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DREAMWORKS: THE ANIMATION STUDIO'S POWERFUL NETWORK


You probably have not been to the movies for a couple decades if you don't understand exactly what DreamWorks is. It's a digital film studio that turns out critically acclaimed CGI cartoon animations like Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda, balancing about 2 a year considering that the turn of the century, and a major contributor to the reason for keeping kids inhabited for a number of hours.

The creation of CGI movies is enormously demanding from a network perspective. Animation and rendering require extremely low input latency and develop huge files that need to be easily offered, which poses technological obstacles to the DreamWorks networking group.

In between 300 and 500 artists work on any provided DreamWorks feature, each of which takes 4 or five years to produce. The process needs approximately 350TB of information, spread out across 500 million-odd files. It turns out that even home entertainment as airy and light as How to Train Your Dragon is pretty heavy lifting, from a computational viewpoint.

Moving images

It's an unique challenge, according to Scott Miller, an innovation fellow for engineering and infrastructure at DreamWorks.

" Don't let the artists hear us say this, but we're a digital manufacturer," he informed Network World. "Our product is data that, when projected through a digital projector with a lightbulb behind it, appears like a motion picture and is very engaging and interesting to view, however at the heart of it, we take data sets and process them and make new data sets."

It's complicated work, Miller said-- in essence, DreamWorks' artists are describing exactly what they want their vision to look like, and using advanced innovation to create the final art.

At the edge

The business's edge network is all Aruba wireless, and utilizes 350 gain access to points to cover both outdoor and indoor locations of its 11-acre campus in Glendale, Calif., north of Los Angeles. The concept is to let DreamWorks' imaginative types do their work from anywhere on-site, from any gadget-- whether it's a powerful workstation with a wired connection in a workplace or a tablet under a tree.

Part of that, inning accordance with network operations supervisor Keith McKay, is using user-based controls in Aruba's ClearPass system to protect the network. Activity is tracked to private user IDs, rather of MAC addresses.

" We can actually arrange individuals into buckets and position them on the network, wired or wirelessly, as we have to," he stated.

They wish to go all-software-defined, but-- surprisingly for such a tech-focused environment-- there are tradition systems that still have to be serviced.

The dataset for Shrek, for instance, is still being worked with-- for future films, for customer items work, and so on-- and is still hosted on systems dating back to 2001.

" Exactly what it does is it enables anyone who may wish to utilize our copyright anywhere within the business [to access] those information sets utilizing the very same file system and using primarily the very same software tools that they used to develop the stuff 10 or 15 years earlier."

Motion capture and waving ferns

DreamWorks does a great deal of movement capture to generate realistic-looking motions for characters. The data sets for this aren't extremely big-- it's simply sensors recording their positions relative to each other, after all-- but the subsequent processing and rendering of that information into something visually striking is computationally extensive. Exactly what's more, even if the quantity of raw data is relatively little, movement capture is highly conscious latency-- one of the company's biggest networking concerns.

Much of the heaviest lifting, from a storage and compute viewpoint, is done for backgrounds and digital backgrounds, Miller stated.

" A few of the larger information sets we have are the ones that are simulations," he said. "Simulating water, fire, dust, doing procedural geometry simulations for things like a forest, where every leaf and blade of lawn relocations around-- those data sets can get quite large."

A network in reverse

Another unique element to DreamWorks' network is its use pattern, McKay kept in mind. Throughout the day, the network is a latency-sensitive system developed to assist the innovative workers do their tasks, while it changes into an HPC shop committed to heavyweight making tasks during the night.

" The networks here are in reverse from every other enterprise I've ever operated in, because the time the network is busiest is from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.-- that's when rendering occurs," he said. "When we start interactive gain access to in the morning, network utilization through our core comes by a factor of 4."

There's plenty to do to make sure that shift can happen smoothly, inning accordance with Miller and McKay, many of which centers on pursuing complete network usage. In the evening throughout the HPC phase, all uplinks have to be carrying information, but those uplinks form a mesh topology throughout the day, helping to supply low latency.

McKay stated that the most significant everyday difficulty for DreamWorks' network is supporting numerous renters on the company's campus, and different "shows" will have different needs from an IT point of view. A big part of that is each program going through various stages of the advancement procedure.

" From a scriptwriter's standpoint, they do not need that much network horsepower," he said. "However by the time a show has gone through script and story and storyboarding and is now entering into rigging and character impact, each one of those departments' network needs change with time."

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