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Pixar Switches to Mac OS X and G5s 692

Posted by pudge
from the stage-now-set-for-jobs-to-become-ceo-of-disney dept.
fmorgan writes "No big surprise here: when Apple introduced the G5 at 2003 WWDC, it become more a question of 'when' Pixar will move to G5s, than 'if'). At the same conference, Apple showed a new codec for Mac OS X named 'Pixlet,' developed with Pixar. In last year O'Reilly's Mac OS X conference, there was a presentation on how Pixar moved their desktop/office environment to Mac OS X. Now it seems it's the main production work: 'Apple's Don Peebeles said that Pixar has used Linux and Intel-based architecture in 2003, but that Pixar was switching to Mac OS X and G5 workstations for its production work: Peebles went on to say that this switch was "a move that no doubt made common CEO Steve Jobs very happy."'"
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Pixar Switches to Mac OS X and G5s

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  • by medazinol (540033) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:14PM (#8524326)
    I've been telling people for some time now to watch Pixar closely now that the G5 and OS X has matured. It was only a matter of time before they finally switched the SGI and Linux stations over. The rendar farm however still uses a mixture of SUNs and SGI but I've no doubt that G5 Xserves would probably fit in quite nicely... now if they can only start shipping the damn things.
    • by cryptochrome (303529) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:27PM (#8524514) Journal
      I would predict that Xgrid [apple.com] will be finalized, and certain key programs will be utilizing it in the future. So besides the existing render farm, they'll be utilizing all the other computing power as well.
    • by in7ane (678796) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:29PM (#8524533)
      It's only a matter of time, well until Xgrid [apple.com] matures and then the render farm will be switched over as well.

      Hmm, maybe Virginia Tech [apple.com] was something of a test for them as well (yes, I know, initially G5 desktops, now switching to Xserves, probably quite different software as well)
      • by irokitt (663593) <[archimandrites-iaur] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:39PM (#8524643)
        As a matter of fact, some of the software for Virginia Tech's Beowulf was open-source. Yes, it is only a matter of time before Pixar moves to Xgrid. I expect someone to post an "SGI/Sun is dying" post any moment now. So I disagree with thee in advance.
        So, we have Pixar, armed with Apple, gritting its teeth so it can finish its Disney obligations and start on its own stuff. They have two movies left to finish, so by the time any uniquely Pixar material makes it to the the big screen they may have made yet another switch in content creation hardware. But I expect the render farm will probably stay pretty static once they switch to XServes.
    • The rendar farm however still uses a mixture of SUNs and SGI

      Well maybe. Pixar switched to RackSaver Linux blade servers for their renderfarm about a year ago. Their website still lists them as clients though that could have changed.

      Pixar switches from Sun to Intel [com.com]
      RackSaver Customers [racksaver.com]

  • by jpellino (202698) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:14PM (#8524329)
    apple can tout this bigtime with real effective results (pixar movie$)
    it's not just a niche - pair this with WETA and you've got real ammo.
    • Well, not really.
      How many render nodes has WETA? 500? 1000? So a 1 or 2 million oneshot, and there are only a few comparable companys around. Rendernodes are no cash-cows. They dont need really high reliability (worst thing happening would be that the frame is commited to another node), they dont have much io-load, they just need to render. There is no way to make with machines like that money like IBM does with its Power4 servers or Sun with its Exxxx.

      If it makes sense for pixer? I dont know. With the g5,
      • by bwilson (27514) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:18PM (#8525139) Homepage

        You don't seem to understand the modern rendering workload. Its all I/O. A typical frame of geometry (>10GB) won't even fit into most memories, much less the textures which are often orders of magnitude larger. This is not your typical game or raytracer which loads everything in a couple seconds at the beginning and spends half an hour crunching numbers. Tremendous effort is spent paging stuff in and out and keeping memory from overflowing. Also keep in mind that it needs to probably be sucked over the network in the first place.

        Having the additional address space of the 64-bit system will help a lot, as will the high throughput of the G5.

        The Opteron may make sense here as well, but the software isn't mature enough yet for them to be able to run all the systems on it. Windows doesn't support the 64-bit yet, of course, and Linux stuff varies. For example, they presumably will want good 3D acceleration for the modeling if they really want to be able to use a certain system uniformly in their operation, and the performance of Linux 64-bit 3D drivers isn't up to the traditional x86 yet (and often won't even work if you have >4GB RAM).

    • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:41PM (#8524673) Journal
      I know you're making a joke, but since gambling winnings are taxable, shouldn't gambling losses be deductable?

      -jcr
  • Also no doubt... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#8524330)
    Peebles went on to say that this switch was "a move that no doubt made common CEO Steve Jobs very happy."

    ...a move that just has to be a wee bit influenced by the FUD of SCO's IP claims on Linux too.
    • by perimorph (635149) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:22PM (#8524450)
      Not necessarily. Forget the Linux evangelism for a moment and remember that Apple makes some damn good hardware, regardless of anyone's opinion of the company or their software. Making animated movies of the sort that Pixar produces would certainly be very hardware-intensive. I think it just makes sense.
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#8524331)
    was CEO of Disney and switched Disney to Windows (stricly on merits mind you), people would be screaming bloody murder.

    Oh wait...
  • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#8524338)

    After all, with Jobs as CEO of both companies, why wouldn't Apple be used for Pixar's needs, especially if they're capable? An american kiritsu?

    I don't see this as big news. It would be big news, if, say, they moved to a linux distribution (considering that Jobs is CEO of both Pixar and Apple, and linux could be seen as a competitor to Apple). This is nothing more than free publicity for apple, and probably an "at-cost" transaction for Pixar for new hardware and software.

    • by worm eater (697149) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:27PM (#8524517) Homepage
      After all, with Jobs as CEO of both companies, why wouldn't Apple be used for Pixar's needs, especially if they're capable?

      The reason this is news is that it shows Macs finally are capable of doing this kind of high-end video production. Coupling this with the VA Tech 'Big Mac' shows that Apple is serious about reaching into the high end -- and is ready to be taken more seriously in that role.

      So it's not so much a surprise that Pixar would consider this option, but that Pixar hadn't made the move yet said something about the Mac's capabilities.
      • So it's not so much a surprise that Pixar would consider this option, but that Pixar hadn't made the move yet said something about the Mac's capabilities.

        I could agree with this statement. However, let's keep in mind that Pixar was in the middle of several productions, and everyone knows you don't rip your underpinnings out and replace them wholesale during the middle of a project. Additionally, they moved from SGI boxes to Linux boxes, and now to G5s. Each move about 18 months apart. This would be about

  • by ScottGant (642590) <scott_gant AT sbcglobal DOT netNOT> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#8524342) Homepage
    With Steve Jobs head honcho at both companies, you would have thought this would have happened a long time ago. Of course, the G5's entering the picture helps quite a bit I'm sure.

    Will the rendering farm also be switching to the G5 in the future, ala Virginia Tech?

    Will we now see Photorealistic Renderman come out for OSX and the G5? Hopefully?
    • Except that Steve wouldn't have made the change if it were not cost effective. He's a businessman, and the kiddies that like his fancy animated fish don't care if it was rendered or developed on a Mac or not. At some point, the compute power of the G5, please the ease of installation and ongoing maintenance made it worthwhile to switch.

      In all actuality, he probably didn't even request that his company do this - its not the kind of thing a CEO tends to think about. His CTO probably did the evaluations an
      • by Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:36PM (#8524620)
        Way to write off the CEO. Gates when he was CEO made decisions like this all the time.

        Steve probably didn't force it down their throats but he probably made a suggestion or two in the positive direction of Apple. In the end no one really knows but him and the people he spoke with. Considerin his past actions I wouldn't be at all surprised if he had a major hand in the switch

        • by hondo77 (324058) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:48PM (#8525475) Homepage

          Steve probably didn't force it down their throats but he probably made a suggestion or two in the positive direction of Apple.

          Another scenario is that Steve made it a challenge for Apple to get into Pixar. "Apple team, Pixar has requirements x, y, and z to switch to Macs. Go get 'em." It raises the bar for Apple and gives them a credible shot at other studios (except DreamWorks, which seems to view Apple as the enemy).

      • by jordandeamattson (261036) <jordandm@gma i l . c om> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:15PM (#8525100) Homepage
        If there is anything you learn about SJ quickly, it is that he is the absolute definition of "hands-on".

        If this wasn't run past Steve and fully approved by him at a minimum, I would be surprised. That he was likely asking hard questions and pushing his team to do it, wouldn't surprise me at all.

