The design of a 3D animated movie is one of the most intensive computer-aided tasks, both in terms of computing power and hardware resources
Ilion Animation Studios, which has designed the 3D animation feature Planet 51, currently enjoying global success, has selected Bull to design and upgrade its server farm dedicated to graphics rendering. Thanks to these servers, designers and developers at Ilion Animation Studios worked all together to create every single image in the movie through a high speed network connection enabling them to exchange information.
“Following the successful launch of bullx – recently named as the world’s best supercomputer by HPCwire in the USA, the leading site covering the entire High Performance Computing ecosystem – Bull Group has once again proved, through this collaboration, that it is at the very heart of the digital economy,” commented Didier Lamouche, Chairman and CEO of Bull.
“We were impressed by Bull’s remarkable ability to design and configure solutions in extremely critical situations, involving a multitude of systems and, above all, very strict deadlines,” explains Gonzalo Rueda, IT Director at Ilion.
The Planet 51 project was born in 2002. Since then, Ilion Animation Studios has created an entire parallel universe around Planet 51 using leading-edge technologies. The result is an incredible visual experience which cannot be compared with any other animated film. Over 350 people from more than 20 countries worldwide have worked on Planet 51 – including designers, developers, engineers and many other professionals – with a budget of some $70 million.
Designing a 3D animated movie is one of the most compute-intensive tasks in terms of computing power and hardware resources. Creating a frame not only requires high levels of creativity from the animation designers but also many complex algorithms to render textures, shadows, volumes, shiny effects and other characteristics that come to together to give a genuine sense of realism. Each frame which makes up the movie involves a graphics generation process that is managed by intensive computing machines. Depending on the image resolution being used and the complexity of the scene, this process can take from a few minutes to over three hours, and the only way to speed it up is to call on more computing power.
Ilion Animation Studios has had its own server farm based on a version of Microsoft Windows designed for High-Performance Computing (HPC) for a number of years now, and this platform has been used since 2002 to render the graphics for Planet 51. Like any mass market film scheduled for worldwide release, Planet 51 has had to follow an extremely strict time-table. Because of this, the IT Managers at Ilion defined the processing power they needed to complete the movie on time. They determined that the initial power available to them would eventually need to be doubled, and based on the type of processors available to them they worked out the minimum number of processing cores and amount of memory needed in the Data Center. They also defined other kinds of requirements that supplier offerings had to address. That is where they called on the skills of Tangram, software supplier of graphics rendering and Bull, expert in the design of large-scale server clusters for intensive computing.
Bull’s Extreme Computing solution
The Extreme Computing solution provided by Bull consisted of a cluster including computing nodes and a management node, connected to the storage system and other Ilion servers via an Ethernet Gigabit network. Bull has proven expertise in Extreme Computing and in the implementation of Microsoft’s Windows HPC Server, a platform which is characterized by its high capacity for parallelism and its Job Scheduler system.
Within a month, the Bull supercomputer was ready to run, thanks to the involvement of a team of a dozen specialists from Bull France and Spain. The solution was clear proof of the high level of technological expertise of the team involved in the project.