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July 28th, 2009

Every couple of years since the early 1990s, sometimes more often than that, you’d see an article in the Sunday paper or some magazine about Hollywood jumping on the personal computer bandwagon. Often the pieces were Macintosh-centric, as the creative community—from graphic designers and audio engineers to fashionistas and filmmakers—really did take to the Mac. When you see the kind of power in the Mac Pro line, which CRE proudly provides to professional power users, it’s fun to recall that PC partisans accused early Macs of being underpowered.

hollywoodAlthough they proliferate widely in the entertainment business, Macs are not the only computers helping push pixels for Pixar or dub background vocals at the Record Plant. In addition to Macs, there are plenty of potent PCs, like the H-P XW8400 available from CRE, doing mission-critical work from Hollywood and Burbank to the San Fernando Valley. Interestingly, the evangelical fervor at the moment appears to belong to the “open source” boosters, industry watchers (as well as workers) touting Linux as the platform of the future. Rather than be cordoned off in a developer’s cubicle, Linux folks want to get “back to the feature” and get into the rolling credits.

Movie studio tech

Although it’s difficult to confirm, it still appears that just one major movie studio, Dreamworks, has deployed Linux throughout its whole operation, from the editing bays to the receptionist’s desk. It’s not the only OS the company uses, however, and every studio has its own mix of operating systems, hardware and commercial applications. They also create their own high-tech tools. In the render farm niche, particularly, many production companies run proprietary software that is written in-house, while relying on Avid and/or Final Cut Studio for their primary video editing application.

Founded in 1997, SpectSoft developed a Linux-based DDR (Disk Drive Recorder) called RaveHD for storing raw, uncompressed video. In a conversation with’s Robin Miller,  Founder Ramona Howard says RaveHD contains “some editing functions” but is by no means “a full-blown video editor.” She sees a “Swiss Army knife” model for the creative and technical sides of movie production, with a modular approach bringing the right tools to the right place (and time). “We could take everything we’ve done and apply it to an editor,” she says, “but it’s pointless to compete with Avid or Final Cut,” and seems to have concluded that any riches will be found in the niches.

Niches for all

Those niches are adding up now. Neither the resurgent Windows platform nor the new interest in Linux is detracting from the Mac’s solid spot in the creative arsenal, so there appears to be room for “all kinds.” Any entertainment industry pro doing modeling, video game development or special effects with CRE’s “render farm toolbox”—an 8-core Mac Pro with an additional 16GB of RAM and a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display—can attest to the Herculean strength of Apple’s desktop towers. Truth be told, plenty of audio, video and high-end graphics jobs are also being done on CRE’s powerful, flexible iMacs. A particularly potent and productive workstation can be fashioned by adding a 23- or 30-inch Apple Cinema Display to the iMac rental, creating two huge windows into the virtual world where you can work on animation, film and video editing, multitrack recordings or print production. And this same sort of power and flexibility is coming to computers running “the other” OS’s, too. This is good news for all creative folks.

Another metaphor used by entertainment industry creatives is the jigsaw puzzle. Depending on the task at hand, producers will bring the requisite equipment online to get the job done. Deadlines and job requirements can change at a moment’s notice—truth be told, often without any notice at all—which is why companies large and small call on CRE for AJA Io HD rentals and Pro Tools HD 3 systems to get the video processed, the drum tracks recorded and the finished job delivered. When you need the last few pieces to put your production puzzle together, call one of our CRE Account Executives at 877-266-7725 (toll-free), send a quick e-mail or fill out a rental quote web form. We’ll get right back to you, so you can get right back to work with the high-powered tools you need to get the job done.

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