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How AMD helped make Predators

How AMD helped make Predators

Predators, the third film starring the funny-jawed intergalactic hunting monster hits UK cinemas today. We recently had the chance to hear from AMD's Director of Digital Media and Entertainment, Charlie Boswell, to hear how AMD has worked with director Nimród Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez.

It's not the first time that AMD have worked with Robert Rodriguez. They were involved in a number of his previous projects, including the Spy Kids sequels, Planet Terror and Sin City. Boswell made it clear that when working at a professional level with the film industry, it takes years to build a relationship with directors and producers - they have to be certain that the hardware available is always reliable and that the data is in good hands.

The technology used at a professional level is understandably more powerful than that of most consumers (although, not perhaps, the our folding team). According to AMD, the power of current hardware enables a computer farm to render CGI and stream it directly to the filming area wirelessly. This gives a producer such as Rodriguez the ability to work with the rendering team almost in realtime, or as Boswell put it, "at the speed of thought".

As Boswell explained, this allows for a realtime composure of CGI backgrounds to be shown as the filming happens. In practice, the director and producer can make creative decisions whilst still "filming" the scene, rather than in a production studio post-shooting. It also gives actors the opportunity to see the things they're meant to be reacting to when they're being shot in front of the green screen.

The core Predators production team consists of six digital artists, each kitted out with an AMD workstation. While exact specs weren't given, these workstation make use of AMD's six-core Istanbul CPUs and their FirePro 8800 GPUs, which is based on the Cypress GPU at the heart of the Radeon HD 5870. Predators is the first film to use these GPUs.

The raw computing power available to the team is obviously massive, as Boswell told us that the power of the hardware and the OpenCL framework means scenes can be rendered in real time at resolutions of up to 4,096 x 2,160. AMD was keen to emphasise the high levels of details that their technology permits them to work at. Particle simulation is something that benefits from AMD's tech, making effects such as blood splatter all the more convincing. The simulations can be taken down to a very small scale, with a smaller time between each, which essentially gives the production team extremely precise creative control in terms of what happens on screen.

How AMD helped make Predators How AMD helped make Predators
These guys aren't the predators

In terms of software, Boswell explained that Rodriguez and his team use off-the-shelf software for editing and post-production, including Nuke, Shake and Adobe Pipeline. One question that was asked of Boswell was whether there was a videogame in production based on the movie, and how the technology discussed could be used in conjunction with game production.

Boswell was unable to reveal any specific plans (we've just seen a new Aliens versus Predator, for instance), but did say that if necessary, many of the digital assets used in the production of the film such as character models, background plates, and even camera shots could be directly transferred to and implemented in a game environment. One advantage of this technique is it stops the entirety of a game needing to be stylised, where everything would have to be drawn and rendered essentially from scratch.

Pursuing this point, Boswell said transferring digital assets in such a way was opening the door for something AMD are calling Cinema 2.0. According to Boswell, Cinema 2.0 represents the collision of both the film and gaming industries. Cinema 2.0 is the combination of the immersion that the cinema provides and the interactivity that comes with gaming. Boswell sounded enthusiastic about this combination, claiming that it takes sides from either industry that the other would like to be able to use.

Here's the trailer for Predators:


Will you be going to see Predators? Are you impressed with AMD's technology and with the possibilities it holds? Or are things like Cinema 2.0 flawed outright? As always, let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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