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Rendering Shrek@Home?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the render-it-like-pork dept.

The Internet 345

JimCricket writes "There's an interesting piece at Download Aborted about using distributed computing (a la SETI@Home,, etc.) in the film industry. With the recent release of Shrek 2, which required a massive amount of CPU time to complete, one must wonder why the film industry doesn't solicit help from their fans. I'd gladly trade some spare CPU time in exchange for the coolness of seeing a few frames of Shrek 3 rendered on my screensaver!"

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FP (-1, Offtopic) (782137) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260107)

And a dupe, from yesterday.

Slashdot is on a roll!

Doubt it'll happen... (5, Insightful)

Zweistein_42 (753978) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260111)

Security issues would be a concern I'm sure. There's plenty of hackers who'd see no harm in, for example, extracting a number of images from around the world and sticthing a trailer, etc. And of course, rendering is a "trial-and-error" process - would they want people to have access to broken scenes? Or deleted scenes? Speculation would seriously dampen their ability to control marketing and release info. On the technical side, farms are reliable and predictable. Who can figure out how many fans will keep their computers up tonight for the critical preview tomorrow? What about the decline of interest after first little while? Distributed computing of this sort isn't well suited for commercial projects with fixed schedules. Not that I don't think it'd be COOL... I just don't think it'll happen :-/

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (3, Interesting)

mgoodman (250332) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260165)

Also, there is bound to be a fan site created that would allow users to upload their rendered images and somebody would manage to piece it together into a halfway coherent movie. Then some nerd would mystery science theatre 3000 it and it would become an internet phenomenon. Hmmm, maybe that's not a bad thing...

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (5, Informative)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260267)

There'd be no sound.

I'm sure people would sit through it anyway, though.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (1, Redundant)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260367)

Oh, great. Fansubs.

Now I'm trying to erase those mental images of Shrek speaking in a high tenor, and Fiona singing bass.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (5, Interesting)

frenetic3 (166950) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260216)

I'm not a film tech -- but besides abuse and security issues, what's proposed here is just does not seem possible under low bandwidth conditions. it's not like you can just run off to computer #2,398 and say "go render frame 1,503" -- there are textures and models and state information that probably total somewhere on the order of gigabytes (give or take a factor of ten) in order to render that frame. Joe Dialup isn't going to be able to handle that; the film studios I'm sure have crazy fiber/multi-gigabit interconnects within their rendering farms.

If they could find a way to offload some intermediate calculations (like deformations of hair or fabric or something that can be used as an intermediate result in a scene) then that might be a clever use for a [] style technique.


Re:Doubt it'll happen... (2, Interesting)

mirio (225059) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260230)

You make valid points although most (maybe all) of your points could be eliminated by having multiple hosts render the same frame (a la SETI's response to people uploading false data).

Hah (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260300)

Not that I don't think it'd be COOL... I just don't think it'll happen :-/

All you really need is the proper motivation to write a Render Worm that spreads to other computers and coopts their spare CPU time to pick up instructions somewhere, render (using your hacked together code for PoV or some such) and deliver the results to you (yeah, you might have a problem with your mailbox filling up or trying to retrieve without getting caught, but it's possible and stupider things have been (and are being) done.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (2, Interesting)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260301)

In theory this is a good application for Distributed Computing. I doubt it would ever happen in practice. Maybe for an indie but not for Pixar. The funny part would be someone hacking one of the scene and throwing something else in in it's place. Kinda like the part from Fight club.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (-1, Redundant)

nocomment (239368) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260303)

I agree that it would be cool, but the difference is that seti uses files that are a few hundredK and it takes my barton core processor 3+ hours per file (typical is 6 hours according to the seti page). Why on earth would they want to let the frames from Shrek get out onto the net where rampant piracy and trading would ensue, just so your computer could turn in a frame a week? I'm not sure of the resolution of each frame, but looking at the eyebrows on Shrek it's got to be pretty high.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260319)

And of course, rendering is a "trial-and-error" process

I'm reminded of a in-the-making-of extra that was included on the Shrek DVD, where they were talking about the tweaking for the clothing model. When Shrek picked her up, Princess Fiona's dress went up over her head. /me watches the local stores for the run on Shrek DVDs.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (4, Interesting)

swordboy (472941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260341)

But this opens up a whole new world to the independents. Shrek2 just shattered all kinds of records [] in terms of cash. And there are no real actors.

