RealTime IT News

IBM to Fortify Digital Animation Powerhouse

IBM said it has scored a multi-million-dollar contract to power a digital entertainment company with its workstations, blade servers storage and of course, on-demand technology.

Big Blue teamed up with the cutting-edge Threshold Digital Research Labs to create a "digital animation and effects powerhouse" in a four-year deal. Specific financial details were not made public.

Armonk, N.Y.'s on-demand capabilities lie at the heart of the deal, as Threshold plans to produce computer-animated movies, TV animation and visual effects for feature films en masse -- and simultaneously -- from a new studio. IBM will also provide 50 IntelliStation Workstations, three Blade Center systems 8 xSeries 440 servers and 1 FAStT Storage system with 864GB 1500 rpm drives.

Threshold's facility will be headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif. There the company is already producing its first major digitally animated feature film, titled, "FOODFIGHT!"

Costing $50 million, this computer-generated movie takes place in a grocery store. When the workers leave, the store transforms into a city of sorts, where the Chinese food aisle looks like Chinatown and the Italian foods aisle looks like Venice.

Main characters are cartoon representations of brand-label mascots, or icons, such as Charlie the Tuna, Mr. Clean, and Twinkie the Kid plus a whole cast of new characters like Dex Dogtective and Daredevil Dan.

"Scale is no longer an issue," said George Johnsen, Threshold's Chief Animation Officer. "It's horsepower on demand and with it we can either power one building or light up a whole city. And in a world of I want it better, faster and more cost effectively, it allows us to deliver on that statement."

The deal is indicative of IBM's seriousness in gunning for infrastructure placement in entertainment companies, many of which are yearning to grow wings to take flight in the digital age, where computers are increasingly playing bigger roles in media production. IBM's collective hardware should help animators and producers meet their production deadlines.

Last September, IBM agreed to host the Movielink digital film Web site and inked a contract to fit point-of-sale applications into 2,700 movie concession stands run by the Regal Entertainment Group.

"We are partnering with Threshold because we saw a tremendous opportunity to team up with one of the most innovative companies in town, with stellar management and a track record for producing blockbuster mainstream entertainment franchises," said Dick Anderson, general manager IBM Media & Entertainment and Digital Media.

Threshold Digital Research Labs' visual effects division produces digital visual effects and digital animation for movies, television, Web sites, games, IMAX movies and theme parks. The company's clients include SONY Pictures, Universal Studios, Miramax, Disney, Paramount, Dreamworks, TNT and Nickelodeon.