SIGGRAPH: AMD64 Changes Lucas’ Role in Episode III

AMD announced at SIGGRAPH that its AMD Opteron processor-based servers and workstations are providing the digital backbone for the next and final installment in the Star Wars saga. According to the company, its technology is reinventing Lucasfilm’s digital filmmaking process by allowing George Lucas to direct real-time 3D assets and become more hands-on at the previsualization stage.

For Star Wars–Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, JAK Films is handling pre-visualization and pre-postproduction duties, including 3D matchmoving, 3D modeling, lighting, shading, texturing, compositing and rendering using AMD hardware running Windows XP Pro, Alias Maya and Adobe After Effects.

Daniel D. Gregoire, previsualization effects supervisor for JAK, tells Animation Magazine Online that he and his crew didn’t know what to expect from their new working relationship with Lucas. He admits, "At first we were dreading it because he was going to be looking over our shoulders all the time, but it really worked out well. It cut our days from 15 hours to 12 or 11 hours because he could tell us right away what he liked and didn’t like." He goes on to comment, "The unprecedented power and reliability of the AMD Opteron processor-based systems are substantially dropping our render times and enabling the team to complete sequences during sessions with George in a matter of hours that used to go back and forth for weeks."

The key to the AMD64 "Direct Connect" technology is its unique architeture, which alleviates bottlenecks in the flow of information. AMD digital media and entertainment director Charles R. Boswell Jr. says Intel is still at least a year behind in terms of creating a 64-bit processor that matches the performance of the AMD64. "We’re seeking to strike the perfect balance between artistic performance and technology," he says. "By cutting local render time on keyframing, we’re removing the boundaries that have made artists hesitant because they thought they were going to exceed the technology. Next generation directors can now be there during the previz stage and direct sequences in real time."

Star Wars—Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, is scheduled to hit theaters with a nearly simultaneous worldwide release on Thursday, May 19, 2005.