So what happens when a few talented indies get their paws on the processing power required to blow the doors off of convetional actors? It won't be goodbye to Hollywood just yet but I can't wait for the first CG/Anime crossover. I can't imagine how Cowboy Bebop would fare if it didn't have the cartoon stigma.

Re:Doubt it'll happen... (1)

Unnngh! (731758) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260349)

To my knowledge, SETI@home has never really been tampered with. There were a few vulnerabilities found over the years which were patched quickly. People did spoof their work unit counts but this should be fixed with boinc. Security doesn't seem like the biggest concern.

As far as IP data, that's fine, why go with a big studio? This may give smaller firms the means to do high quality CG animation that they otherwise could not afford, if they'd be willing to give up their "trade secrets." Maybe not Shrek 3, but it could be cool nonetheless.

I had this idea a long time ago :) (1)

Mick Ohrberg (744441) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260113)

This is a great idea... I wonder if you could get a section of the frame(s) you (helped) to render...

Re:I had this idea a long time ago :) (4, Insightful)

DetrimentalFiend (233753) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260144)

I beg to differ. I suspect that the reason why no one's ever bothered suggesting this is that the amount of bandwidth required to download the frame data and upload the rendered frame are prohibitively large. Besides that, the licensing costs for the rendering technology would be enormous, and what film company would want to freely distribute all of the models, textures, and animation that they spent dozens of man-years working on?

I doubt it... (5, Funny)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260179)

I wonder if you could get a section of the frame(s) you (helped) to render...

/.ers would combine their powers and probubally have a lot of the movie weeks before it was released.

Re:I doubt it... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260310)

Why go through the trouble? Movies are often available on the internet weeks before their release date, without the trouble of stitching the thing together frame by frame. And since you only need the video information to render the frame, there would be no audio. What would be the use of the movie without the audio

Re:I doubt it... (3, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260333)

Why go through the trouble?

The simple answer is to see if you can. It's /. so of course someone would try.

Get real. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260114)

If you can see it you can steal it. Think the Studios want to distribute their incomplete movie all over the internet?!

Re:Get real. (1)

cryptor3 (572787) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260255)

The Studios are already distributing incomplete copies over the internet. That's Overpeer for you.

Making things worse (5, Funny)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260117)

Don't animators already insert single-frame porn, etc into these things?

Can you imagine how quickly the client software would get hacked, and how crappy the movie resulting from nothing but single-frame porn shots would be, especially to photosensitive epileptics?

Re:Making things worse (4, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260211)

Right. The gang of protagonists walk into a cave. But, the cave looks familiar somehow. It's the fingers holding the entrance widely open that tips us off. They don't belong there. We look closer at the cave and fear the worst for our band of animated heroes.

That's not a cave, it's a space station.

Re:Making things worse (1)

ambulatory bi-pod (611089) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260228)

...or projectionists, like Tyler Durden?

Re:Making things worse (1)

strictnein (318940) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260232)

Cruising with Trolls, ACs, & Foes at -6 and feeling fine.

The strange thing is, I started to enjoy slashdot more after I dropped my threshold to -1. Why some of the crap can get annoying, it's a much less filtered discussion (posts that go against the slashdot groupthink can actually be read)

Re:Making things worse (1) (583077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260296)

"Don't animators already insert single-frame porn, etc into these things?"

Is Tyler Durden an animator?

Re:Making things worse (4, Interesting)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260298)

Amusing, but easily dealt with: triple the amount of work done.

If you send the same input to three different IP addresses (extra-paranoid: use three different top-level IP blocks) and get the same result back, you can be reasonably certain that the result is valid. If there are -any- discrepancies in the images, assume that one (or more) was improperly rendered, discard all three, and try again with three new addresses.

Even should you manage to hit three different IP addresses that return the exact same 'hacked' image, it's not exactly hard for an editor to step through the movie frame-by-frame, looking for discrepancies...

Re:Making things worse (1)

ThaenRT (542127) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260312)

No, they don't.

Movies are only displayed at 24fps. If they were splicing frames of porn, you'd notice.


