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What does it take computationally to render a Dreamworks type movie?

NobleSavage

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I'm having a small company animate a video for work and I was surprised that they had to upload it to a render farm. We are simulating particle flow and I understand that is part of the issue, so what does it take to render a modern full length animated movie?
 

Loren Pechtel

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I'm having a small company animate a video for work and I was surprised that they had to upload it to a render farm. We are simulating particle flow and I understand that is part of the issue, so what does it take to render a modern full length animated movie?

As you have found out--a render farm.
 

NobleSavage

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I'm having a small company animate a video for work and I was surprised that they had to upload it to a render farm. We are simulating particle flow and I understand that is part of the issue, so what does it take to render a modern full length animated movie?

As you have found out--a render farm.

But how many acres are we talking?
 

NobleSavage

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Ok, here is some stats on Pixar and Cars 2:

One of the keys to Pixar's ability to do what it does is the giant, powerful render farm located in its main headquarters building here. This is serious computing power, and on "Cars 2," it required an average of 11.5 hours to render each frame.

But some sequences were especially complex, particularly those involving ray tracing--which involves simulating light hitting surfaces, essentially "trying to simulate photons." And as a result, a huge amount of computing power was needed to process frames that took as much as 80 or 90 hours to render, Shah said. And that meant that the studio "bulked up our render farm."

He said that Pixar had to triple its size, and today, the render farm features 12,500 cores on Dell render blades. As well, the file servers, network backbone, and every other piece of the computing puzzle was boosted in order to handle the making of "Cars 2."

But Pixar's next films are sure to tax even that computing infrastructure, Shah said. Those movies will benefit from the scaling out done for "Cars 2," but the next projects will surely offer up their own creative challenges that could force the studio to expand the render farm yet again. Shah said things like human characters and their skin, hair, and cloth are sure to stretch even today's farm to its limits.

http://gizmodo.com/5813587/12500-cpu-cores-were-required-to-render-cars-2
 

Jimmy Higgins

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Wow! I remember using Studio 3DS (I think that is what it was called) back in '94. The program created these odd MPEG video files. I remember making a very simple roller coaster and it taking all night to render. Of course, this is back in the 386/486 days.

I'm stunned it takes 11 hours to render a single frame with all of the tech we have today. Granted, the animation has gotten extremely detailed. About the only cool thing about Frozen was the snow.
 

dystopian

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It really depends on a number of things. As already mentioned, raytracing is one of the biggest issues. You can do raytracing quickly if you want, even in real-time (the first example of proper real-time raytracing I saw was the at the time impressive 64KB intro Gamma by MFX from 1997. This was the first example of raytracing done at a decent FPS. Though it was done better by Heaven Seven by Exceed back in 2000, which is regarded as a classic. Of course, that´s if you keep your scenes relatively simple and don´t expect the same level of quality of an all bells and whistle non-real time raytrace approach.

Subsurface scattering, reflections, shadow effects, and various Post-processing effects can also add large amounts of time to the rendering of a frame, and of course the resolution you´re working at. Pixar and the like undoubtedly render at extreme resolutions.
 

dystopian

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Or you could make a nice model, and film that.

That doesn't always work. Practical effects have their place, but there's things that they just can't do; especially in terms of the actual animation. Animatronics don't allow for the wide range of motion that CGI allows; even the most advanced animatronic puppets in film have difficulty moving in a life-like manner; and for the money required to build the rigs neccessary to approximate life-like motion you might as well go the CGI route and get a better result. CGI also allows for effects that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with practical effects; especially when you start scaling scenes up. The trick is to not go overboard on CGI; or to have it be subtle enough that you don't even realize its CGI. It's easy to have a mostly CGI movie become too 'shiny', the CGI too 'perfect', which makes it less believable. But when handled properly, the results will beat the pure practical effects route everytime.
 

Jimmy Higgins

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Or you could make a nice model, and film that.
According to an article, Aardman can film about two minutes in a week, so yeah, that is quicker. ;)

Can't wait to see that film.

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Or you could make a nice model, and film that.

I actually liked the old Star Wars movies where they used models compared to the new CGI crap.
The effects wouldn't be as bad if they movies would have been better.
 

bilby

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According to an article, Aardman can film about two minutes in a week, so yeah, that is quicker. ;)

Can't wait to see that film.

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Or you could make a nice model, and film that.

I actually liked the old Star Wars movies where they used models compared to the new CGI crap.
The effects wouldn't be as bad if they movies would have been better.

Yup. Tell a good enough story well enough, and the audience will be too engaged to even notice minor flaws in the sets.
 
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