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Final Fantasy Movie Powered by Silicon Graphics Octane and SGI Origin Systems

Jul 11, 2001, 17:17 (21 Talkback[s])

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., July 11 -- SGI visual workstation and server technology was tapped for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the first hyperReal, all-CGI feature film, featuring a cast whose physical and emotional characteristics are virtually indistinguishable from live human beings. Produced by Square Pictures, Inc., Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is distributed by Columbia Pictures, a Sony Pictures Entertainment company. It opens in the U.S. July 11, 2001.

Four SGI 2000 series high-performance servers, four Silicon Graphics Onyx2 visualization systems, 167 Silicon Graphics Octane visual workstations and other SGI systems were used to create the film. Alias|Wavefront Maya software was used for animation authoring on the SGI machines, and Pixar RenderMan software was run on Linux OS-based systems.

Production on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within began four years ago, when Square opened its offices, recruiting what would soon amount to more than 200 CGI artists and close to 30 programmers from all over the U.S., Japan Europe and Asia. Square purchased 40 brand-new (at that time) SGI IRIX OS-based Silicon Graphics Octane workstations. That acquisition was soon followed by the purchase of four newly introduced SGI Origin 200 systems.

"If we didn't have the power of SGI equipment four years ago, we couldn't have achieved this movie today," said Kazuyuki Hashimoto, Square USA's chief technology officer and senior vice president. "Octane workstations from SGI gave us the highest performance graphics environment to work in, especially to create all the plug-ins for realistic physical characteristics in Maya, which runs best on SGI."

The major difficulty in making Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was creating photo-realistic humans. Relying on the power of Silicon Graphics Octane workstations, SGI Origin family servers and Silicon Graphics Onyx family graphics systems, Square USA's programmers extended the Maya software, creating approximately 100 plug-ins. Especially difficult was a hair plug-in, for realistic flowing hair and follicles, and a cloth plug-in that re-creates the physics of cloth-how it wrinkles and drapes as the body wearing the fabric moves. Portraying the fluidity of human movement was also an integral part of the creation process.

"Our artists did extensive research and overcame these difficulties with the help of SGI technology," said Hashimoto. "But it's important to remember that it's not only the technology; the artists also face the difficulty of developing the texture, the ways to control the face and so on. It's up to both sides-the technology and the artists-to collaborate. And that was achieved because of SGI systems and Maya software."

"SGI is extremely proud to be the platform of choice for this milestone of CGI magic," said Greg Estes, vice president of corporate marketing, SGI. "hyperReal virtual characters will be a part of the future of digital storytelling in Hollywood and around the world. SGI has a solid history of supplying the collaborative technology that enables artistic visionaries, and our technology will continue to be the bedrock on which the filmmaking of the future will arise."

Square USA will also look to SGI for its next, as yet undecided, project. "For the future, as we think about the next project, it must have even more quality and more detail," Hashimoto concluded. "It will need an even more powerful environment, and I expect that powerful environment to come from SGI."

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