A Hollywood Script . . .

The New Benchmark: TPC (Tears Per CPU)

According to this rather amazing article, we shouldn’t judge K10 by its performance as measured by seconds or FPS, but rather by the performances of those who buy a lot of AMD products.

If you don’t believe me, I don’t blame you, so I quote (emphasis ours):

“You can often gauge the depth of a partnership by the emotional connection of the partners to the vendor they are supporting at an event like this launch. . . . The first was from the top operational executive at Lucas Films and he almost had tears in his eyes as he told how his relationship with AMD started.

“According to him, early on they needed help (hard to imagine given they have nearly 70% of the market for high end movie computer generated graphics today) and went to Intel as the biggest player in the segment. Intel, evidently, after spending a lot of time looking at the business, basically blew them off and nicely said they really couldn’t help create the technology Lucas needed.

“Had not AMD stepped in, the implication was that much of what we have seen come out of that company probably wouldn’t have ever existed without AMD and, as a result, Lucas won’t do business with Intel and indicated that was the case with their entire industry. . . . They helped Lucas get started and become successful, there is no value I know of to anyone that is any higher than that and the very real emotions, and the fact Lucas was doing this at their own facility, is testament to this sustaining value.”

First, you have to wonder more than a little bit about executives tearing up on demand, but I guess that’s Hollywood.

Rewriting History

More seriously, did you walk away from that blurb thinking that if it were not for AMD, Star Wars would have looked like South Park, that AMD was some lifelong partner of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) (the FX division of LucasFilms)?

As you might have guessed, this immediately went off in my head . . .


. . . so I started looking.

ILM was founded by George Lucas in 1975, the same year as Microsoft (LucasFilms was formed in 1971), basically to do the special effects for the original Star Wars.

I’ll spare you the timeline, you can look at ILM’s, but the first “alliance” between ILM and any computer company wasn’t with AMD (or Intel) but rather Silicon Graphics in 1993.

AMD doesn’t get into the picture until 2002. By that time, ILM was twenty-seven years old and had somehow managed to win fourteen Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and even more Academy technical awards, all without the least bit of help from AMD (or Intel, or even computers for the earlier ones, for that matter). Not exactly a startup. The only “start” or “beginning” for ILM at this time was shooting the Star Wars film “Attack of the Clones” on digital HD video.

The ILM-AMD begins in 2002, when ILM shifted away from SGI by buying a render farm initially using Athlon XPs. It wasn’t a complete love affair, though, the SGI workstations were replaced by 600 Intel Dells, dude.

From this point on, yes, an ILM-AMD love affair stops being a fantasy script. The Athlon XPs were replaced by Opterons not long after they were introduced, and ILM went to AMD workstations around the middle of 2005

What about the tale of Intel shunning ILM’s business? While I couldn’t find a smoking gun, after reading articles written at the time, it looks like a combo of ILM wanting cheap 64-bit systems, more than a little technical support for a very complicated render farm and likely a sweetheart upgrade policy. Intel probably told them to go buy Itaniums with a huge side order of service contracts.

Certainly ILM is a success story for AMD, just not the story implied in that article. Nor is it a matter of some callow youth being sold a cock-and-bull story, as this link shows, the author was well aware of AMD’s activities in the media industry years ago.

Maybe he got amnesia. or maybe it’s just Hollywood, again.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply