Wellington firm links up with Pixar

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2011
Cars 2
Reuters

IMAGINATION INTO VISION: Pixar's RenderMan software has been used in successful movie franchises such as Harry Potter and Cars.

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Wellington supercomputing start-up GreenButton is working with Disney's animation giant Pixar to make its movie rendering software available to anyone over the web.

The RenderMan software has been used to produce most of the world's latest hits, including by Weta Digital for Avatar and Lord of the Rings, for the Harry Potter movies and kids' favourites Cars and Toy Story.

GreenButton – one of the capital's most promising tech start-ups – has received more than US$1 million from Microsoft and counts several of the country's leading technologists among its investors.

Its application can be built into software products and lets computer users access supercomputer power at the click of a button as they need it and without having to invest in their own systems.

Chief marketing officer Vivian Morresey said it planned to rent out the RenderMan software and processing power to users over the internet, and split the revenue with Pixar.

The software and computing grunt needed to power it had traditionally been beyond the budgets of small to mid-tier animation and visual effects firms and one-man operations, Morresey said.

"We're empowering any organisation to have access to software and computer power they couldn't normally afford.

"All the revenue is going to come through us. It absolutely cements our business model. We're going to take Pixar's No1 application to the world."

Weta Digital managing director Joe Letteri has described the RenderMan software as the ultimate creative tool. "It's the easiest and most flexible way to create a picture from an idea".

Morresey said GreenButton would use Microsoft's cloud computing platform Windows Azure to provide processing power for RenderMan customers.

The Wellington firm was last month named as the global winner of the Windows Azure independent software vendor partner of the year award.

It has a "Global Alliance" with the software giant, that will see the two work together to make Azure available to software users around the world through the GreenButton application.

GreenButton investors include the Government's Venture Investment Fund, Movac founder Phil McCaw, and Datacom founder and rich-lister John Holdsworth.

Its founder and chief executive is former Weta Digital head of technology Scott Houston and its chairman is Fonterra's former chief information officer Marcel van den Assum.

Former Sun Microsystems executive Mark Canepa is also a shareholder and director.

Morresey said the company was talking to firms in data intensive industries, such as the oil and gas, engineering, biological analysis and financial sectors, that could use its application in their software.

GreenButton's application is already embedded in six software products, including Auckland firm Right Hemisphere's Deep Exploration 3-D rendering software, and has more than 4000 registered users in more than 70 countries.

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