Disney rendered its new animated film on a 55,000-core supercomputer

Disney rendered its new animated film on a 55,000-core supercomputer

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Hyperion represents the studio’s greatest and riskiest commitment to R&D in animation technology thus far.

Disney is bringing up its largest big-budget mash-up in the form of its upcoming animated movie called the Big hero 6 which revolves around the story of a boy and his soft robot along with his gang of super powered friends. The process of this film’s production features such a virtual collision of worlds which we might never have witnessed before. The co-director Don Hall refers to the story as “one of the more obscure titles in the Marvel universe” which has been completely re-imagined for Disney.

The most interesting thing is that the story has been set in the city of San Fransokyo which quite obviously represents the marriage of two of the most tech-centric cities in the world. There is tons of real world technology which is obviously seen in the basis for the characters and it does it part fairly well for the onscreen visuals too. The movie in itself as a whole is without a speck of a doubt a herculean effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios and we can bet on our money that this is something the audience won’t be able to ignore.

Hank Driskill, technical supervisor for Big Hero 6 says, “We’ve said it many, many times. We made the movie on a beta renderer. It was very much in progress.” Over here Driskill is referring to the Hyperion software which Disney created from the ground up to handle the film’s impressive lighting. The studio has apparently made use of approximately three dozen tools and this software happens to be one of them. And all this has been brought together to bring the robotics-friendly world of San Fransokyo to life. There are some other kinds of software such as the program Tonic, which was originally designed for the movie Tangled, and they are merely improved versions of software built for previous efforts, or “shows” as Disney calls them.

Hyperion on the other hand is something much greater than this and represents the studio’s greatest and riskiest commitment to R&D in animation technology thus far. However, the feasibility of this wasn’t a sure thing according to Disney’s Chief Technology Officer Andy Hendrickson who says “It’s the analog to building a car while you’re driving it.”

This is why Hendrickson had instructed his team to ensure there should be two different paths for the Big Hero 6: the experimental Hyperion and a Plan B that hinged on a commodity renderer. The team constituted 10 people and it took them all over two years to develop the Hyperion and according to Driskill, the resources were getting thin:

“We were running with a backup plan until around June of last year … [and] we realized we were spending too much energy keeping the backup plan viable. It was detracting in manpower … from pursuing the new idea as fully as we could. So we just said, ‘We’re gonna go for it.’ And we turned off the backup plan.”

Hyperion hasn’t been designed with the idea that it will excite the average moviegoer. In fact Hendrickson has explained that it has the ability to deal with acutely complex calculations in order to account for how “light gets from its source to the camera as it’s bouncing and picking up colors and illuminating other things.” With the help of this software, the animators can eschew the incredibly time-consuming manual effort to animate single-bounce, indirect lighting in favor of 10 to 20 bounces simulated by the software.

This largely takes care of the environmental effects and though they might be taken for granted by the audience, they are highly important. For instance, when the robot is seen in the movie with light reflecting from the back, the little lighting trick might seem like a mundane task but it required the use of a 55,000-core supercomputer spread across four geographic locations.

source: engadget

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