Re:Making things worse (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260313)

The easy solution would be to just have each frame rendered twice, by independant nodes, and if they don't match then you know you have a buggy or hacked node that needs blacklisted. Given a distributed base like this the cost of rendering frames twice wouldn't be bad.

MPAA (3, Interesting)

MandoSKippy (708601) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260121)

I wonder if that would be considered pirating by the MPAA. Smart people out there would figure out a way to "download" the movie from the frame generated. Then there would be no reason to see it in the theater. Just playing the devils advocate. Personally I think it would be REALLY cool :)

Re:MPAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260173)

I don't think anyone wants to hear the voice of "3l33t1053r" instead of Mike Meyers. Remember, the frames may be rendered on your PC's, but the audio won't be.....

Re:MPAA (1)

RTPMatt (468649) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260318)

Yes, of course a movie lacking sound is really not worth seeing IMHO.

Ok... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260122)

So, what was the point of posting this to /. again?

This made the front page? (5, Informative)

jbellis (142590) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260124)

Easy: Pixar and Dreamworks have both developped highly proprietary rendering technology. They're not about to just give copies to everyone who wants one. Even if the renderer itself weren't reverse-engineered, which isn't beyond the realm of possibility, it would likely be far easier to decipher the protocol used and voila, a functioning copy of [Pixar|Dreamworks]'s renderer.

Lobotomizing it to the point where this wouldn't be useful would probably make it useless for distributing the workload as well.

Astroturfing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260221)

or perhaps this Article was just another chance for hollywood to promote their crap movie's [] to a large audience again ?

NOT proprietary rendering technology (4, Informative)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260253)

Both studios are using Renderman compliant renderers, so that's not the issue.

And there's no reason that any one machine has to render an entire image file. You could have any node build N number of scanlines and send the packet back home.

The risk would be someone running a port monitor on the return address, and re-assembling digital image files.

Difficult to police... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260126)

Surely this would be a bit difficult to co-ordinate. You'd need someone checking every single frame of information that was returned, just to make sure there were no 'Tyler Durden' style additions to the movie!

Re:Difficult to police... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260161)

So the rumors of single cells with a naked Fairy Godmother aren't true? No!!!

copyright (3, Insightful)

ciscoeng (411359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260127)

How would the legal aspect work out? Seems like you'd have to sign a fairly strict license saying the movie studio still owns what your computer rendered, copyright, etc.

Very cool idea nonetheless.

Re:copyright (1)

somethinghollow (530478) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260289)

What they would do is allow you to render their movie for them, then get confused and sue your ass for having copyrighted material on your computer. They will say distributed computing is basically the same thing P2P. Damn click-through licenses.

Really, though... if they would allow you to earn free tickets for rendering "rent", it'd be worth it. Say a dollar for every second (or so) of video you render, with some cap on how much money in ticket vouchers you can earn. Then go to fandango to redeem them. I'd bet the renting scenario would leverage some of these license / fair use things out some, assuming the people don't rape you from the get-go. We aren't dealing with the MPAA in this instance, but rather someone like Weta or Pixar (maybe bad examples, as they may be tied to a Studio, but I'm not an expert here)... someone hired to do work for a film paid for by MPAA studios (maybe). The 3D companies that work for MPAA Studios aren't EVIL, AFAIK.

Re:copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260354)

copyWriTE.. not copyRiGHT

The Green Men you've been waiting for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260135)

Each of you can help in our quest for the Green Men that are in the heads of our animators and drafters.

Just like SETI@Home, but this instead of searching, we're rendering. Results you can see!

Great Idea! (1)

Greenisus (262784) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260137)

This is a great idea! You could even have a part of the credits that says a website you could go to to see who helped with the rendering, or even put a special thanks section on the DVD that says who rendered what.

Oh yeah (4, Funny)

toygeek (473120) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260142)

I'll set up a cluster of old Pentium 200MMX's and put 128MB of ram on them... they'll be rockin! When people see my garage full of cables and ancient hardware and ask "WTF are you doing with all this crap?" I'll be able to say "rendering Shrek 3".

Distributed computing for rendering a movie? I think they have enough hardware problems without getting the worm infected masses into the mix.

Would it be worth it???? (4, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260143)

The film industry can afford it so...

