'Star Wars' force switches to Intel

Industrial Light and Magic has joined the empire, at least in terms of hardware.

The technical effects studio has switched from using RISC-Unix workstations from SGI to using Intel-based Dell systems running Linux for the bulk of its animation and special effects work, said Cliff Plumer, ILM's chief technology officer. As part of the conversion, ILM recently deployed 600 Pentium 4 workstations.

"The Intel workstations that were deployed were probably 20 percent of the price of SGI workstations we bought a few years ago," Plumer said. "Performancewise, they are about three times as fast."

ILM created the special effects in the "Star Wars" series of movies, among other blockbuster films.

ILM's shift from RISC workstations to more standardized workstations is part of an ongoing change in the computer rooms of the entertainment industry.

RISC-Unix machines from companies such as SGI dominated Hollywood for years because they offered far superior computing power. Most of the high-end graphics applications also were written for RISC computers. Typically, RISC companies built their own chips and computers, and developed their own version of Unix.

Now, the performance gap has largely vanished and application developers such as Alias/Wavefront have moved their products to Intel machines. In addition, several of the companies building workstations around RISC chips have gone out of business or, in the case of SGI, begun to de-emphasize RISC because of the cost involved in developing the chips.

It's also easier to find employees with experience on machines running Windows or Linux with Intel-compatible chips.

News source: ZDNet

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