Rendering Cars Ain’t Fast

Back when I was a producer at a Visual Effects Company in Western Canada, one of the constant struggles we had when working with a deadline was not doing the actuall artistic work… but rather how on earth… once the artistic work is done… to get everything rendered in time.

What do I mean by “RENDERED”? Well, a basic definition would be this: The artist finishes telling the computer what the image is to look like, where the light sources in the scene will be, if there is any snow or rain in it… reflections off of glass or water… all the movement and blurs. Once the artist finishes that process, it is now up to the computer to actually produce what the artist has told it to produce. This process is called “Rendering”. And rendering takes time… lots and lots of time!

How much time? Well put it this way. Movies are made up of frames. There are 24 frames in ever second of film you see (24fps). So, 3 seconds of film is actually 72 frames. It takes HOURS for a computer processor to render a single frame!!! Now, some frames are easier than others. Frames with less movement, a single light source, no shadows or reflections will render much quicker than more complicated ones.

To get over this, we would have to hook up about 20 computers together, each with 2 processors in them, and get those computers to render a frame at a time (so 40 frames were being worked on at all times).

Joel just sent me this great link to the rendering headaches the folks at Pixar had working on Cars. Each FRAME in cars took up to 17 HOURS to render:

The average time to render a single frame of film for “CARS” was 17 hours. Even with a sophisticated network of 3000 computers, and state-of-the-art lightning fast processors that operate up to four times faster than they did on “The Incredibles,” it still took many days to render a single second of finished film.

If this sort of thing interests you at all… you should really head over to Rotten Tomatoes and give the whole article a read. It’s pretty damn interesting. You can get to the article here.

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8 thoughts on “Rendering Cars Ain’t Fast

  1. Pixar use is own rendering software, renderman, one of the top renderer. And they used blazing fast dual-core server to render thier movies. And it’s takes 17 hours to get a 2048 x 1556 resolution image, but there is high quality raytracing and motion blur/depth of field.

  2. I read somewhere that it took almost a year to render the last LOTR…So now we know why great movies have to wait..or in other words we have to wait for the addendums to them. In actuality great movies are great writing, great storytelling, great acting..and the rendering can enhance or get in the way. AKA, Cars… Story line was mediocre as was much of the diaglogue.

  3. bearing in mind that HD is the new thing, do studios have to render at higher resolutions now? or are cgi movies always rendered at a set rez (1024×768 for example) as upping the rez, could have a knock on effect. I have no idea how large they render each frame, but it must be quite large to get it to look good on the big screen. But saying that, maybe they don’t need to render at higher resolutions and they’ve just lowered the rez for dvd releases in the past. I have absolutely no idea about this process but it’s got me wonderin about it when I should be workin, (yes another brit at work reading the movieblog, you should have a poll on how many people read this at work).

  4. Rendering does take time, but technology moves ahead with amazing speed.

    The parting of the red sea sequence in Prince of Egypt (1998) used almost double the total(!) rendering time of Titanic (1997).

    So moving 4 times quicker than the incredibles seems low to me, but maybe technology isnt moving as fast as it was back then.

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