Why would they want to do the distributed??? They are using 10Gbs etho and blow your mind away servers to render at amazingly high rates. Probubally several times faster than something like the SETI network could imagine.

And hell, those sysadmins have the most owerful systems in the world. Who would give that up? They even get whole new systems every couple years.

Re:Would it be worth it???? (1)

Washizu (220337) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260336)

"10Gbs etho and blow your mind away servers"

This isn't Dreamworks or Pixar, but I had a job interview a few years ago with Blue Sky Studios [] who created Ice Age [] . They had a render farm of over 250 machines, but they were hardly "blow your mind away" servers. I believe they had 1Ghz. processors in them which at the time wasn't bad, but not quite top of the line. They said each frame took around 9 hours to render and each machine was working on one frame at a time.

so you can 0wn a movie? (1)

DHR (68430) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260145)

How many people would insert their tag into the frame before it was sent back? They'd need some kind of encryption to prevent user tampering.

Slashdot BLOG advertising... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260149)

Nice to see you can advertise your NEW BLOG on slashdot...

how much did it cost?

unschedulable resource (4, Insightful)

marcsiry (38594) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260150)

Films and other large productions are tightly scheduled, with costs against these schedules mapped out months in advance. I can't think of a producer who would count on an essentially unschedulable resource as a vital part of their production pipeline, regardless of its economy.

That said, I could totally see a use for a 'render pool' catering to independent filmmakers, students, and nonprofits for whom cheap is more important than timely.

reality used to be a friend of mine. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260151)

In a world without lawyers and assholes, this would be wonderful. A whole movie could be rendered in a few short hours (double or triple checked, of course) if the planet was your farm.

But alas, reality sets in and one must realize how this will never ever ever ever work.


While its a nice idea... (1)

chrispyman (710460) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260156)

It'll never happen in the real world. It'd probably be very underisable for an studio to have any part of their movie available to the public before they say its time. The other issue is in the licensing issues for whatever rendering tool they're using...

Distributed hacking? (1)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260167)

Within 24 hours of the client coming out, someone out there will have a hacked client which sends the results to their own private server, thereby allowing them to compile their own partial copy of the movie. The more computers they commandeer with their client, the more complete their own private copy will be.

Ya, this would work.

Re:Distributed hacking? (2, Interesting)

elwell642 (754833) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260203)

We could have entire CVS trees of movies!

Don't like how Matrix Revolutions ended? Just load up the "Smith kills us all" branch and choose your own adventure!

Data (5, Interesting)

Skarz (743005) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260169)

The problem with trying to help render frames is that your system needs to have the data to do it (3D objects, textures, etc.)- not to mention the renderer. Companies wouldn't take kindly to sending off their IP data (esp. custom 3D models/textures/shaders) to the masses to be hacked. Having people get a hold of the "official" Shrek models and textures for example would be a bad thing.

Re:Data (1)

Skarz (743005) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260197)

Oyh ya, another thing to note is the SIZE of the data you would need- could be gigs worth...

do you really want this? (5, Insightful)

jfroebe (10351) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260170)

Do you really want the MPAA to run programs on your computer?

Never happen, but... (4, Funny)

jarich (733129) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260174)

Previous posters are right... no one like Pixar would ever give out that kind of technology...

But they could tell everyone they were, just have a screen saver that pegs the CPU, tells you that you've rendered X frames, and displays a cool screensaver from the movie! :)

Great PR, no loss of technology, lots of pissed off fans, once they realize the truth!

Crackers (1)

phasm42 (588479) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260175)

There's a difference between this and other distributed computing projects. Other DC projects have a "good of mankind" kind of goal to them, and are unlikely to be targeted maliciously. A commercial project like rendering a cartoon would have to be extra careful in regards to security. While crackers may feel it is wrong to disrupt or otherwise harm people trying to find a cure for cancer, they may find it funny to distort a rendered picture in a cartoon.

I'm thinking something along the lines of Tyler Durden here...

Hidden messages (1)

elwell642 (754833) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260176)

As if there aren't enough "hidden" messages in animated movies these days. It would only take one guy to break the system, and suddenly messages like "CmdrTaco pwnz!" would flash up in random scenes all throughout new movies.

