Tag Archives: CGI

Rendering Disney’s Animated Movie Big Hero 6

Peter Lobner

Disney rendered the animated film Big Hero 6 on a 55,000-core supercomputer.

Disney Big Hero 6

Read the story at the following link:  https://www.engadget.com/2014/10/18/disney-big-hero-6/?guccounter=1

The 1984 movie The Last Starfighter, along with Disney’s Tron, has the distinction of being one of cinema’s earliest films to use extensive computer generated imagery (CGI) to depict its many starships, environments and battle scenes.  A total of 27 minutes of The Last Starfighter were rendered on a Cray X-MP, which was a 4-core machine with a total computing performance of 0.8 GFLOPS/sec (GFLOP/sec = billion floating point operations per second).  
In comparison, Big Hero 6 used a modern 55,000 core supercomputer.  To estimate it’s computing performance, I scaled the known 2012 performance of the 75,000 core IBM Yellowstone supercomputer to get an estimate of 1.2 PFLOP/second (PFLOP/sec = million billion floating point operations per second). So the supercomputer used by Disney in 2014 to render Big Hero 6 has 1.5 million times the computing performance of the Cray X-MP used in 1984 to render The Last Starfighter.  
That’s pretty good progress in 30 years, and pretty consistent with what you would expect using Moore’s Law (basically, computing power of new computers doubles about every two years) over that period.