Cool Stuff: A Look At Pixar And LucasFilm's Renderfarms

Have you ever wondered how many computers it takes for Pixar to render their big screen 3d animated films or ILM to render giant transforming robotic aliens? I understand this area of filmmaking might not be interesting to everyone, but I find it fascinating. Besides being a huge film geek, I'm somewhat of a techie as well. The first time I had the opportunity to visit LucasFilm, they actually showed me the company's huge renderfarm, a room in the basement housing all the computer servers used for all the LucasFilm, LucasArts and ILM productions. I took the photo above.

A few videos have been circulating the interwebs this week giving us a glimpse at the tech behind LucasFilm and Pixar, the San Francisco Bay Area's two big film companies. Watch them now, after the jump.

First up is CNet's video tour of LucasFilm's Renderfarm:

The campus has a 13,500-square-foot data center, which houses a render farm, file servers and storage systems. The set-up includes more than 3,000 AMD processors, proprietary render-management tools, allowing desktop workstations to be added to the render farm pool after hours, expanding the processing capacity to more than 5,000 processors.

Here is some more information about the impressive tech employed at LucasFilm's Letterman Digital Arts Center:

  • A state-of-the-art high-performance data network with more than 300 10-gigabyte ports and 1,500 1-gigabyte ports — the largest in the entertainment industry
  • Fiber-optics cable pulled to every artist desktop, enabling Lucasfilm to deliver high-resolution images to each digital artist
  • 600 miles of cable throughout the four buildings on the campus
  • Raised floors throughout the building, opening the layout of the studio and enabling the workspace to be reconfigured with each new project
  • Data storage (at opening) of more than 100 terabytes
  • A Media Data Center to host custom-designed media servers to deliver high-resolution images to the on-campus digital theaters, screening rooms and desktops
  • Systems for image and sound editing, color management and correction, and high-speed compositing

  • A Media Control Room that manages media input, output, format conversions and duplication
  • One thing is for sure, I wouldn't want to be flipping through this book if something went wrong.

    Next up is a look at Pixar's render farm. This video is a bit more interesting to tech geeks than it will be to non tech geeks. Cold Aisle Containment presented a case study at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit about Pizar's server set-up. The case study features a lot of numbers and information, but little in the form of photos or video. Because of that, I've also included some photos of Pixar's set-up below:

    The first photo of Pixar's renderfarm comes from Rotten Tomatoes:


    The second photo of Pixar's renderfarm comes from milomix:


    And here is a close-up of the neon sign by the company that created it, Aargon Neon:


    via: twitter