Or better yet, advertisements for the World's Smallest Camera!

I can see it now.... (1)

Unworthy Advocate (767730) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260180)

I can see it now, people fighting over who gets to render the next Hale Berry topless scene. Distributed computing should not be tarnished by such drivelry.

Re:I can see it now.... (2, Funny)

Larkaen (601811) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260370)

While I'd love to render Halle Barry topless - I'm not sure I'd be using a computer.

The reason why..... (5, Insightful)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260182)

The main reason they don't employ this technique is that their own 'render-farms' are a known quantity; they can, with reasonable accuracy, calculate how long a given scene will take to render, whereas with public distributed computing this calculation is not possible.

There are many variables in distributed public computing such as:

*Different CPU capabilities.
*Different OS capabilities
*High/Low use Systems
*People's 'uptime'
*Users leaving the project before its completion etc.

Another risk is that another movie-house could start a production which everyone sees as 'cooler' and your entire userbase decides to up-sticks and render for them instead.

Non Disclosure Agreement not enough ? (1)

beatleadam (102396) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260185)

I would expect that this is would not be practical simply from the Legal standpoint.

Can you imagine if the frame-shots got out to the Net? The company would now "lose control" over "their product". This would be a can of worms that would not simply go quietly into that good night.

Too much Data (1)

Soong (7225) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260186)

A scene can be a pretty large and complicated piece of data, although I suppose it might be comparable to SETI@Home data. And once you ship the whole scene out, there's the risk that someone could capture it and start rendering it from every angle to get their own private sneak preview. And then the return image is also a pretty large bit of data. So, while there is no inter-node communication which makes this a good distributed problem, the node-server communication is still pretty intense. GigE in your render farm is still the way to go.

It might reveal too much of the movie.. (1)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260187)

I wonder how that would work out with plot spoilers and the l like. Presumably, people who lend their CPU power for this would go to online forums where they would discuss their experiences, and at some point someone might have the idea of trying to piece bits of the film together independently of the movie studio.
Or maybe my computer just happens to render the climactic scene in the movie, and I tell my buddies in Slashdot or wherever.

maybe ... (1)

xplosiv (129880) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260188)

I can see this work out if they apply some serious security mechanism, to prevent people from posting all the results on 1 single site to get sneak previews, and to make sure that malicious people aren't sending data back with some hidden 'messages' embedded in the background (but I guess they could have more than 1 machine render the same scene, and compared i.e. the md5 hashes) and such.

On the other hand, I can also see why this won't work, as this would be a huge technical support nightmare, the potential security issues, more overhead staff wise in order to deal with incoming results etc ...

Webcam (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260192)

Just activate that webcam on top of the monitor, pointed at the user. You're going to see plenty of Shrek's at home.

Not Going to Happen (1)

InvaderXimian (609659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260198)

As with the many reasons mentioned already, another one would be bandwidth. An uncompressed frame is pretty big, especially if several are sent out at once.

I think it would take more resources and time to maintain the project rather than just having a render farm do it.

Not likely... (1)

Ziwcam (766621) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260213)

I don't think this is very likely to happen. Sure, SETI,, and the like... they're great. You've got a small amount of data flowing each direction. With a movie, though, you would need a high-speed connection to the 'net to upload the results. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the world (or country, even) is using broadband. Plus, developers would probabally not be too happy if someone would somehow get a hold of the ending of a movie and post spoilers all over the internet. I'm not saying this is isn't happening already, I just think it would be easier if producers tried to distribute the load of rendering down to the consumer.

porn snippits a la Fight Club (0, Redundant)

morton2002 (200597) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260215)

Who'd be the first to hack the client and return frames containing porn snippits like Tyler did in Fight Club?

C'mon, you know you'd be tempted :)

That's MPAA you are talking about... (3, Funny)

Kaa (21510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260217)

Mine! Mine! You filthy thieves!! All you want is to get your hands on frames from MY movie and then you'll mix it with porn, put it on P2P networks and use the proceeds to fund terrorism!

It's my movie! MINE! You want a screensaver -- well, pay in DOLLARS for it, you dirty pirate (* by clicking here you agree that your credit card will be automatically charged $0.99 each time your screensaver kicks in)! And note that you are licensed to use MINE screensaver on just machine by just one user and that our DRM system will make sure of that (* fingerprint reader, purchased separately required for system activation and use)!

