman, Alfred).

    Seems a venerable KDE [kdenews.org] was their desktop of choice. More [digitmag.co.uk] here [jahshaka.org].
  • by quantax (12175) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @03:29PM (#13179615) Homepage
    As some other posters indicated, this is not about linux being faster but more so since when it comes to cluster systems, linux has a couple advantages: low/no cost for licensing, open development environment thus easy & low-cost to work with to create further tools, stability, and customizability.

    These are the main factors, but this does not apply to anything but the rendering clusters. The actual artist-driven work is still for the most part performed on Windows systems due to the cost of hardware, availability of highend video cards & drivers, and a wider install base. Maya running on Win32 is the largest segment of the 3D users, and this is not set to change unless Apple starts getting serious and gets highend video card makers to support OSX. For small scenes, the cards that come with G5 workstations are not bad, but once you start doing more complex scenes, it becomes a slideshow.

    In the end, this is not really news as this conversion has been going on for the last several years, especially since Maya was ported to linux. But, regardless, it's good news all around as it means a user does not need access to an expensive SGI system to get familiar with cluster rendering systems and lowers the overall entrance barriers to people learning.
  • their render farms have always been Linux on Intel. I remember watching the "Making Of" video for "Finding Nemo" and didn't see a single Mac in it...except for one of the writers laptops.

    Seems that when people really need to buy computers based on strict price/performance criteria, Mac loses, even in Steve Jobs' own company!

    • There is virtually nothing actually correct about the parent. Pixar of course does use Mac hardware. We don't use Mac computers for our renderfarm machines, but there are vast numbers of Macs, 0and Mac laptops around the building.

      Our renderfarms haven't always been Linux on Intel either. For many years our farms were Suns.
  • There is a difference between using Linux and switching to Linux...

    And I wouldn't expect a conference entitled Linux Movies Conference 2005 talking about something else than Linux, and it does, they talk about osX. Plus what software do they use to edit on Linux? none, no professionnal software as of now exist on Linux for moviemaking, they use Linux as an OS to drive render farms, which we all know it could do, hardly a statement about the omnipresence of Linux in moviemaking, it doesn't mean people are sw
  • that drives this neverending fascination with fluff non-news about where Linux is being used or is it to cover up and draw attention away from poor Windows skills, or both?

    I think both.

    I may use Linux but that doesn't mean I care to hear about every single place, thing, entity, etc. that uses some iteration of Linux. Nor do I need to hear endless fawning over Steve Jobs and Apple and OSX as if it was going to bring spiritual salvation.

    Fer crissakes people, it's just an operating system. It's not givin
  • This isn't exactly news. As far as I recall, Disney started to move over to Linux a while back (slowly started to convert). Also, I'm pretty sure that Disney provides funding for Wine [winehq.com] (Disney used Wine to run Photoshop, or so I heard).
  • OSS-friendliness? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Wednesday July 27, 2005 @04:59PM (#13180557) Homepage Journal
    I wonder...with historically not very OSS-friendly organizations like Disney switching to Linux...if we can expect to see a more OSS friendly face from them in the near future?

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