The computer animated movie Shrek has taken the box office by storm in the US, beating out The Lion King to the number two spot for highest grossing launch weekend for a cartoon, just behind Toy Story II. But Shrek is also causing ructions in the software industry because instead of being created using high-end graphics software running on SGI or Microsoft platforms, Shrek was built on Linux.
SGI has ruled the high-end graphics market for years, since it was called Silicon Graphics in fact. It has been nominated for seven Academy Awards for its work in special effects.
Competition from the likes of Sun Microsystems and Microsoft with its NT servers and cheaper workstations meant SGI retreated somewhat back to its roots as a graphics workstation house, but now all the software houses are under fire from the free operating system that is open and so allows developers to tweak it as they wish.
The creators of Shrek, PDI Dreamworks, used Linux extensively in the film, allowing PDI to cut costs and push production deadlines forward. That’s impressed the boys at Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas’s effects house, enough to make them consider replacing half of its fleet of SGI workstations with Linux machines instead.
New Zealand-born co-director Andrew Adamson encountered one unexpected problem - one character, Princess Fiona, looked so lifelike animators felt she stood out against the obvious fantasy creatures and had to “dial her back” to make her fit in.
Even our own Weta FX, responsible for the look of upcoming Lord of the Rings, has gone open source - it is using SGI servers running Red Hat Linux alongside the traditional SGI software.