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Q&A Session With AMD and Troublemakers Behind Opteron and FirePro 'Machete' Hardware

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 32 comments

AMD technology behind Grindhouse style movies.

Yesterday we reported that AMD's technology is the one of choice for Troublemaker Studios – the creative minds behind films such as Sin City, Predators, and opening today, Machete.

Specifically, the team at Troublemaker used hexacore Opteron CPU and FirePro V8800 GPUs to complete 500 final shots.

“With 'Machete,' Robert Rodriguez makes use of a variety of media formats and effects setups, which require a high level of post-processing,” said Charlie Boswell, director of Digital Media and Entertainment at AMD. “With six-core AMD Opteron processors and ATI FirePro V8800 graphics solutions, Robert and his Troublemaker Studios team have delivered a resulting look and vibe as distinct as the plot itself.”

“I've had the idea for 'Machete' since meeting Danny Trejo while filming 'Desperado' in 1993, and it's only now after years of refining that idea combined with the advancements in AMD technology that I've been able to bring my creative vision to life in the way I truly envisaged it,” said Robert Rodriguez, co-owner, Troublemaker Studios. “The incredible developments in AMD platform technology continue to fuel my creativity, driving me to push it to its limits. In fact, I've made plans to incorporate AMD's Fusion Render technology into the production of my next film 'Spy Kids 4'.”

We had the chance to talk a little with the technical team behind Machete for a quick Q&A session.

Q: It was with Sin City that we heard most about how Troublemaker Studios used computers to greatly lower production costs, despite it still being one of the more expensive movies from Rodriguez at that point. Was this sort of cost-efficiency a big factor of why AMD CPUs and GPUs were used on Machete?

A: AMD was the fastest technology at the time Sin City was realized.  In addition, the 64-bit factor was in play when Troublemaker chose AMD. 

AMD’s roadmap continues to be a factor in Troublemaker’s commitment  to AMD tech. The fact the workstations are AMD on AMD (ATI FirePro) is important because it helps ensure driver quality and platform stability without which raw speed is really of no consequence. Robert Rodriguez and his crew have zero tolerance for shaky tech. The next step is to leverage the GPU in the render farm and that is happening on Spy Kids IV.

Q: Could you tell us a little about the evolution and changes in hardware the studio has gone through over the years from Sin City, Grindhouse, Predators to Machete? Was it always AMD behind the scenes?

A: The migration has been from multi-processor to multi-core and now to 12-core in both workstations and servers. Not to overlook the fact the workstations now have ATI FirePro professional graphics. AMD has been the back bone at Troublemaker Studios since Spy Kids III.

Q: It seems that 3D is the big thing going on right now in Hollywood. Troublemaker has done 3D before with Spy Kids 3-D and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D. What's the attitude of Troublemaker towards 3D movies now that the film industry seemingly wants a 3D option with every picture?

A: If Robert is into it, then Troublemaker Studios is ready to go full-on 3D. For 3D movies, Troublemaker’s pre-production pipeline is stereoscopic to ensure the shots  work in pre-vizualization, but the  production and post-production pipelines are 2D. It really depends on how Robert feels and the nature of the project. Clearly, 3D for Robert and Troublemaker is well understood.

Q: We know that you used six-core Opterons and FirePro V8800s, but could you give us more details about the hardware used and how many machines you had working at any given time?

A: Troublemaker uses 100% AMD Opteron and the majority of workstations feature ATI FirePro professional graphics. The render farm is 100% AMD and a mix of dual, quad, and 12-core.

Machete

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  • 10 Hide
    joytech22 , September 3, 2010 11:22 AM
    Sweeeeeet, so AMD's bang for buck is FINALLY sinking into the heads of film makers.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    joytech22 , September 3, 2010 11:22 AM
    Sweeeeeet, so AMD's bang for buck is FINALLY sinking into the heads of film makers.
  • 4 Hide
    stingstang , September 3, 2010 11:25 AM
    I've been waiting for this movie since seeing the trailer in Grind House.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , September 3, 2010 11:28 AM
    Troublemakers really is making a name for themselves. I wonder tho does some of this have to do with Robert Rodriguez, being part owner, has learned a bit more on when to use 3D rendering. In 1991 this company was founded under the name of Los Hooligans.
  • 6 Hide
    chesterman , September 3, 2010 11:34 AM
    nice, i like amd too, but i'm thinking this has turned into a fanboy news. in fact, it looks like a paid advertisement.
  • 6 Hide
    Stifle , September 3, 2010 11:43 AM
    Cheech and Steven Segal in the same movie.... This cannot fail
  • 1 Hide
    furylicious , September 3, 2010 11:52 AM
    I'm just glad that AMD is back in the whole arena of competition again and making a name for themselves. So, I don't mind news like this where big moviemakers are going with AMD. As long as there is competition, I can expect lower prices and better product. Can't wait to see that movie though, Steven Seagal is pure lulz.
  • -5 Hide
    NotYetRated , September 3, 2010 12:11 PM
    In terms of bang for your buck, AMD has been the choice for quite some time now. Though, raw performance wise, Intel is king. Hands down. I fail to see where it makes sense for a movie studio to use AMD processors. In applications like this, the amount you can get done in a day is normally constrained by how well your PC can keep up. Spending an extra 400 or 500 bucks may seem like a lot, but not when you get even 5% more efficiency while paying someone $40+ and hour. Simple economics. The smart studio would be using the fastest possible.
  • 8 Hide
    RazberyBandit , September 3, 2010 12:41 PM
    ^ No, a smart studio would maximize it's profit based on price vs. performance.
  • 5 Hide
    L0tus , September 3, 2010 12:41 PM
    Quote:
    The incredible developments in AMD platform technology continue to fuel my creativity...

