DreamWorks and Silicon Graphics in Joint Venture


DreamWorks SKG, the hot new movie studio formed by Steve Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, announced Wednesday that it will hook up with Silicon Graphics Inc., the equally hot computer graphics outfit, to build what the companies describe as the movie studio of the 21st Century.

The alliance, the latest in a string of marriages between the film and computer industries, will develop digital film production systems that will make it possible to create special effects-laden movies--and especially animated films--better and more cheaply.

Silicon Graphics has worked with Spielberg before: It created the lifelike dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. And the company’s 3-D workstations were used for the special effects in “Casper,” a film produced by Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment.


“Our ambition is to do things people haven’t seen before,” said Katzenberg, former chairman of Disney’s film operations and now chief executive of DreamWorks.

“If we’re able to dream it up, we’ll be able to deliver it eventually,” Spielberg added.

Silicon Graphics and video software firm Cambridge Animation will collaborate on a computer animation production system to be used on a feature-length animation film already in production. The system will be in the hands of DreamWorks animators by September of this year. DreamWorks and Silicon Graphics will share the estimated $50 million in development costs.

DreamWorks said it will market the system, the Digital Animation Dreammachine, to others. “There is nothing we are doing or building that we won’t make available to others--and not just in our industry,” Katzenberg said.

Cel animation will continue to represent the core of animated films. But the computer technology will enable animators to manipulate the images with more efficiency and a greater variety of options. Animation, one of Katzenberg’s specialties at Disney, is expected to be a key asset for DreamWorks. And so is technology: DreamWorks has joined forces with PC software giant Microsoft Corp. on a venture that will create multimedia CD-ROMs.

For Silicon Graphics, the alliance represents the opportunity to sell more of its 3-D workstations. At the moment, it sells about $300 million worth of hardware annually to the entertainment industry.