Thieves, all of you are thieves! Hah, give them movie frames to render... What, you think me stupid?

This is not such a good idea (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260219)

This is not such a good idea, and prone to mischievous hackers. Speak up now unless you are open to the idea of seeing Goatse get a generous amount of screen time in "Shrek 3".

They're already doing it, aren't they? (1)

The I Shing (700142) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260222)

I heard that they were already doing it... the rendering software gets back-door installed alongside Gator or Kazaa. It's mentioned in the part of the EULA that's written backwards in Pig-Esperanto.

I'd insert.... (1, Redundant)

xaoslaad (590527) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260223)

A nice, big, cock...

ala Fight Club

How cool would the other way be? (5, Insightful)

jmpresto_78 (238308) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260225)

How cool would it be to see them allocate THEIR distributed system to projects like SETI, etc. Even though I'm sure there are other projects being worked on, one would imagine the system is pretty dormant after a release.

Anyone consider local distribution only? (1)

Kainaw (676073) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260231)

There are a lot of responses about the anonymous public stealing images, movies, code, etc... What about using the distribution technology only inside the company? How many computers does Pixar have - including every single PC on the business side? Would there be a benefit in distributing calculations over all the PCs in the company in the manner that other distribution algorithms use (like the SETI@Home example)? In this scenario, they may get some extra number crunching for little cost.

So just how do you plan to do it. (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260236)

Each client must have:

Some shit hot rendering software that probably won't be worth running on joe computer.

Enough[shit loads of] information about the scene to render a frame.

Yeh, great idea, just give me a copy of Maya and a few complete models and textures from Shrek 3 and I'll buy a nice fat pc to render it all on.

costs (1)

spectasaurus (415658) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260244)

I can only guess that for the cost of supplying free movie passes to 1 million people (ultra unreal estimate, I'm sure) who helped render the movie, the studios could buy several clusters to do it for them. For the next movie, the cost is negligible since they already own the cluster.

See Dick aspire... (0) (745183) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260250)

Way back, THE LITTLE MERMAID video had to be recalled because the box-art sported a phallus among the castle spires (courtesy of an enterprising/bored Disney artist).

How much spontaneous imagery might find its way into individual frames of a entire publicly rendered movie?

Re:See Dick aspire... (1)

christopherfinke (608750) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260335)

Way back, THE LITTLE MERMAID video had to be recalled because the box-art sported a phallus among the castle spires (courtesy of an enterprising/bored Disney artist).
False: See what Snopes says [] .

Crytographic raytracing (1)

suso (153703) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260257)

What they would need is a way to encrypt the images that you are rendering to protect them from being seen. I'm sure that they would not want people to see the frames before they are done and that's a major reason for not doing such a thing.

Security issues (1)

CatGrep (707480) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260276)

Security issues will prevent this from happening. The studios don't like early leaks about upcoming films and this would certainly open the floodgate for early leaks.

You can see how upset the studios have gotten over preview versions of films that get leaked by reviewers or others.

It will never happen... (1)

kevlar (13509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260277)

... because when the movie makes a shit-ton of money, some dumbass will sue the movie company demanding compensation for their charity work. This follows the same path as the AOL Tech Support people who donated free time to help users and got "free AOL time" as a result.

Do you realize just how many gigabytes of... (4, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260280), nay terabytes of data, can go into a single frame in a movie? You might be able to farm out stuff like some fragments of procedurally rendered smoke that rely on computing noise functions repeatedly, rather than accessing a scene database, but in general this is completely impractical. If visual effects houses wish to share data the easiest thing to do is FedEx a bunch of hard drives. So unless Shrek@Home includes some kind of hard drive exchange program it ain't gonna work!

security... rights... (1)

maskedavenger (674027) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260283)

I'm sure even though the RIAA has nothing to do with this, they would find a way to sue a 12 year old girl who would take a screenie of the compile process and use it as a desktop background.

but very very interesting article.

compiling any 3d mapfile takes forever :( part of life. speed kills.

Pixar article (1)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260284)

This month's Wired magazine also has Welcome to planet Pixar [] article. Not so much technical information and rendering issues, as discussion of how the movies are made.

