New DreamWorks Animation Software Taps into Private Cloud

DreamWorks Animation is using new technology to make animation significantly easier and more cost effective. At a CIO conference in San Francisco Thursday, chief technology officer Lincoln Wallen introduced new software he developed that uses DreamWorks’ private cloud of high-performance computers and parallel processing to speed up the complex process of computer animation. It allows animators to use a touch screen to make real-time changes — a significant development.

Before the software was introduced, a single frame could take 20 hours to render — and according to Wallen, the average film has about 130,000 frames. That amounts to a lot of manpower and a lot of money. The new technology is estimated to help reduce costs of film production by the end of next year, dropping from $150 million to $120 million, reports The Wall Street Journal.

This technology emerges as the company works on its newest film, “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” coming in June 2014. Animators began using the software 18 months ago and even sat down with engineers to work together during the development process. It was a far cry from the puppets they once used to see how a character might move across a screen.

“They move them around, press a button and go get a cup of coffee,” Wallen said. “They’re essentially painting blind.”

Now, animators are making the characters move in real-time, using computing capacity on workstations and taking more from the cloud as needed. The software “can take a task and give it to a number of different multicore computers to process at the same time — known as parallel processing — to boost the speed of the jobs,” according to WSJ.

“We wanted to get to the point where the experience was so obviously intuitive that you could imagine a child doing it,” Wallen said. He says there are plans to one day sell the software to consumers.