This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

MTV2’s "Video Mods" boosts IBC Digital with CCR's help

Published: August 25, 2005

Contributing Editor

The new season of MTV2's video game and music program "Video Mods" is, in part, the result of an innovative partnership between IBC Digital, the Buffalo company that produces the "mods" and UB's supercomputing center.


Characters from "Star Wars Episode III" populate MTV2's new "Video Mods" series, which was produced by Buffalo's IBC digital and rendered by UB's CCR.

IBC Digital—which has more than doubled in size to 19 employees, thanks to the MTV2 contract—cites its connections with UB's Center for Computational Research (CCR) as key to landing this contract.

"We could never have done this without CCR," says Ben Porcari, founder and president of IBC Digital, who successfully pitched MTV2 for the project with New York City-based freelance director Frank Drucker, a Buffalo native and UB alumnus.

"CCR now has the computing power of a company like Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic," says Porcari. "If we didn't have this partnership with CCR, the project would not have been financially viable for us."

CCR is part of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

At CCR, the newest 1,600-processor Dell supercomputer, which is in the final stages of installation, is able to complete overnight the calculation-intensive final filmmaking process called rendering.

"Using hundreds of computers simultaneously allowed us to render a video that would take 3,000 hours—125 full days—of computer time on a PC in a mere eight hours," said Porcari, "allowing for more complicated visual effects and a much higher production value than otherwise possible."

The rendering process is the final stage in which the correct lighting, textures and shading are added, transforming flat-looking, 3-D computer models into images with authentic, lifelike characteristics.

Generating around 30 images per second, the rendering process fleshes out the visual details so that the final product appears more natural to viewers.

The rendering, as well as significant technical and artistic contributions to the videos, were carried out by CCR staff members Adrian Levesque and Martins Innus.

Porcari explained that in light of the challenging schedule the project demanded, companies that don't have access to a supercomputer get one shot at rendering and then have to ship it off.

"On the other hand, UB's supercomputers allowed for IBC Digital staff to review the videos after the initial rendering and to reprocess portions of the video to improve quality and remove imperfections," explained Tom Furlani, CCR deputy director.

IBC Digital must deliver a new show every month, a very challenging schedule that makes speed and efficiency essential.

That's the kind of opportunity that CCR is designed uniquely to address.

"Since CCR's inception, we have made it a priority to provide education, outreach and training in high-performance computing and high-end visualization to the UB and Western New York public and private-sector communities," said Russ Miller, CCR director and UB Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.

"Such efforts typically lead to economic development in the region. This project with MTV2 came about purely as a result of CCR's strong belief in working with local companies on projects of mutual interest. It shows the world that Western New York is rich in technology."

For its part, CCR had a chance to "test drive" its newest Dell supercomputer flat out on the MTV2 project, a task that CCR staff said it more than met and that bodes extremely well for the cluster's main mission supporting CCR's 140 research groups at UB and at a dozen local companies and research institutes.

"Video Mods" is a monthly series that airs at 11 p.m. Eastern Time on MTV2. By mixing some of today's most popular video games and characters with the latest music videos and artists, each episode of "Video Mods" provides an entirely new experience for music and video game fans alike. This season's "Video Mods" includes: Franz Ferdinand's hit "Take Me Out," reconstructed with the Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith video game; Sum 41's "Pieces," overhauled with the game Destroy All Humans!; Good Charlotte's "Predictable" features Darkwatch; and My Chemical Romance's "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," recreated with Death Jr. In addition, "Video Mods" will feature Machinima-Breaking Benjamin's "So Cold" music video based on Half-Life 2. In upcoming episodes, MTV2's "Video Mods" takes on videos from the Beastie Boys, Ciara, Yellowcard, Taking Back Sunday and The Killers with games like NBA Street V3, Medal of Honor European Assault, Dance Dance Revolution, Silent Hill and Lineage II: the Chaotic Chronicle.