It's A Wrap With The Intranet

The high-profile triumvirate of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen announced in October, 1994, plans to create a new entertainment powerhouse: DreamWorks SKG. Their aim: to create the digital entertainment studio of the 21st century. Their first project: an animated feature film, Prince of Egypt, slated for the 1998 holiday season.

Putting together a system to make that happen is the job of another, less well-known trio. They are Dylan Kohler, Rob Hummel, and Bill Villarreal, technology co-heads for DreamWorks' animation division. Known as the "three amigos," they set to work last spring on an equally state-of-the-art production-management system to coordinate the project's many facets. "We had an entire system to build--plus trying to do a movie," recalls Kohler.

In one sense, they were lucky: They didn't have any "legacy" computers to deal with. Still, they had to make sure the production system could work with an eclectic assortment of whiz-bang workstations and animation programs. And the amigos had no time to lose.

If they used a conventional client- server setup, they realized, they would have to spend time and money writing programs for many machines. With an internal Web and Netscape Communications Corp. browsers on each desktop, they avoid "the dirty work of doing a lot of client applications," says Kohler.

The system, which is called Nile, will be available in March to 100 production managers and artists. It will be used to check on the daily status of projects, track animation objects, and coordinate scenes. NeXT Computer Inc.'s WebObjects will handle the queries and fetch information.

Eventually, Kohler says, the intranet will be used throughout the company in the production of live-action films, music, TV shows, and new media being developed at DreamWorks Interactive. Best of all, the entertainment studio can grow with it. The Web, says Kohler, "is an evolving architecture. And that's what DreamWorks is all about."

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