    And the winner of the "most rehearsed line" is...

    Quote:
    it helps ensure driver quality and platform stability

    Are you effing kidding me right now?! ATi?! driver quality?! in the same sentence!? Just 2 days ago, Tom's released an article on nVidia's new offering showing how weak ATI drivers were.

    Red thumb me all you like...this is total BS...I know a paid advertisement when I see one.
  • 0 Hide
    rhangman , September 3, 2010 12:47 PM
    More "bang for your buck" = more servers/cores in the render farm, so faster speeds, not slower. If it was slower, then AMD wouldn't be "more bang for your buck".

    For the workstations Intel may be faster (no idea whether or not using a slower AMD processor would actually effect work output), but then you have to deal with supporting Intel and AMD rather than just AMD.
  • 0 Hide
    thejerk , September 3, 2010 12:55 PM
    It reads like a transcript of a NASCAR or NHRA interview...
  • 0 Hide
    rand_79 , September 3, 2010 1:21 PM
    I think the first payment for that hardware has just appeared here :p 

    oh 30% off my next upgrade if i open my pie hole and spew forth amd praises?
  • 0 Hide
    warezme , September 3, 2010 1:24 PM
    I don't know if I would claim Spy Kids 2 and Shark Boy and Lavagirl. Most high end video games look better than those movies ever did.
  • 1 Hide
    coleipoo , September 3, 2010 1:31 PM
    It's good to see Troublemaker is getting bigger and bigger, and AMD is helping with that. The studio puts out some great content.
  • 4 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 3, 2010 2:53 PM
    6870 Machete edition anyone?
  • 0 Hide
    ohim , September 3, 2010 3:00 PM
    NotYetRatedIn terms of bang for your buck, AMD has been the choice for quite some time now. Though, raw performance wise, Intel is king. Hands down. I fail to see where it makes sense for a movie studio to use AMD processors. In applications like this, the amount you can get done in a day is normally constrained by how well your PC can keep up. Spending an extra 400 or 500 bucks may seem like a lot, but not when you get even 5% more efficiency while paying someone $40+ and hour. Simple economics. The smart studio would be using the fastest possible.
    And how do you know how those 12 core Opterons behave on their software compared to Intel`s? I believe they know better than you. And when you already have a platform switching to another will cost you.
  • 0 Hide
    jecastej , September 3, 2010 3:48 PM
    AMD + ATI + "The software they used" = Stability and reliability. This is the key for this hardware choice: "driver quality and platform stability without which raw speed is really of no consequence. Robert Rodriguez and his crew have zero tolerance for shaky tech."

    But, don't make a mistake, there are other specific "winning" combination including Nvidia and Intel.

    It has nothing to do with general AMD or ATI performance and this wont show on general performance numbers. The key is to select specific hardware and software configurations that works together flawlessly, even if is just for a very specific use. However they don't specify the applications they are using for 3D or 2D post-processing. But they make the point of hardware selection starting back to AMD most glorious days and the fact that AMD and ATI ensures compatibility. I am not sure Intel + Nvidia could offer the same integration level.

    Also, SEE how they work with qualified PRO Hardware and software. NO gaming rig or desktop CPUs or GPUs allowed with loaded bios. I know this is not for everyone but is the main point to produce different hardware for gaming and workstation use.

    In the end for a big production there is nothing slower than a system down from failures. These systems fails too but the lower rates are worth the premium prices.
  • 1 Hide
    Kelavarus , September 3, 2010 5:00 PM
    jecastejAlso, SEE how they work with qualified PRO Hardware and software. NO gaming rig or desktop CPUs or GPUs allowed with loaded bios. I know this is not for everyone but is the main point to produce different hardware for gaming and workstation use.In the end for a big production there is nothing slower than a system down from failures. These systems fails too but the lower rates are worth the premium prices.


    I was curious about this. I'm personally an ATI user since the days of 9--- series (started out with a measly X1550), and while I jumped from there to a X---- series, to a 3xxx series, I've never experienced the type of driver instability that so many harp upon. Whereas with two Nvidia cards (It's quite possible just bad luck) I had endless driver failures. I don't know why it was, and I'm not trying to sway anyone one way or the other, that's just my experience.

    HOWEVER, my question is this: Are the drivers used for their FirePro even the same as they use for their Radeon line? Do they create completely different, much more stable drivers for their professional line of cards?
  • 2 Hide
    joebob2000 , September 3, 2010 5:59 PM
    stingstangI've been waiting for this movie since seeing the trailer in Grind House.

    I thought for sure that trailer was just a joke... Guess the joke is on me.
  • 1 Hide
    suisenbenjo , September 3, 2010 7:24 PM
    joebob2000I thought for sure that trailer was just a joke... Guess the joke is on me.


    It was originally a fake trailer so you were right at the time.
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