On April 24th I got an Email from HP inviting me to attend a review workshop that would be held at the DreamWorks campus in Glendale, CA on May 21st and 22nd. At the review workshop they would be introducing a new monitor that they said would revolutionize that industry. I was very excited so I made the necessary arrangements and got ready to go.
Both days were packed full of events and things to see. On the first day, after I arrived, we all got to meet each other (there were about 30 others invited) and have lunch. After lunch we all traveled to the DreamWorks campus. Once we got to the DreamWorks campus we checked in, got our name tags, dropped off our cameras (DreamWorks does not allow cameras on the campus) and went to the theater for an introduction. While in the theater we listened to a brief introduction by Ed Leonard, DreamWorks CTO. He spoke about the long partnership they have had with HP, and how when they have problems they are able to go to HP and get solutions.
The latest problem they went HP for has to do with Color Critical displays. Color critical displays are very important to DreamWorks because when they make a movie they have to make sure that all the colors will be consistent for all the employees who work on it. They also need to know what the movie is going to look like when displayed on a Movie Theater Screen. For a long time they were using CRT displays because CRTs could display accurate color, but CRTs were fast becoming extinct and were being replaced by LCDs. As many of you have probably noticed, especially if you work with videos and pictures, LCDs are not the best when it comes to producing accurate colors and they often have banding and color consistency issues. To make matters worse, every brand of LCD shows colors differently, and on some LCDs you can even see variations in the same LCD. The reason this happens is because LCDs do not have the ability to maintain color as well as CRTs, and Color Critical LCDs are very expensive, usually between $15,000 and $25,000. So what DreamWorks did is buy a ton of CRTs before they became unavailable, and put them in a warehouse for later use. This was not the best solution, but rather a stop gap against the upcoming problem. In addition, another problem is that DreamWorks had to calibrate their CRTs every 72 hours, which eats up a lot of time. So DreamWorks went to HP with its problem. They needed an LCD monitor that could maintain color to a degree that was currently not possible.
HP worked on the problem and came up with the HP DreamColor LP2480zx Display. This monitor is capable of displaying many different color spaces that are built-in to the monitor itself. This will allow DreamWorks to pick a color scheme to work in and stick with it throughout the development process of a movie. In addition, they provide a range of more than 1 billion colors in a 30-bit, LED-backlit widescreen display. When DreamWorks saw these displays they were impressed, but what impressed them the most was the price. The retail price for the HP DreamColor LP2480zx is $3499. Compared to $15,000 this is really inexpensive and exciting for those that need a Color Critical display. The display includes one-button access to pre-sets for all color spaces specified by the NTSC, SMPTE, sRGB, Rec. 709, Adobe® RGB and DCI standards. The display also includes a night vision interface for darkroom working conditions.
After the discussion we were taken to a room where they had several of the DreamColor LP2480zx setup for us to look at and use. The DreamColor LP2480zx were placed in different situations that were suppose to represent real world scenarios. Here is an image of the floor plan. The first station was showing how the DreamColor LP2480zx can be used with photography. We were shown how using the different color spaces you could actually get the monitor to show real world colors. You may not be able to see it in my picture, but the colors we saw on the monitor were exactly like the real items.
The second station demonstrated the 30-bit capabilities of the monitor. Here they have the monitor showing two pictures. One in 24-bit and the other in 30-bit. You could easily see that the 30-bit image eliminated the banding in the images.
The third station showed how the DreamColor LP2480zx could be used in video editing. At this station they had two displays set up with the second one serving as an HD-SDI broadcast reference monitor.
The fourth, fifth and sixth stations were where we could sit down and play around with the DreamColor LP2480zx displays. The fourth station even had a DreamColor Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer attached to it. Here we cold not only play with the display, but see how the printer could produce the same great results that the LP2480zx could.
Skipping ahead to station seven we saw a comparison of the DreamColor LP2480zx and a Apple Cinema display. They were both hooked up to an Apple Mac Pro workstation and plugged into the machine using a video splitter. This way they were both getting the same video feed. You can clearly see how the LP2480zx shows much better colors and even black and white images showed more realistic colors.
Station eight was showing various images from different DreamWorks movies. These images were purposefully dark to show how well the DreamColor LP2480zx is able to show detail even in dark images.
The last station had one of DreamWorks employees demonstrating some of the tools they worked with when making a movie. We got to see how well DreamColor LP2480zx would work for them in what ever situation they needed it for.
After the review workshop we took a small walking tour of the outside of the campus. They had a guide give us a tour, and we were finally allowed to take pictures of the campus.
In the video below you will see parts of the review workshop as I saw it.
The second day we again went to the DreamWorks campus, but this time we were going for a screening of Kung Fu Panda and a tour of the campus. We started off the morning with a short speech from Jeff Katzenberg, DreamWorks CEO. He spoke about the movie and how it came to be, how long it took to develop and some of the challenges they faced along the way. Then we watched the movie. I am not a movie reviewer so I won’t give a full review here, but I will say that I think it is their best one yet.
After the movie we had a short technical discussion about some of the technologies that were used to make the movie.
Next we took a tour of the DreamWorks work environments. The tour consisted of seeing their Halo room, no this is not a gaming room. Halo is a telepresence and video conferencing tool from HP. It is a series of LCD TVs and cameras so that you can have meetings with people who are at different locations, but converse with them as though they were in the same room. It is even setup so that you can view demos at the different sites. I was really impressed with the technology. Next, we went into another room where we were shown a little about how their films were rendered. The main point of this demo was to show the increased speed they have received with newer technology. For example, they applied some lighting to a small part of one of the frames of Kung Fu Panda. As the lighting was applied and the frame rendered we could tell that it was going to take a really long time, probably 30 minutes or more, and this was just one small part of one frame of the whole movie. Then they started up the new process which employed distributed rendering. As the lighting was applied we could see that because it was split up between different machines it was being rendered much quicker. This was essential for them because they don’t have to wait all day to see if their changes are any good.
After the lunch we took a tour of DreamWorks data center. Unfortunately, I only got to the outside door before I was told that my ride to the airport was leaving. I was really bummed because I wanted to see the data center.
Well, that is my two days with HP and DreamWorks. It was a busy, but amazing two days and I would love to do it again someday.
For more information about the DreamColor LP2480zx read my review.