        One of Apple's major customer segments is video prodution for television and movies. Apple for years has had an extremely strong niche in the Entertainment industry (why do you think you see Macs in almost every TV show and movie as the "computer of choice"?). Over the last 18 months they have spent a lot acquiring products to fill out their digital video, video effects, and audio editing and production product line. What we have hear is showing, by eating their own dog food, that they are serious and that you can do it all on the Mac.

        Steve is the master salesman and technical visionary. His finger-prints are all over this move!
      • by JohnsonWax (195390) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:29PM (#8525261)
        He's a businessman, and the kiddies that like his fancy animated fish don't care if it was rendered or developed on a Mac or not.

        Yep. A year or two into his iCEO role, he was asked in an interview what computer he uses day to day. He said it was an Intel machine (Thinkpad, I think) running OpenStep.

        Most evidence is that he's a very bottom line kind of guy. If Apple's hardware sucks, he's not using it. And I think that's how a lot of Apple's decisions get made (for good or bad): Steve won't release a product that he won't use himself. He doesn't see the utility in the Newton, so the Newton goes. He sees the utility in the iPod, so it gets the go-ahead.

        It might sound stupid to run a company like this, but then he's not the only guy that does things this way. Warren Buffett makes a lot of decisions on the same rules. He considered buying Sees candy, Bombardier, and Dairy Queen because he liked the products. When the financials and management team checks out, he buys. But his personal preference is a big part of the decision.
    • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:24PM (#8524487) Journal
      Jobs is pretty hands off at Pixar.

      No doubt Pixar will use the best tool for the job. If they start using G5s in their renderfarm, I wouldn't be all that surprised if they used Linux or Darwin on them, to avoid unnecessary GUI overhead.

      If Pixar was not using the best tool for the job, I'd have heard grumbling on the grapevine. So far, this hasn't been the case.
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#8524345) Homepage Journal
    More the memory bandwidth issue than anything else. Intel, even with the server processors, is stuck at 533 MHz front side bus. The opterons do a lot better, it's just a question of which I can get cheaper.

    I'm running Gentoo, so I don't care if I have to specially compile. I just want a machine that's going to actually USE the MHz it comes with. (Without resorting to massive cache.)

  • Renderman! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:17PM (#8524364)
    Does that mean Renderman will be restored to a proper Mac implementation, or will that still stay on a Linux farm of sorts?

    G5 + OS X + Maya + Photoshop + Pixlet = one kickass production environment.

    Really though do they need to change the Linux farm? I'd be surprised if they did, there's no real need...

  • by Eezy Bordone (645987) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:20PM (#8524412) Homepage
    You dirty dog you!

    I'm sure this, in fact, does make Steve Jobs the happiest man in the world right now. Almost as happy as Bill Gates when Hotmail switched to WinServer and died for a few days.

  • by The Lost Supertone (754279) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:20PM (#8524415) Journal
    I seem to remember someone from Pixar saying that they were moving over to G5 work stations. As for the Render Farm I believe they just purchased a whole lot of 2.8Ghz Xeons (if I remember correctly) and so it would probably not make sense for them to go and buy a ton of Macs for that right at the moment. Besides Steve knows when Apple's upgrade schedule is. They will buy Dual 3Ghz or 4Ghz Xserves before they need to render the next Pixar release I bet.
  • by mefus (34481) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:25PM (#8524490) Journal
    I've heard of renderman and recall the pixar ppl have developers actively contributing to Linux.

    Will this affect Linux development in any significant way?

    I use a G5 at work but I don't use it for anything that might be affected by this. It's mostly a number cruncher/web browser.
  • by dbirchall (191839) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:28PM (#8524525) Journal
    If we're talking about open-source alternatives to Mac OS X, we could also talk about open-source stuff that's relatively compatible with Mac OS X at the non-GUI level, and runs on x86. :) Maybe they could keep all the Xeons in their render farm, and just install Darwin on them, then the back-end apps could run on both Xeon and Mac.
  • by vasqzr (619165) <vasqzrNO@SPAMnetscape.net> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:33PM (#8524580)

    Jobs buys 500 G5's for Pixar

    The next week, Apple comes out and lowers all the prices $300 and doubles the RAM and HD space, and includes iPods with every purchase.

