3D Imaging and Animation

So my daughter is becoming addicted to Polar Express, so I’ve watched it about 5 times in the last week or so. What an amazing film! Sure, the story is fantastic and has a great message, but what really impresses me is the computer animation. I remember watching Monsters, Inc and being impressed, but it’s different when they try to model human faces and the complex expressions. Monsters, Inc was almost all cartoon style characters rather than human bodies and faces.

I’ve got a buddy who is really getting into 3D animation and he just marvels at the complexity of developing the models for just one scene. It’s good they have some incredibly powerful computers to handle the rendering. In fact, Post Magazine has this to say about the required computer resources:

… in both 2D and 3D, they brought online a renderfarm of over 1,200 processors to crunch through the nearly 70TB of data from both versions…

Seventy TeraBytes… that’s crazy! For those that may not be familiar with the whole Byte thing, here’s a little math. One GigaByte is 1024 MegaBytes and most of our hard drives now days are 40 to 250 GB. Now, a single TeraByte is 1024 GB. So a single TB is just over 4 of the larger hard drives available. Most typical computers still come with hard drives of less than 100 GB, so we’ll use that number as something more common. So one TB is just over 10 of our typical hard drives. We are then talking 700 typical hard drives completely full of video data.

And 1200 processors! That’s crazy too! And we aren’t talking 700 MegaHertz processors like my old two processor computer. I’m sure these processors are 3+ GigaHertz machines. That’s a lot of processing power. It would be really interesting to find out how long it took to process all that data, even with all that power. I wouldn’t doubt if it took a couple weeks to complete.

It just makes me wonder what’s around the corner. All I know is it’s going to be pretty amazing!

Update: Just saw Polar Express in 3D at the IMAX. Very, very impressive! My wife had, what she calls, the “tummy tickles” on several of the scenes because of the stunning realism. It’s amazing how much more detail you see when it’s in 3D.

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