Popular Hollywood Movies that Utilizes Linux

Posted by jun auza On 3/10/2016
Hollywood, with all its glitz and glamour, seems like the last place you'll find the mighty penguin's influence. Well thankfully for all Linux fans, the truth is quite the opposite. The open source operating system has played a key role in turning many directorial dreams into silver screen successes. What attracts the billion-dollar industry to this 'free as in free beer' operating system is not its price. In fact, it is Linux's unmatched performance is what makes it the preferred choice over some of the top-of-the-line operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X.

Be it screenwriting, animation, editing, or post production, Linux can be used in pretty much every department involved in the making of a major motion picture. If you're wondering where exactly the mighty penguin has impacted Los Angeles, sit tight as we list some of the most prominent examples of Linuxian influence in Hollywood movies.

Scooby-Doo (The Movie)

Scooby-Doo was a popular 2002 flick by Warner Brothers starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. Adapted from the popular cartoon series, this was the first live action movie in the franchise. Since the success of the movie relied on portraying an animated dog, and not just any dog, but the mighty Scooby Doo himself, the pressures were high. And this, my friends, is the scene wherein Linux steps in to save the day.

Animators of the post-production studio Rhythm & Hues used about a hundred Linux desktops to make the popular Hannah-Barbara look as realistic as possible. Using Film Gimp (now Cinepaint http://www.cinepaint.org/ ) and other proprietary Linux-based tools, the open-source desktop was a key contributor to the movie's success. No wonder, Scooby-Doo was the 15th most successful film of 2012 with an official box-office gross of more than $275 millions.

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a 2002 Oscar-nominated movie that has grossed over $122 million so far. On June 3rd 2002, in a press release, HP announced that Linux played a critical role in the production of the movie. It was also the first movie to place Linux in the hands of animators giving them power to create a unique blend of 2D and 3D animation. Furthermore, it also helped power Dreamworks' proprietary 2D animation software Toonshooter thanks to HP's high-power Linux workstations. 

Karen Duffin from HP had the following to say about Linux:

"This deal also signifies a larger emerging trend - the shift in Hollywood
from proprietary (a la SGI's IRIX systems) to open source platforms, and
HP's leading role in this evolution.  Many of the major studios are moving
over to Linux, but DreamWorks is pioneering this movement. The evolving
relationship between HP and DreamWorks and the movies emerging from the
multi-year alliance is indicative of this movement."

Source: https://lwn.net/Articles/1712/


Shrek the Third

Shrek the Third is another great movie where Linux was involved in the making. Released in 2007, the third installment of the popular animated movie franchise grossed over 322 million dollars at the box office. DreamWorks with their powerhouse animation backend of more than 1,000 desktops and more than 3,000 server CPUs relied heavily on Linux for bringing the movie to fruition. What was more important was that Shrek pushed the limits of where animation can go with the accurate detailing of the models' hair and flow dresses. Furthermore, the movie also included lighting and effects that were rarely found in movies at that time. You can read more about the involvement of Linux in the movie on a Linux Journal article.


Probably one of the biggest movies ever made, Titanic ranks amongst the movies with the best special effects. According to Box Office mojo, the current worldwide gross of the Oscar-winning masterpiece stands at a whopping $2,186,772,302. And yes, here too, Linux had a big part to play in the making of the film. Titanic, as you may know, relied heavily on the use of visual effects. A risky move at that time considering they had to create a complete ship from the ground up and everything from the water to the flag on the ship was to be pure CGI. Despite having a lot of choices in the operating systems department, no other OS proved as powerful as Linux to give birth to one of the biggest cinematic experiences of the decade.  

Digital Domain, the company responsible for the visual effects of Titanic had the following to say about Linux:

"The Linux systems worked incredibly well for our problems. The cost benefit was overwhelmingly positive even including the engineering resources we devoted to the problems. The Alpha Linux turned out to be slightly more difficult than first expected, but the state of Alpha Linux is improving very rapidly and should be substantially better now.

Digital Domain will continue to improve and expand the tools we have available on these systems. We are engendering the development of more commercial and in-house applications available on Linux. We are requesting that vendors port their applications and libraries. At this time, the Linux systems are only used for batch processing, but we expect our compositing software to be used interactively by our digital artists. This software does not require dedicated acceleration hardware, and the speed provided by the Alpha processor is a great benefit to productivity." 


Time and again, Linux has played a huge role in successes of many Hollywood blockbusters and continues to do so till this day. It is not just the low cost that has made Linux such an attractive choice for high-profile media studios, it is also the unmatched performance it offers that easily outshines what Apple or Microsoft offers.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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