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Linux Goes Hollywood With New Terra Soft Film Rendering Tool

By Jack M. Germain
Nov 12, 2007 4:00 AM PT

Terra Soft Solutions, the developer of Yellow Dog Linux, has teamed up with Circle-S Studios to create Y-Film, a suite of VFX (visual effects) management and productivity tools coupled with DNA Research's 3Delight RenderMan compliant rendering engine and Terra Soft's Y-HPC cluster construction suite.

Linux Goes Hollywood With New Terra Soft Film Rendering Tool

Terra Soft will display the alpha version of its new product Tuesday at the Supercomputing Expo in Reno, Nev. However, the product will not ship until the second quarter of 2008, according to Kai Staats, CEO of Terra Soft Solutions.

Y-Film is a product formed from two separate applications. The first is a cluster construction suite supported by Terra Soft's Y-HPC platform. The second is the Artist Productivity and Asset Management Tools developed by Scott Frankel, president and VFX supervisor at Circle-S Studios and the lead developer of Y-Film. The tool set runs on x86 Linux, Power Linux and Mac OS X.

"The launch of this new product may be the first surge of a potential tidal wave of change for how Hollywood conducts film rendering," Staats told LinuxInsider.

What It Does

The suite of artist workstation tools manage VFX "assets" from workstation to render farm, maintaining the integrity of shot modifications. These tools integrate the output of Maya, a 3-D desktop animation package, and/or Shake (desktop compositing software) through mental ray (renderer that is used beneath a lot of industry standards) and/or 3Delight (server side renderer compliant with Pixar's RenderMan RIB format) or RenderMan proper, Staats explained.

"This is very complex software," said Staats.

It includes a database that resides on the server or head node, which sends and receives asset (film shot) information to increase artist efficiency, eliminate error-prone "book-keeping" tasks, and store all pertinent data regarding a shot's render for retrieval later, he explained. There is also the renderer (3Delight) which resides on the cluster nodes of the render farm.

"In this respect, our Y-HPC cluster construction suite builds the render farm, and Scott's tools tie the artist workstation to the render farm built by Y-HPC," said Staats.

Terra Soft Solutions, developer of the OS Yellow Dog Linux, will offer Y-Film in Q2 2008. Terra Soft is working with key beta site customers for immediate integration, testing and production.

Industry Innovation

Power and simplicity will drive users to this product, according to Frankel. Y-Film is the only product on the market that combines asset management and task scheduling with equal strength, he said. It further offers an integrated color management system, a pipeline workflow system and a suite of artist productivity tools.

"The breadth of functionality it offers is unique in the industry. Add to that the combination of the Y-HPC cluster build and management tools and a bundled, world-class render engine, 3Delight and you have a product unmatched by any other commercial offering," Frankel told LinuxInsider.

The product has been on the drawing board for several years. Both Staats and Frankel decided that the film industry was now ready for this type of product, Frankel said.

Changing Landscape

Frankel, who has worked in making short independent films for over 25 years, has seen a revolution in computer techniques take over the Hollywood scene. The visual effects industry turned a corner and began fundamental changes in its landscape with the use of digital technology after the success of the movie "Jurassic Park" in 1992, he said.

"There are more talented artists and technicians in the field now than ever before. And a lot of them are working freelance or for small- to mid-sized studios. At the same time, clients are asking for more and more render-intensive images," Frankel said in explaining the vast market for Y-Film.

For instance, having a powerful render farm cluster at a small boutique studio was almost unheard of seven or eight years ago, he said. The expense and complexity was overwhelming.

In addition, building a robust asset management system and workflow pipeline is still out of the question for all but the largest companies, he noted. Y-Film completely turns that situation around, he said.

"Y-Film provides all the power and flexibility of a system you might find at a large VFX company; yet it's easy to set up and simple to use," he offered.

Meeting Needs

Y-Film streamlines the production of computer graphics imaging from Windows and OS X desktops to a high-performance Linux render farm. It provides filmmakers with a robust, scalable and flexible tool set of features and benefits.

It combines flexible asset management with a modular workflow pipeline, color management system, artist production tools and a scalable task scheduler. Together, the components in Y-Film provide everything necessary to automate and track computer graphic image production.

"We anticipate an aggressive adoption of Y-Film in the VFX industry by start-ups who desire a turn-key solution, by established boutiques who recognize the value in this level of automation and by larger, top-tier players when Y-Film is coupled with near-future, advanced hardware offerings," said Staats.

Beta Site

Terra Soft is now forming a beta site for the deployment phase of Y-Film. Information about Y-Film is available here.

Y-Film is built around a number of open source components. The purchase price for Y-Film is not yet available, Staats said.

Terra Soft's Y-Film "alpha" debut will be available at the Supercomputing Expo in Reno, Nev., from Nov. 12 through 16.


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