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The Science Of "The Croods": How Dreamworks Brings Mathematical Efficiency To The Creative Business Of Filmmaking


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"Each movie is a little bit like a startup," says Lincoln Wallen, chief technology officer of DreamWorks Animation. "The filmmakers have a vision of what they want to put on-screen and we have to create a pipeline to create it."

Co.Create: You’re a former professor with a background in math, physics, and artificial Intelligence. How does that background translate to your work at DreamWorks?

Lincoln Wallen: Up until the last few months of the process of creating a CG movie, the process is about creating this large human-driven system, which is essentially a program that is capable of generating the right images in the right sequence. A lot of the coding and processes we use are similar to many of the challenges that computer scientists faced in modeling the real world back in the day of robotics. You are building a system that has to represent everything in view, which is really a world.

Lincoln Wallen

We’ve got hundreds of thousands if not billions of assets in one movie. We have to be able to process it all at speed and at scale. Given my background, I’m able to bring a long-term perspective to what will work and what won’t.

As EA learned, it's really impossible to launch an engine and a game at the same time, but it's possible and if you do you create something amazing. I'm sure that holds true for movies.  

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