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Immersed in Movies: DreamWorks Demos New Apollo Platform

Immersed in Movies: DreamWorks Demos New Apollo Platform

DreamWorks Animation unveiled its new Apollo software platform with How to Train Your Dragon 2, and I got an in-depth presentation last month at the Redwood City campus. Taking advantage of Intel’s multi-core technology and its own hybrid cloud computing resources, DreamWorks has come up with a next-gen platform for visual computing from data center to chip set. Harnessing more power out of the CPU, it is intuitive, interactive, fully scalable, and makes computing a powerful animation and enterprise tool.

Apollo consists of Premo for animation (artists can pose on tablets and get instant playback of high-res models) and Torch for lighting (it’s really a services architecture that not only delivers more complex imagery but also gets data quickly through the pipe).

As character animation head Jason Schleifer (Mr. Peabody & Sherman) demonstrated, Premo is a lot more artist-friendly than the previous Emo software, which was laborious and full of data entry steps. Premo allows you to edit frame by frame at full resolution and computing power. You can interact directly with the CG characters and manipulate skin and muscle in real-time. Even I got to play with poses in just a few quick steps.

Meanwhile, Torch is used to design the look of a project and all of the data is handled by lighting supervisor Stephen Bailey. For instance, an animated feature has half a billion digital files containing information for such attributes as geometry, color, and texture. So it’s a massive data set that is under continuous revision. The Torch Project browser manages shots and other sub projects with the remaining assets.

“This is very critical from a business point of view in terms of implementing the idea of any artist, any project, at any time,” explains CTO Lincoln Wallen. “So Stephen is sitting here essentially computing on the entire enterprise and has access to the full distributed data center, the internal hybrid clouds that are partly owned and partly leased. He manages the complexity of how an image is put together.

“We knew that we had to put these two things together [cloud computing and multi-core] in a seamless way and architect a platform that allowed us to move data load and compute load across the two. So that’s where the partnership with Intel was critical in getting the best out of the software because now we’re able to measure, schedule, and allocate resources at that level. The impact of that on the artist is that we were able to go into the design processes and take off all the constraints.”

The results are clearly evident on How To Train Your Dragon 2, which is DreamWorks’ most ambitious and aesthetically beautiful feature in its 20-year history. “The boldness of camera, the subtle emotion, the ability to explore were [evident on the animation side], while on the enterprise side they were able to sit back and move resources around, apply compute at exactly the place where it matters most.”

For Dragon 2 director Dean DeBlois, Apollo was a godsend. “It’s remarkable now because given enough time and given enough of a budget to really make use of that time there isn’t an image that we can’t create any more. Shots like Drago’s army of thousands of soldiers on a beach is not something we would’ve attempted before because the system would bog down with more than one character.”

“And obviously the combination of [artistry and enterprise] will lead to better movies, done more efficiently with more flexibility and more agility, and, ultimately, lower cost,” Wallen concludes.

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nice ! congrats on breakthrough !
let me know more abaut it !!!


In-CREDIBLE!!! Now, when can armchair-fanboys of CG be able to get our hands on something like this??? Even REMOTELY similar? Hahahahaha, yeah, NOT going to hold my breath. The studio's have always had their hybrid systems but this is just magnificent. I'm guessing Maya, 3DS, C4D, etc., etc. are NOW going to be the "poor" man's toolset. Wow! When the lines between fantasy and reality become SO blurred… THAT is the reality that we are living in, today. Looking forward to some really cool, stupefying visuals. It will be fun to watch this progress… amazing times that we live in. -EB


So, thanks to DreamWorks APOLLO software; finally "anything is possible" in animation and we'll be able to experience "subtlety" in acting. Because Pixar haven't been doing that have they?


Very cool software but the bad lipsync at the start doesn't help it at all.


Your unstoppable DreamWorks animation keep making movies of Love,Emotion,Laghter. Make the DreamWorks fans happy please for us. ;)

James Tompkins

Breakthroughs of this magnitude in the field of animation are going to drive animators to work harder and can focus their attention on making their work look and feel more realistic. With a hybrid system like Apollo, the animators working with it have a great leg up to get their workflow moving much more quickly than a freelancer or standalone animation company. What we need is for this software or an iteration of it to be available for the small-time animators. If this software runs as flawlessly as they say it does, this would be something small-time animation or video game companies could really use to get their movies and ideas out to the public. A monthly subscription to be able to use the service would be nice, if the price was reasonable. It seems to be running on mostly cloud computing so that the complexity of the scene doesn’t slow down your computer as much, so selling access to their cloud based services would be great for those that could afford it. Scene complexity is something that I think is missing from some major animated movies and television shows. Large scale battle scenes or complex graphics take a long time to animate and get looking right. The faster it is to animate these types of scenes, the better the industry will become. Major animated movies could be produced in half the time it would normally take.

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