July 12, 2001

Tippett Studio taps the power of SGI Systems for Evolution and Cats & Dogs

Author: JT Smith

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (July 12, 2001)-SGI's long-time customer Tippett Studio created more
than 60 3D-animated shots for Warner Brothers' Cats & Dogs and over 150 3D-animated
shots-plus 15 all-CGI 3D creatures-for DreamWorks SKG's Evolution, using a powerful
combination of high-performance IRIX®, Linux® and Windows NT® OS-based workstations,
servers and storage from SGI. Academy Award winner for visual effects for the films Jurassic Park
and Return of the Jedi, Tippett Studio relied on its recent purchase of 10 Silicon Graphics®
Octane2TM IRIX OS-based visual workstations, 25 Silicon Graphics® 230 and Silicon Graphics®
330 Windows NT OS-based and Linux OS-based workstations, an SGITM 2100
high-performance visualization server and a 2TB SGITM TP9400 storage system, in addition to
previously purchased Silicon Graphics® O2® workstations and SGITM Challenge® and SGITM
OriginTM family servers. "This was the first time we had IRIX, Linux and Windows NT workstations from SGI all working on
the same production," said Eric Leven, Tippett Studio's CG supervisor on Evolution. "We started
with a large number of Silicon Graphics O2 workstations and a render farm made up primarily of
SGI Origin 200 servers. Later we added a smaller number of dual-processor Silicon Graphics
Octane2 workstations and, for the first time in the shop, we began using Windows NT and Linux
operating systems running on Silicon Graphics 230 and 330 visual workstations. Compositors used
10 Linux OS-based machines from SGI with 20 processors to run Nothing Real Shake and
additional processors to run Pixar RenderMan. The animators used the Silicon Graphics 230
workstations, and we found that those boxes gave us the best performance from Alias|Wavefront
Maya on Windows NT. The technical director, the paint artists and the modelers used Maya and
Alias StudioPaint software on the IRIX OS-based O2 and Octane2 workstations. Then everything
was networked together and rendered on SGI Origin family servers."

Tippett Studio designed all the visual effects sequences in Evolution, including 15
never-before-seen creatures. Maquettes were sculpted from the final creature designs and
scanned into Silicon Graphics O2 and Octane2 visual workstations using a 3D laser scanner. The
digitized creatures were then refined and manipulated by Tippett Studio's world-class character
animators. The studio's 120-plus Evolution crew also created many other unique CG effects to
accomplish the 150-shot production, from the seemingly adorable dog sequence to the
apocalyptic finale-all created on its networked mix of SGITM high-performance visual
workstations. SGI technology was key to finishing the immense project on time. According to
Leven, "From the very beginning of preproduction to the last shot was about 11 months, from July
2000 to June 2001, which was a crazy schedule. I think we were averaging about six shots every
week for the entire duration of production. It was absolutely the shortest schedule we ever worked

For the live-action Cats & Dogs, which turns the age-old animosity between house pets into a
full-scale war, Tippett's 50-artist team again used the full complement of SGI high-performance
workstations to create 60 shots of digital cats, primarily to replace the live-action cats' heads to
animate facial expressions. Using Silicon Graphics Octane2 workstations, Tippett created two CGI
dogs, including a digital beagle who catches a boomerang, is propelled around a room and lands
at the feet of a digital cat, where a fight ensues. On the Silicon Graphics O2, 230 and 330 visual
workstations, artists also designed a 3D CGI version of the mercenary villain, called "the
Russian," who is a Russian Blue kitten outfitted in a CGI weapons vest complete with guns and

Scott Souter, Tippett Studio's co-visual effects supervisor with Blair Clark on Cats & Dogs, said
the producer's primary directive was photo-real animation-the stock-in-trade of the Berkeley,
Calif. facility, which has used SGI technology since it opened in 1983. "Our studio came into play
because of our history with naturalistic, yet fantastical, animation. Our ability to blend those two
characteristics, to keep something real-adhering to enough physics to keep it believable and
natural-yet be able to take the character beyond and into the realm of, in this case, very
acrobatic, highly specialized fantastical animations is a very large part of our trade," said Souter.
To truly achieve photo-realistic animals, Tippett Studio's in-house research and development
team created its own fur software. "We linked the fur software between Maya and RenderMan; it's
a little thing that bridges the gap between the two," explained Souter. "It was just for fur and fur
curve information, written primarily on Silicon Graphics O2 systems."

Souter noted that Cats & Dogs compositors and animators were just as pleased with the Linux and
Windows NT OS-based Silicon Graphics 230 and 330 visual workstations, as were the artists who
worked on Evolution. "We started production on the IRIX OS-based O2 workstations, and then
toward the middle and end of production we started animating in Maya on the Windows NT
OS-based workstations from SGI," Souter said. "That worked out very well. It's definitely the
choice of our animators, because Maya seems to perform better on Windows NT boxes from SGI."

"Tippett Studio's technological Evolution-the networking of IRIX, Linux and Windows NT
OS-based workstations from SGI-creates a powerful production pipeline that enables artists to
complete an amazing amount of content creation and effects work to meet seemingly impossible
deadlines," said Greg Estes, vice president of corporate marketing, SGI. "Tippett's continued
choice of SGI technology to meet the ever-increasing demands of visual effects production is
testimony to the power of SGI's strategy to be the computer company for the entertainment
industry-regardless of operating system. We are particularly pleased that the Linux OS-based
workstations from SGI played such an important role in these two summer blockbuster films."

About Tippett Studio
Located in Berkeley, Calif., Tippett Studio was founded in 1983 by President Phil Tippett and his
partners Jules Roman, vice president and executive producer, and Craig Hayes, creative director
and visual effects supervisor. The studio has more than 125 artists, designers, engineers,
technical directors and animators. A visual effects and animation studio for feature films, Tippett
Studio has won two Academy Awards for visual effects (Return of the Jedi and Jurassic Park) and
two Emmys (Dinosaur! and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor) and has received Academy Award
nominations for visual effects for five other feature films (Starship Troopers, Dragonheart, Willow,
Dragonslayer, and Hollow Man). Tippett Studio has also received an Academy Award for
technical achievement in the development of a motion-input device for motion capture. Tippett
Studio is currently working on the vampire movie sequel Blade II and will soon be lending its
talents to commercials. The studio is also preparing to expand into producing full-length animated
feature films and mixed live-action and CGI features.

About SGI
SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc., is a technology solutions provider with a broad range
of high-performance computing, advanced graphics, and consulting services that enable its
technical and creative customers to maintain a competitive advantage in their core businesses.
Whether being used to design and build safer cars and airplanes, discover new medications and
oil reserves, helping us to understand and better predict the weather, or entertain us with the
thrilling movie special effects, SGI systems and expertise are empowering of a world of innovation
and discovery. The Company, which is located on the Web at www.sgi.com, is headquartered in
Mountain View, Calif., and has offices worldwide.

Silicon Graphics, Challenge, O2, IRIX and Octane are registered trademarks and SGI, Origin,
Octane2 and the SGI logo are trademarks of Silicon Graphics, Inc. Alias|Wavefront and Alias
StudioPaint are trademarks of Alias|Wavefront, a division of Silicon Graphics Limited. Maya is a
registered trademark of Silicon Graphics, Inc. and exclusively used by Alias|Wavefront, a division
of Silicon Graphics Limited. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds used with permission
by Silicon Graphics, Inc. Windows and Windows NT are registered trademarks of Microsoft
Corporation. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

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