HP Technology at Work

HP Z tech wins Deadpool

Fans of comic book origin stories and Marvel X-Men series movies were thrilled by Deadpool, the light-hearted, yet very dark action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Blur Studio’s Tim Miller.

Don’t be fooled, friends: this movie may be based on a comic character, but it’s not for kids, as it’s brimming with rude, bawdy body humor and wink-wink metajokes. The film is the highest-grossing of 2016 so far, the 8th highest-grossing ever R-rated film, and took in a huge pile of cash over its release weekend.

Deadpool wasn’t expected to be a success, and film execs only greenlit the film after leaked test footage of CGI (computer graphics images) sequences stunned a legion of diehard fans who accessed it online. Fans went crazy for the trash-talking character and the sly, smart film. A defining moment is the mind-blowing opening sequence, which basically frames the entire movie, garnering incredible attention and huge praise for establishing the irreverent tone of the film.

A Hollywood game-change

Fortune calls the film’s unexpected, phenomenal success a Hollywood game-changer and others have too. The cash it pulled over its release weekend is making the major studios rethink their release schedules as well as the perceived profitability of R-rated films, for one. And the film’s hip, knowing humor and wittily-mixed genres put the comic back in action comics, a genre that was in danger of taking itself too seriously.

But what really pushed the filmic envelope is over-the-top CGI and VFX (visual effects) technology: effects in Deadpool are so clever, sophisticated, and explosively entertaining, fans and Hollywood execs alike were simply floored. Effects were so good, in fact, that few people knew how much CGI and VFX went into the film.

HP boosted the super in this superhero flick

Behind that ultra-high-tech? HP Z Workstations. Let’s walk through the tech. Culver City, California-based Blur Studio produces live action, animation, visual effects, and design, and is co-owned by Tim Miller, who directed Deadpool. In a growing Hollywood trend, studios are doing their own in-house editing of effects, and Deadpool’s unbelievably low $58 million budget shows why.

To get the final go-ahead from Fox execs, Miller and Blur’s tech staff had to develop what’s called pre-viz, or pre-visualization—essentially previews of complex scenes before they’re fully filmed. Usually these previews are basic, with simplified models, lighting, and textures. But Miller had to get his clients to see past that—because Deadpool had not yet been greenlit. Execs said the genre was dead, and they were worried an R-rated film wouldn’t be profitable.

Execs were awestruck by the special effects

But the pre-viz that Miller shared with Fox execs blew the doors and the execs greenlit the film. Blur Studio’s pre-viz process using HP Z Workstations so surpassed expectations and so impressed executives—and the fans who flocked to the leaked footage online—that it’ll change the game for good. Blur and HP Z Workstations have reinvented previsualization compositing and rendering.

Blur techs called the HP Z Workstations “the most smoking-fast computer powerhouses” they had ever used, and the Z840 Workstations equipped with NVIDIA® Quadro®M6000 Graphic cards cut production workflow times in half. Simulations were turned around so quickly that techs could make an additional round of creative changes, increasing creative output and business efficiency.

HP left the competition in the dust

Interestingly enough it took a few tries to get this right. Blur Studio was originally outfitted with five high-end editing bays powered by Mac Pro "tubes" which had to be cycled out 10 timesdue to a now well-known GPU (graphics processing unit) defect. The Mac Pros couldn’t handle the workflow and just melted the GPUs.

Kirby Miller, FX department supervisor, Blur Studio, said “FX simulations can run for days and can only be run on a single machine, so it’s critical to have the fastest possible workstation. HP Z840 Workstations dramatically accelerate this process.”

Special effects and film nerds and geeks will enjoy going deep inside Deadpool’s effects work and learning more about How NVIDIA + HP Zs got Deadpool greenlit.

Have you seen Deadpool yet? Don’t take the kids—you’ll damage them forever—but get ready to be blown away by visual effects that set an entirely new standard.