Coolness? Dreamworks?! (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260286)

I need more coffee to associate those two words.

As for the rendering at home, "coolness" is not sufficient reason to do it. Give me a free DVD, I'll think about it. Otherwise, no dice.

There's an I/O problem (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260302)

At Pixar, distributed rendering, even within the same building, was sometimes I/O bound rather than compute

You don't have the machine for it... (5, Informative)

Obasan (28761) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260315)

Only the most high end of machines could even consider attempting to render even one layer of a frame for this kind of animation. We're talking systems with 2-4GB of RAM as a minimum (preferably 4+) and the scene files/textures would weigh in the tens to thousands of megabytes that must be downloaded for each scene. Think uncompressed TIFF or TARGA texture files that might be 5000x5000 at 40 bits/pixel.

Even on high end machines they often do not render a full frame, but a layer of a frame which is then composited with other layers into the full frame. Why? Many reasons but one of them is that even the high end machines don't have enough RAM and the render would take too long (the machine would need to swap).

So aside from the issues of fans returning bogus data, or extracting highly proprietary information out of the client as other threads have mentioned, this would be a real show stopper. Breaking the problem into small enough pieces to be handled by joe-blow's computer would be prohibitive and require tons of calculations to figure out which pieces of textures are actually required for a given piece of rendering etc. It would probably require a compute farm just to manage it!

Rendering is also a lot more complex than you might think, there are render wranglers who manage the rendering queues and look at the outputs... many renders may require specific versions of the rendering software, so a frame that rendered with won't render anymore without errors with so many copies of the software are managed in parallel with the wranglers helping to clean up the errors. How would you manage this in a distributed client environment?

Furthermore most of the proprietary rendering apps are certified against VERY specific platforms, eg. one specific kernel version and build level, specific versions of shared libraries etc.

Long and short is there's a reason why movies cost millions. :)

Hold it there for a second (2, Interesting)

gspr (602968) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260317)

Users gladly contribute their spare CPU cycles to fold proteins for a non-commercial purpose, or help a non-profit organization seek out alien life. These are tasks affecting all of mankind.
Giving away CPU cycles so that a multi-million dollar company can improve its product is a wholly different thing.

It wouldn't be that bad... (2, Informative)

unteins (778119) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260320)

Actually, from what I know of Pixar's renderer, it actually wouldn't be that difficult to do something like this. For starters, Renderman can be purchased. Secondly, it uses technology that was formerly Open Source (Blue Moon Render Tools) so it isn't like it is totally proprietary. RIB files are pretty big though, so the data would become a problem. I think you could send just deltas though from the last frame rendered if you were tracking, RIB is just a text file, so it wouldn't even be too hard. Renderman, if I recall correctly, is a bucket renderer, which means that each frame is subdivided into many subframes which are rendered and then assembled. It would be possible to only send the subframes to the distributed network and do the frame assembly back at the studio. This would mean your machine might render Buzz Lightyears elbow, but you're not going to get to see a whole lot of the scene. Trying to hunt down all the little chunks of one frame and then assemble the frames into movies would be even more difficult for a pirate. Now, the shders that Pixar uses might be a bit of a problem for them to release, but then again, by the time the movie goes into final rendering, the technology in the film is a few years old, so it isn't like they'd lose a lot of ground. Besides, a lot of these techniques are either implementations of SIGGRAPH papers, or are presented in papers at SIGGRAPH after they are created. I think the only MAJOR concern is the tampering with the output. I don't think there is anyway to safeguard that (you could encrypt it, but that still leaves plenty of holes in the system, you could always hack the output buffer in memory, etc.) The main problem of course being that the only way to see if a frame wasn't tampered with would be to compare it to a render of the frame....and well, then what is the point....

Cost Cutting? (2, Interesting)

syntap (242090) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260323)

Great, maybe for saving some effects company from shelling out for a few more $10K graphics servers with which they will make the next $150M movie, perhaps I can loan them a few CPU cycles and they'll cut down my move ticket cost from $10 to $9.75.

Why bother? (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260327)

It's hard enough to solve issues regarding parallel processing of images in a clustered environment they can control. Why put that process in an environment they can't control? It's not like movie studios can't afford a computer cluster. That's a small cost compared to the cost of hiring someone to write the distributed software they use.

