Monsters, Aliens And The Shift to ‘Tru’ 3-D

intru3-d.jpgI had a rare opportunity to get a DreamWorks studio tour the other day, learning all about the 3-D and animation process when making a film like Monsters Vs. Aliens, which is set for a March opening. A couple of us also got to screen large portions of the movie.

I wish I could divulge more of the plot and humor in the film – it’s classic DreamWorks where kids will be enamored and laugh and us older folks will catch the ‘adult’ humor and one-liners to keep everyone entertained. There are trailers and more info here .

What struck me is the whole move to a new kind of 3-D film-making, which is a pre-cursor to a future someday where games, TVs, Internet surfing – everything will be in 3-D. When DreamWorks says they have a whole new and outstanding 3-D viewing experience, they’re not kidding. Pardon the pun, but you have to see it to believe it. Monsters will be a totally immersive 3-D experience. It’s NOT a gimmick like the old 3-D movies, where an occasional ball or laser beam or knife (or axe, Jason) shoots out from the screen. Nor is it a 2-D movie that is then retrofitted into 3-D, like some studios do today — it’s soup to nuts, integrated 3-D production.

You really feel like you’re sitting at the table with the characters, or seeing dust or water or fireballs flying in the air during the action scenes, among many other examples. Intel along with DreamWorks have a brand for this experience, ‘InTru3D.’

On top of that, the yearly advances in animation design and special effects are amazing. Viewers can see sweat beads from a nervous character, even the shape of teeth inside of mouths, not to mention incredible water, fire and environmental effects. Wait til you see the scenes in San Francisco.

The good news for Intel and the high-tech community? The shift to 3-D, and any tangible increases in special effects, requires massive processing power, and related software and hardware needs. Heck, just doing 3-D requires twice as much work since development is done so that each eye has a dedicated scene or picture frame to it.

At Intel, we often use the term inflection point. Andy Grove coined the term in a book to describe “the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.”

DreamWorks is at the forefront of a 3-D movie-making inflection point. Filmmaking, theater equipment even the glasses are changing. I believe Intel is there, too, as the shift from single to multi to many-brained or many core processors and how people use them is already underway. In 2007 we showed a prototype 80-core processor, and in August outlined plans for our Larrabee architecture. We will deliver a future 8-core, multi-threaded processor as part of a new family of chips we unveiled a couple of weeks ago.

Don’t underestimate the major challenge for software, too. Software makers will need to shift from a single core philosophy to ones that will have 4, 8 and many more cores running at the same time. Enter Intel’s Software Solutions Group, dedicated to making software design and performance easy, fast and more affordable. I know the engineers at DreamWorks are moving as fast as they can to convert their proprietary code that makes their 3-D movies sing into solutions that can handle, and leverage, multi-core and multi-threaded processors.

More on the movie, and Intel’ efforts later. But keep an eye out for the March opening — and those new 3-D glasses.

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