Rhythm & Hues Takes "Marmaduke" from the Comic Strip to the Big Screen With NVIDIA Quadro


The world’s most beloved Great Dane is brought to life in “Marmaduke,” the June 5, 2010 film release from 20th Century Fox. In this family comedy film, thanks to the effects wizardry of Academy Award®-winning visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues (R&H), lifelike computer generated (CG) dogs portray the cast of Marmaduke characters that originated in hand-drawn comics.

R&H studios, located in Los Angeles, India and Malaysia, relied on NVIDIA® Quadro® professional graphics solutions on each of its artists’ workstations.

R&H was enlisted to develop over one hundred shots for “Marmaduke”, including the design and animation of a plethora of CG animals, in addition to animated talking scenes for Marmaduke and his fellow furry friend Bosco.

There were exceptionally challenging sequences for the R&H team to create, including one where Marmaduke and his sidekick Carlos surf on ocean waves, and another which features a ‘Bollywood’ dance sequence. The dance sequence required the development and animation of hero characters Carlos, Guiseppe, Raisin, Thunder, Lightning Jezebel, plus another 35 dogs of several different breeds.

In yet another scene, the R&H creative team was tasked with accurately depicting Marmaduke’s dance moves while playing “Dance Dance Revolution” (“DDR”) in an arcade.

Considering the CG-intensive nature of the project, R&H tapped the expertise of its entire international team from India to Los Angeles, where a majority of the work was completed, and added workstations and artists over an eleven-month timeline to drive its production pipeline.

“While working on such a large number of concentrated CG characters and animations for a film like ‘Marmaduke’, the ability to use NVIDIA Quadro GPUs for real-time 2K playback with color correction was essential to realizing our production pipeline,” said Nathan Cournia, R&H software engineer.

R&H employed its custom solution for previewing lighting interactively on the GPU from within Voodoo, its proprietary animation software. In “Marmaduke,” R&H relied on the software to achieve compositing tricks such as lighting the “Dance Dance Revolution” plate and synchronizing the animation of Marmaduke’s dancing to the light .

“Our GPU lighting renderer is a mini-compositor with a built-in custom scripting language, which worked perfectly for the ‘DDR’ scene,” said Cournia. “Our artists were able to work within the animation software to write in the compositing and scripting language visually through the editor.”

NVIDIA technology plays an integral behind-the-scenes role in R&H’s custom film production pipeline. Lighting, animation and rendering are high priority tasks that are perfectly suited to NVIDIA Quadro pro graphics because of these cards’ high memory capacity and parallel processing capabilities.

Cournia added, “During production on ‘Marmaduke’, NVIDIA Quadro GPUs allowed us to create custom code to preview lighting and enhance artist animations. Regardless of the challenge at hand, Quadro continues to perform solidly, which is why we have relied on the technology for so many years,” concluded Cournia.

Currently R&H runs a host of NVIDIA Quadro products and the studio is also considering development of custom tools in CUDA, NVIDIA’s massively parallel computing architecture, into the into their facilities for future feature film pipelines. In addition to its work on “Marmaduke,” R&H is deploying NVIDIA stereoscopic 3D drivers for Linux in preparation for a future feature film project, which will be produced in Stereo 3D.