Big Blue Joins Food Fight With Threshhold

Convergence may have been over-hyped as a consumer concept a few years back, but as a corporate business model in a digital age it’s hotter than ever. TVs still make lousy computers and computers are an eye-wearing way to watch a movie but that doesn’t mean that computer and entertainment company alliances aren’t a thing of beauty. Case in point: IBM and Threshold Digital Research Labs deepening relationship as a digital solution/content creation combo platter.

Currently in production of its first animated feature, the $50-million Foodfight, Threshold and Big Blue announced yesterday that they’re expanding their work together to create next-generation digital animation studio capabilities. At the heart of the deal is IBM’s On Demand technology, which enables animation production facilities to be infinitely scalable. If they need more computer power to finish a project it’s as easy as plug-and-play.

The technology puts horsepower into the hands of animators and producers when they need it allowing for high quality, high-speed production at controllable costs. These capabilities will enable Threshold to simultaneously produce a number of computer-animated movies, location-based entertainment, prime time TV animation and visual effects for feature films. "IBM’s goal is to be the best technology supplier to the industry," says Dick Anderson, general manager of IBM media and entertainment and digital media. "We’re taking the next step in evolving the way digitally animated movies are made by making animation more effective, faster and on demand. We are applying the latest in on-demand infrastructures, and establishing capabilities that can be exploited by the entire industry."

The collaborative project will deploy IBM digital content creation solutions, comprised of IntelliStation workstations running on Linux, as well as eServer BladeCenter and xSeries 440 systems. The IBM BladeCenter represents the densest computing system available and has become the system of choice for many visual effects firms who require ever increasing computing power to deliver the complex visual effects theater-goers have come to expect. The effort will also help to shape IBM’s work in variable processing infrastructures to provide render cycles in a shared service model.

"Scale is no longer an issue," says 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." Threshold credits include Terminator 2, True Lies, Mortal Kombat, The Abyss, The Shadow, The Last Action Hero, Arachnophobia, Tron, Babylon 5, Dracula, and The Mask.