How HPE Synergy Helps DreamWorks Animation Bring Epic Adventures to Life

November 01, 2017 • Staff Writer • Blog Post


  • With multiple productions in development at any one time, production teams are competing for computing, storage and networking bandwidth
  • HPE Synergy enables DreamWorks Animation to quickly provision IT resources and maximize daytime utilization

Unleashing new levels of efficiency using composable infrastructure

For over two decades, DreamWorks Animation films have thrilled audiences on the big screen. Technology has changed radically in that time, and so has filmmakers' use of it to produce animated features.

Consider The Prince of Egypt, a 1998 film illustrated by hundreds of animators drawing characters by hand while special effects artists used the most advanced HPE systems of the time to render backgrounds and other complicated effects.

Three years later, DreamWorks Animation would release Shrek, a franchise-establishing feature created primarily in software and done well enough to receive the first-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Technology has been at the center of each of DreamWorks Animation's 35 feature films, which, in total, are responsible for more than $14 billion in worldwide box office ticket sales.

Today, DreamWorks Animation has multiple productions in development at any one time. Teams of artists spend days working in tandem, often competing for compute, storage, and networking bandwidth to produce different films. Deciding which project gets resources can present a challenge during production peaks. Moving to a fully composable infrastructure with HPE Synergy ensures no one gets left behind.

"Hewlett Packard Enterprise is helping us craft an infrastructure that can handle the amount of compute and storage we need across our entire enterprise", says Kate Swanborg, SVP of Technology Communications and Strategic Alliances at DreamWorks Animation.

A complex hybrid history

Since 2001, HPE has partnered with DreamWorks Animation to supply high-end equipment for rendering complex scenes and intricate characters. The more elaborate the story, the greater the need, and it's grown exponentially in recent years. Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon ... all of them came to life with the help of HPE servers and storage.

Every blade of grass, the bark on a tree, the facial expressions of characters and their actions in space - every detail of shape, color, light, texture, and movement - must be digitally designed and crafted. A 90-minute animated feature film, at 24 frames per second, comprises 130,000 individual frames - approximately 500 million digital files. Kung Fu Panda 3 alone used 475TB of data.

To bring these scenes to life, artists would access HPE servers and all-flash storage connected to Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) databases accessible during production. Every new project demanded more of this same infrastructure, a big challenge for a busy studio.

"Historically, we had to partition off certain pieces of our infrastructure for each production in order to protect their resources," Swanborg says, noting that it would be demanding to re-provision unused resources without disrupting workflow. HPE Synergy relieves that bottleneck.

Two films, one infrastructure

Automation is crucial. Today, DreamWorks Animation is producing multiple original films at any given time in addition to television series, YouTube content and location based entertainment. With that much backlog, the ability to provision IT resources in minutes - rather than days or weeks - makes a huge difference in how and when things get done. HPE Synergy is helping DreamWorks Animation unleash new levels of efficiency and avoid costly overprovisioning.

"With Synergy, we can re-provision resources instantly", Swanborg says. "We can take advantage of our artists' inspiration and business motivations at the moment they're inspired. It also preserves a key feature of how the studio operates: At night, DreamWorks Animation's data center capacity is devoted to computer-generated imagery (CGI) rendering. Maximizing daytime utilization means more work gets done before the "night shift" takes over.

Economic gains from Synergy are still stacking up, but the future already looks promising. HPE and DreamWorks Animation teamed up in 2008 to re-architect its production platform and tools to better utilize its HPE compute capacity. Synergy should help to multiply the gains going forward.

"We're wanting a landscape that's as agile and scalable as we can possibly make it. We want to take advantage of our filmmakers' dreams and imaginations, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HPE Synergy are helping us do that," Swanborg says.

For more information, read the Customer Story


5 Global Cities Realizing the Potential of IoT

Blog Post

Happy Anniversary, HPE Pointnext!

Blog Post

Collaboration in a World Where Everything Is Connected

Blog Post