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

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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • joytech22
    Sweeeeeet, so AMD's bang for buck is FINALLY sinking into the heads of film makers.
  • stingstang
    I've been waiting for this movie since seeing the trailer in Grind House.
  • elbert
    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.
  • chesterman
    nice, i like amd too, but i'm thinking this has turned into a fanboy news. in fact, it looks like a paid advertisement.
  • Stifle
    Cheech and Steven Segal in the same movie.... This cannot fail
  • furylicious
    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.
  • NotYetRated
    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.
  • RazberyBandit
    ^ No, a smart studio would maximize it's profit based on price vs. performance.
  • L0tus
    The incredible developments in AMD platform technology continue to fuel my creativity...
    And the winner of the "most rehearsed line" is...

    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.
  • rhangman
    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.