From what I've read, Seti@Home works well because users heavily process a small amount of data and return a small solution. If we were processing frames, it would require the user to take in large amounts of data and return even larger results.

Good Luck (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260328)

The last film I worked on, we had anywhere from 800MB to 12GB of data per frame that the renderer had to have. I am talking about compressed renderman rib archives, textures, normal maps, displacements, shadow and other maps.

The data was mostly generated at render time for things like hair and shadow maps, but if it was being distributed, there is no way to do that - they would be transferred beforehand.

Also, there are always many terabytes of data generated by the renderers for each render layer, for diffuse color, specular color, etc.

It is just not feasible to transfer all that data around, and its not like bittorrent or other p2p systems will help much with that since each frame would most likely only be rendered by a few people (for verification).

Also, the model geometry and shaders (and somtimes textures) are closely guarded secrets... In short, if a major film were ever to do somthing like this, everyone participating would need huge (> 100mbit) bandwidth and a LOT of disk space and also be under very tight NDAs.

Two words (1)

yecrom2 (461240) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260338)

Jessica Rabbit.

ok, a few more words. Are they going to do redundant rendering and compare the result to make sure that someone isn't "improving" any of the frames?

just a thought.


Adverse side effect of shrek@HOME (2, Interesting)

auburnate (755235) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260342)

You might be the unfortunate soul that renders a movie spoiler as you watch the images coalesce on your screen ...

Pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9260345)

You think they could use some help to render some pr0n movies? I'd decidate my CPU time for that...

Duh (2, Insightful)

gerardrj (207690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260348)

Because the production of a blockbuster movie tends to be kept a secret up until near the premier. distributed computing provides little to no security.

There's no way a studio could send a scene's model to a compute node encrypted, process it encrypted, store the interim image encrypted, then send the whole mess back encrypted. At some point in processing the information must be in plain computer processable formats.

What that boils down to is that a competing studio could sign up hundreds of compute nodes and get a preview of the story line and animation. Anyone who could gather enough images could piece together clips from the film and release them in full digital format. Imagine a nefarious group of nodes all collecting the images they generate and later piecing them all together in to perfect digital non-DRMed copy of the movie; before release and before the DVD is available.

Hollywood can't stand the idea of people copying DVDs to the internet, could you imagine what they'd think of full film resolution copies of their films floating around? The heads bits: on the walls.

No... this is just a stupid suggestion from the point of view of the studios. At least until there's and OS is produced where a user it prohibited access to certain portions of RAM, and can't intercept the network traffic to/from the box.

Too much bandwidth (1)

nehumanuscrede (624750) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260355)

The incoming scene data would be extremely large in size. The model data itself being a very tiny portion of it. The image maps, texture maps, etc. etc. would be the biggest part if the incoming data.

Once the frame was rendered at 'film' resolution, the outgoing filesize would be quite large.

The software itself would be a big expense to distribute to all the render nodes. I can only speak from a Mental Ray standpoint, but each render node has to have a license to run the Mental Ray renderer. ( Read that, EACH processor ) This license is not cheap.

Then comes the security issue.

Of course the render nodes on the net would have to have an open port listening for the master server to send down a new scene file. I'll pass thanks. :)

The master node would have to keep track of what machines were rendering what frames and which ones were completed. Those that became corrupted or whatnot, would have to be reissued to another node.

In short, it would be a nightmare to implement. :)

Distributed rendering can be compute-bound (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260359)

At Pixar, distributed rendering, even within the same building, was sometimes I/O bound rather than compute-bound. The problem is that high-quality rendering requires a lot of textures, some of which are algorithmic (a function in shading language) and some photographic (a big image file, probably not compressed because compression would add artifacts). So, you have to ship a lot of files around to render a scene. Photographic textures may be large because of the scale problem. They may have to look right through a 100:1 zoom, as objects move and the camera viewpoint changes.

This is not just tracing all of the rays in the scene.


Let me get this straight. (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9260361)

THEY want ME to use MY computing resurces to render THEIR movies, and then charge ME exorbitant prices at the theater to see it? Bah! How about sending me a free DVD for my effort, then I'll consider it.
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