  • by Aqua OS X (458522) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:34PM (#8524587)
    Now, is Pixar going to end every movie with a shitty gif of a spinning Apple logo that says "Made on a Mac" ?

  • Debian (Score:5, Funny)

    by vicviper (140480) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:43PM (#8524687)
    The most important question that hasn't been asked yet: Will Debian continue to use Pixar characters as the names of their releases?

    I mean really.

    c'mon.

    Yeah...
  • Pixlet is lossy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by captaineo (87164) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:54PM (#8524817)
    One thing that hasn't been clear in the news releases is that Pixlet is a lossy codec. At first I thought it was lossless but on testing it is lossy (quite lossy actually). It is useful for previewing high-res animations, but not for rendering final elements.

    I'm not really sure what the point of Pixlet is, since JPEG is "good enough" for most previewing needs. Perhaps somebody is using it for >8 bits per component?
    • Re:Pixlet is lossy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AaronD12 (709859)
      At first I thought it was lossless but on testing it is lossy (quite lossy actually).

      Quite lossy? Are you setting the quality slider all the way to Best? Yes, Pixlet is lossy, but it's also a keyframe-less CODEC that brings data rates well over 3MB/second at DV resolution. That's almost as high as native DV and right around the same data rate as MJPEG. Yes, it's not uncompressed video, but that's not what Pixlet was designed for.

  • AMD vs G5 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ryanw (131814) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:10PM (#8525027)
    I think the biggest difference to me (being an MacOSX Fan) is that with G5's the most you can do currently is a DUAL configuration. I would REALLY like to see apple step up and offer larger options. 4 way or 8 way configurations should be an option. There is no comparison of an 8way ANYTHING to a Dual G5.
  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:22PM (#8525189) Homepage Journal
    Consider the XserveG5 -- uses less power than a similar Intel box and is cooler-running. What Pixar will save over the long run in electricity bills alone is probably worth the upgrade.

    Doesn't make a difference if you're running 1 or 5 machines in your house, but it does make a signifigant difference if you're running 500 or machines.
  • Not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rui del-Negro (531098) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:24PM (#8525211) Homepage
    The article says they're replacing their workstations, not their render nodes. Most of the work on a workstation is done by the graphics card. Where you really need cheap CPU power is the render nodes, and x86 still gives more bang for the buck than the PPC970 / G5.
  • G5 v intel (Score:3, Informative)

    by mattyrobinson69 (751521) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:33PM (#8525318)
    IIRC, the G5 can outperform a comparable x86 processor in one area - floating point operations.

    For rendering, floating point operations are probably the most important thing for a rendering farm.

    (disclaimer: i did say IIRC)
  • You know what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:39PM (#8525366)
    Pixar will switch to whatever is currently going to suit their needs the best... in their business, they aren't going to sit around and use "legacy" stuff just because of previous investment.. you will see them re-tool much more often than a traditional business.

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:56PM (#8525580) Homepage Journal
    Apple can probably get a lot of mileage out of this. Pixar is not some smalltime outfit running a few XServes. As one of Apple's biggest customers, even without Steve connection, they'll likely be getting their hands on a lot of beta stuff before the rest of the world sees it. Pixar is obviously a company built around delivering a quality product, and having them as a testing ground will certainly help Apple improve their entertainment/multimedia offerings.

  • Pixar and Jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @10:13PM (#8528020)
    What's the advantage to Pixar??? WTF!

    The teams at Pixar are at the pinnacle of their industry. They do not take software and hardware choice lightly. They have not and would not till this day switch to using Apple solutions unless they proved superior. They have no use for hardware and software politics.

    The evolution has been going on for some time at Apple.
    Jobs has remade Apple software and hardware Pro Lines specifically for Hollywood, the CGI industries and this.

    XServe, Xserve Raids, OpenGL direct rendering, xCode Tools for Rapid Development and distributive computing, XServe licensing and OS X licensing all are extremely cost effective. linux and Unix software has been ported OS X. G5 optimized Render-man, Shake, and the necessary tools are there.

    This is the future and Apple is very much a part of it, deservedly so. A lot of extremely talented people have been working their asses of pursuing this dream for years and years now. This is just the first picking of an abundant and fruitful harvest for these folks.

    More power to them!!!!!
    .

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