×

BIG F/X ON A SMALL DESK

For some time now it’s been tacitly assumed that creating serious, digital special effects required the services of prohibitively expensive high-end graphics workstations like those made by Silicon Graphics.

That perception is starting to change, however, as recent advances in hardware and software have brought the ability to generate broadcast-quality effects much closer to what could be considered more conventional desktop computers.

The move toward lower-end platforms is nothing new. Systems like the Amiga and the Macintosh have been in widespread use for years in generating video effects, and they have made their way into some film applications as well.

Software isn’t the problem; the kind of high-quality tools needed for this work already exist on the Macintosh.

The two main obstacles that have made Macs too slow for high-end film work have been a lack of processor speed and a bottleneck in moving data between the computer’s disk storage and memory. Apple enthusiasts hope that these concerns will be answered by the Tsunami, a new line of Macintosh systems that Apple plans to introduce this summer. In addition to using the speedy PowerPC processor, the Tsunami will incorporate the PCI bus, a high-speed data pathway between system components. That piece of equipment is already being used in some high-end PC systems.

Beyond the Mac, other graphic environments are being groomed for effects work. Most notably, Windows NT (the high-powered “New Technology” version of the Windows environment) will join the effects game with Softimage’s planned 1995 release of a version of its popular Eddie software for Windows NT.

The release of Eddie for Windows NT would theoretically bring the capability for serious digital compositing not only to the Intel-based computers traditionally associated with Windows, but also to systems built around other chips that can run Windows NT, such as Digital Equipment’s blazingly fast Alpha processor.

Does that mean new platforms will soon start taking the place of SGI and Quantel machines in feature film editing bays? Probably not soon. Even with these new advances, the sheer volume of data that needs to be processed to generate film-quality photorealistic output requires the computing muscle that only a high-end workstation – like an SGI or a Quantel – can provide.

Admittedly, the Tsunamis and DEC Alpha computers are in a different league than the regular PCs and Macs that most of us use from day to day. But when compared with the cost of setting up a full-blown SGI workstation, these alternative platforms will look more appealing as the price of PC computing power continues to fall.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • iQIYI headquarters building in Beijing

    China’s iQIYI in Talks for Indonesia Expansion

    Chinese streaming firm iQIYI is in negotiations to expand further into Southeast Asia through a venture with Indonesia’s Media Nusantara Citra. iQIYI announced its first step outside Chinese-majority territories in June, when it revealed a linkup in Malaysia with pay-TV leader Astro. It also operates in Taiwan. In April, the company said that it planned [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify Triples Free-Trial Period on Premium Service

    Spotify today extended the free-trial period for its Premium service from one month to three, tripling the amount of time listeners can take full advantage of the streaming giant’s offerings without paying for them. According to the announcement, the offer is “always-on/not limited time,” and will roll out across Spotify Premium plans globally: Individual and [...]

  • Moviepass

    MoviePass Confirms Security Lapse May Have Exposed Customer Credit Card Data

    MoviePass, the struggling movie ticket subscription service, confirmed that a security issue may have exposed customers’ records online, including credit card info. In a statement, MoviePass said Wednesday that the security lapse was recently discovered and its system was immediately secured. News of the data breach was first reported Tuesday by TechCrunch, which alleged that [...]

  • Tycho weather app

    This Website Creates Spotify & Apple Music Playlists Based on Your Local Weather

    Electronica musician Tycho launched a clever promotional website for his new album “Weather” this week: Visitors of Tycho’s website can use a web app to generate a playlist based on their local weather. Playlists can be saved to both Spotify and Apple Music, and consist of 25 songs, both from Tycho’s catalog as well as [...]

  • AT&T TV

    AT&T TV: An Unskinny Streaming Bundle That Looks a Lot Like Traditional Pay TV

    AT&T this week launched AT&T TV, a new subscription streaming television service that uses an Android-based internet set-top, in 10 markets. But the way it’s priced and packaged looks very similar to cable and satellite TV services — in other words, AT&T TV isn’t targeted at the cord-cutter crowd. It’s basically designed as a way [...]

  • Sofia Wylie arrives at Variety's Power

    Disney Channel Enlists Duplass Brothers for YouTube Hip-Hop Dance Series Starring Sofia Wylie

    Disney Channel’s first original scripted series made exclusively for release on YouTube is “Shook,” a hip-hop dance short-form series starring Sofia Wylie, produced by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass. “Shook” will debut Saturday, Sept. 28, on Disney Channel’s YouTube channel. The scripted single-camera show centers on 15-year-old Mia (Wylie), who yearns to dance professionally but [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Is Getting Rid of Messaging Feature

    YouTube is killing off a feature that allowed users to share videos and other messages with each other. YouTube Messages, which was first introduced in January of 2017, will be turned off by September 18, the company announced this week. “We’re constantly reevaluating our priorities and have decided to discontinue YouTube’s native direct messaging feature [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content