Pacific Data Images (PDI)

 

Pacific Data Images (PDI) started in Sunnyvale, California in 1980, by Carl Rosendahl, Glenn Entis and Richard Chuang. Rosendahl contracted with Rede Globo in Brazil to develop software for their television promotions for the network, and designed some early show opens and specials. As a result, this helped finance the development of their software environment, which included an animation scripting language, modeling, rendering and motion design programs, all written in C. They started their production using DEC VAX systems, but were instrumental in introducing what was called the "superminicomputer" to the production world, in the form of the Ridge 32 computer. It was 2-4 times faster than the VAX 11/780 at a fraction of the cost, and its virtual memory allowed PDI to expand beyond the 2MB memory limitation of the VAXen. Along with Cranston/Csuri, PDI focused on direct to video production, as opposed to film output that was being done at Able and Digital Productions. While CCP used a modified Electronic Still Store (ESS), PDI modified the interface to a Sony BVH-2000 in order to do single frame recording. They also used an IMI500 for motion design.

Some of the early production contracts included Globo, Entertainment Tonight (produced for Harry Marks), ABC Sports 84 Olympic promos, NBC news, the Doughboy for Pillsbury, Crest, and Bud Bowl, etc. While the early focus was on TV network productions (they captured over 50% of that market in 1985), PDI introduced the digital film scanning process in 1990, which they have used to popularize automated rig removal and image touchup. They also were instrumental in introducing performance animation for theme parks, ads and movies, starting with a project with Jim Henson Productions for a real time performance character.

Commercial popularity of morphing was helped along with a music video, Black and White, produced for Michael Jackson in 1990. They broke into the movie production business with contributions to such films as Batman Forever, The Arrival, Terminator 2, Toys, Angels in the Outfield, and produced the 1998 fully CGI hit AntZ. They also produced the Simpson's Halloween Special Homer in 3D in 1995.

The strengths of PDI include character animation, lip synch, rendering effects, the aforementioned rig removal and cleanup, and performance animation. The industry has acknowledged that their employee focused approach to business has helped them succeed where others have failed. PDI has always had a history of letting their animators pursue individual projects and shorts, and they have produced award winners in this category, including: Opera Industrial (86), Chromosaurus, Cosmic Zoom and Burning Love (88), Locomotion (89), Gas Planet (92), Sleepy Guy and Bric-a-Brac (94).

Entis left PDI for the game industry in 1995, joining Dreamworks Interactive (now Electronic Arts) as CEO. He earned a Scientific and Technical Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is a founding board member of Los Angeles' Digital Coast Roundtable, and is chairman of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Carl Rosendahl sold his interest in PDI and left in 2000 to become managing director for Mobius Venture Capital and a board member of iVAST, an MPEG4 software company, and several other Bay Area technology firms.

In March 1996, PDI signed a co-production deal with DreamWorks SKG to create original computer-generated feature films, including ANTZ. In February 2000, DreamWorks acquired the majority interest in PDI to form, PDI/DreamWorks. Under this union, SHREK, PDI's second animated feature film, hit theaters in spring 2001. SHREK 2 is currently in production with a 2004 release date, and PDI is developing MADAGASGAR.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) recognized PDI's proprietary animation system with an Oscar, a technical achievement award in 1997. PDI R&D team-member, Nick Foster, was awarded a 1998 A.M.P.A.S. technical achievement certificate for his development of software tools built to simulate water and fluid.

 

PDI's Web page

 

Batman

Pillsbury Doughboy

Gas Planet

Homer goes from 2D to 3D

Homer in the 3D environment

Homer returns to the "real" world

Carl Rosendahl

Richard Chuang

Glenn Entis presenting a video game development award

Metropopular

Name Came from Went to Comments
Carl Rosendahl Stanford Mobius Venture  
Richard Chuang      
Glenn Entis Ohio Wesleyan Dreamworks Interactive  
Thad Bier NYIT    
Michael Collery Ohio State    
Carlos Arguello      
Don Venhaus      
Roger Gould      
Many others...