Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Folly of Faster Technology

Via: PC Mag

Yesterday, at the Techonomy conference, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg revealed that through technological developments, the studio would soon be able to animate in “real-time”. This statement has got a decent amount of attention from the relevant media, but just how accurate or true is it?

While Katzenberg is keeping the details close to his chest, it’s safe to assume that he is referring to the rendering part of the process. In other words, the part where the computer has to crunch a lot of numbers to get things to look how they’re suppose to look.

This has been a time-consuming process since day dot. Heck, even in the old days, you had to wait for the ink and pain department to colour your cels before you could even begin to visualise how the characters would look on screen.

However, what Katzenberg is hoping to achieve is the ability to animate and render at the same time. This is not an impossible goal. However his statement does seem to ignore how technology has developed over the last 60 years or so.

That is to say: it never really gets any faster.

Why? Because new more impressive software is always coming out that pushes hardware to its limits, just like its supposed to.

Take for example Toy Story. We all know it took a year to render or something like that, but just imagine, I could theoretically render Toy Story on my home computer right now, and there’s a good chance it wouldn’t take me a whole year to do so. So why don’t studios take advantage of technological developments and create films that take advantage of shorter render times?

The answer is simple, who wants to see a movie that looks like it came from the mid-1990s?

Which is precisely the problem. As long as studios continue to push the boundaries of what they can produce, there will always be the same constraints of time.

The only way this will change is when someone comes out with a new way of creating CGI animation that does away with the rendering altogether.

Until then, we’ll have to continue waiting.

2 Comments on “Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Folly of Faster Technology

  1. I think that it’s worth the risk. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if it’s as good as what’s in theaters so long as its better than what you see on television. Also, Dreamworks can afford the risk in a way that most studios can’t because it has two branches, even as it’s in a poor distribution situation. In the long run, nobody cares whether a movie is ten years out of date because it’s so far back in the past anyways. But more importantly, the less advanced styles are the ones that get to keep evolving and shifting direction. Look at Disney’s first features, Soyuzmultfilm’s Socialist Realism works, and Toei’s 60’s movies. The message there is that aesthetically advanced films are scaled down and/or upset by styles with different aesthetic strengths and limitations.

    There will come a time when the progress stops. At that point in time, it may very well pay off to be working simpler and making adjustments. I personally think that from a market standpoint, it makes sense to be innovative with one foot in the past. Ask yourself how interesting it might have been if Fleischer had evolved but kept using black and white. Then they’d switched to various limited color palettes, then finally ended up with black and white characters in color films.

    You see? There’s always room for one backwards headed innovator. So long as you have one part of your films that’s novel, you can stay behind the times and even benefit from it. There’s no need or frankly, good reason for every studio to be at the head of the pack. It’s good for a couple to be, but after that, it’s just excessive trend thinking.

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