Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disney's Big Hero 6: Rendered on a 55,000 core SuperComputer & Hyperion, Disney's Brand New Renderer.


Disney's Big Hero 6: Rendered on 55000 core Super Computer.


Source: Engadget

Disney's upcoming animated film Big Hero 6, about a boy and his soft robot (and a gang of super-powered friends), is perhaps the largest big-budget mash-up you'll ever see. Every aspect of the film's production represents a virtual collision of worlds. The story, something co-director Don Hall calls "one of the more obscure titles in the Marvel universe," has been completely re-imagined for parent company Disney. Then, there's the city of San Fransokyo it's set in -- an obvious marriage of two of the most tech-centric cities in the world. And, of course, there's the real-world technology that not only takes center stage as the basis for characters in the film, but also powered the onscreen visuals. It's undoubtedly a herculean effort from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and one that's likely to go unnoticed by audiences.


"We've said it many, many times. We made the movie on a beta renderer," says Hank Driskill, technical supervisor for Big Hero 6. "It was very much in progress." Driskill is referring to Hyperion, the software Disney created from the ground up to handle the film's impressive lighting. It's just one of about three dozen tools the studio used to bring the robotics-friendly world of San Fransokyo to life. Some, like the program Tonic originally created for Rapunzel's hair in Tangled, are merely improved versions of software built for previous efforts, or "shows" as Disney calls them. Hyperion, however, represents the studio's greatest and riskiest commitment to R&D in animation technology thus far. And its feasibility wasn't always a sure thing, something Disney's Chief Technology Officer Andy Hendrickson underscores when he says, "It's the analog to building a car while you're driving it."
"We've said it many, many times. We made the movie on a beta renderer," says Hank Driskill, technical supervisor for Big Hero 6.

For that reason, Hendrickson instructed his team to embark on two development paths for Big Hero 6: the experimental Hyperion and a Plan B that hinged on a commodity renderer. It took a team of about 10 people over two years to build Hyperion, during which time Driskill says resources were being spread 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, as the global-illumination simulator is known, isn't the kind of technology that would excite the average moviegoer. As Hendrickson explains, it handles incredibly complex calculations to account for how "light gets from its source to the camera as it's bouncing and picking up colors and illuminating other things." This software allowed animators to eschew the incredibly time-consuming manual effort to animate single-bounce, indirect lighting in favor of 10 to 20 bounces simulated by the software. It's responsible for environmental effects -- stuff most audiences might take for granted, like when they see Baymax, the soft, vinyl robot featured in the film, illuminated from behind. That seemingly mundane lighting trick is no small feat; it required the use of a 55,000-core supercomputer spread across four geographic locations. Further Detail 
Disney Animation CTO Andy Hendrickson demonstrates Hyperion's real-world lighting simulation.

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