Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks, Compares Poncho the Lion to Dealing with IT

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO and Founder of Dreamworks

Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke of how 18 years ago, he had made a mistake that was not something he could have prevented or known would even happen. He showed us a video clip from a conference he attended and spoke at. He brought out a live lion named Poncho but even though he was chained and handled by two trainers, the lion who was the basis on which the “Lion King” was featured and animated, took his love and adoration of Jeffrey to a close affection nearly knocking him off of his feet as the animal tried to get closer and closer to him.

Jeffrey brings up this lion to show how Poncho, like technology sometimes works for you and sometimes it does not as unpredictability can happen. Poncho pounced all over him but luckily he had the aid of two qualified professionals with him. In like fashion, Jeffrey speaks of his initial and ongoing relationship with HP. He first met the CEO of HP, Meg Whitman when they worked together at Walt Disney. He is so confident in the relationship and workability with Meg Whitman that when the company, Dreamworks, went public in October 2004, he invited her and some other prominent CEOs to sit on the Board.

Jeffrey showed an animation video where they started as hand-drawings of pencil, ink and zinc to colour animation to computer generated digital characters and then into 3D animation. In 1994, Dreamworks produced the Lion King. Soon afterwards, the company made Shrek which was the first animated film to receive an Academy Award. With each producing film, Dreamworks had to restructure so as to produce an exceptional line of animations. This meant retraining of staff in a massive effort and also a need for more data capability. In 2004, Jeffrey saw “The Polar Bear Express” and was very impressed with the 3D animation of Castle Rock Entertainment in association with Shangri-La Entertainment. This brought on yet another new stage of development with more complex demands. In 2009, they were now capable of developing 3D animation.

Jeffrey jokingly spoke of how Moore’s Law demands doubling computer processors in complexity every two years and with his version, Jeffrey’s Law, well he wants/demands/expects more than Moore’s Law. He detailed how it takes 3 billion integrations for a film that takes approximately four years to produce. He spoke of how an excellent animator can only produce 3 seconds of animation in one week’s amount of work. He spoke of how the character has to be built in components of the body, the face, the fur or the hair by separate animators. He told us how it takes 8 hours of rendering time once it has been modelled appropriately.

Now, another stage has commenced. Scalable multi-core processors has changed due to work with HP and Intel engineers. Finally, full resolution will be available in real-time. This expands the venture to a point where an animator can work at the speed of her or his imagination. This revolutionizing development will help to make films better, faster and cheaper. Not only the process but the product profits by this development. Dreamworks will be able to downsize from twelve departments to five or six.

Jeffrey speaks of calling on the bat phone to HP for help. They preferred the CRT monitors as they had better consistent colour validation than the new flat screen technologies. In fact, they held onto them until they were burnt out. Although great for the general consumer and office worker, it was not of a benefit for the animator or creative person. They worked with HP to develop a colour monitor that worked even better for them that the old CRT monitors.

For all these reasons, Jeffrey Katzenberg recognizes and appreciates what HP has done for them as they have grown to being the best and biggest state of the art animation studio. He reminded the IT group that is because of Meg Whitman’s 3 pillar vision of Cloud, Security and Information Explosion that they have been successful in developing and producing a collaborative working relationship. First, Jeffrey Katzenberg indicated that they were one of HP’s first Cloud clients due to the nature of their work around the world be it in American cities, to Bangalore and now Shanghai. Second, as the film industry is known for video piracy threats, it was extremely important to keep their files secure. Third and finally, he showed us how only 2 ½ minutes of animation took 6 terabytes of data storage. With this increasing need for information, Dreamworks has collaborated with HP to deal with these three major components.

With over 20 produced films, with 10 in production at any given time which on average takes 5 years to produce, Dreamworks relies on its partnership with HP. With the upcoming release of Madagascar 3, Dreamworks is able to produce high quality animated films that become an integral part of our culture with lines such as “Only penguins and people can drive!!!” When the movie comes out this Friday, you’ll understand this last line.


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