How many CPU minutes does it take to make 1,000 visual effects (VFX) shots for the sci-fi movie Chappie?
Well, it takes over 95 million.
Put another way, it takes the equivalent of one computer working non-stop for 2,000 plus years. That’s a very long time to wait for a Hollywood film that requires key visual effects. Of course, we all know render server farms plow through the work is much more reasonable time frames. The the sci-fi film Chappie, which is out in theaters now and stars Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman, both key sci-fi veterans for their roles in award-winning blockbusters, has utilized PipelineFX’s popular Qube! multi-platform render farm technology, says the company.
With Image Engine involved in the film, the special effects house decided for adoption of PipelineFX’s key technology to help them make production. A veteran of the movie industry, Image Engine was involved in Elysium, District 9 and others. The 150-man VFX team tackled Chappie and the results are dramatic fight scenes, live-action animation, complex lighting and hard surface character creation. They handled all of this with a 500 machine render farm all managed by Qube!
Qube! Powers Chappie
“Qube! never crashed during the entire production of ‘Chappie’,” said Gino del Rosario, Head of Technology at Image Engine. “Some of the simulations for our final sequence took machines with 192 GB of memory over 24 hours to render a frame; we need something we can count on with that kind of load.
Since Qube! is shared by all in-house production teams, Image Engine designed a specialized prioritization system that made use of the software’s open API capabilities. Nicknamed RIOT, it acts as another layer on Qube!’s own routing system, and allows the film, commercial, previz, TV and game departments to categorize renders using simple tags like 911, Overnights, Overdue, and Finals. For a studio that has to balance competing schedules, this was essential, especially since “Chappie” alone averaged 36,107 tasks each weekday.
Although Qube! comes with 40 plus workflow job types, Image Engine had to customize Qube! for its specialized needs, working with tools as familiar as Maya, Nuke, Houdini, Shotgun and RV. PipelineFX’s Qube! ships with an open API enabling customization.
“The fact that Qube! lets you tailor its strengths to your needs speaks a lot to its history as a production render farm manager,” added del Rosario. “It’s been in the trenches and knows what makes a render pipeline pull its weight.”
Utilizing PipelineFX support on “Chappie”, Image Engine was able to optimize Qube! so they didn’t have to buy additional licenses for the project’s last push. “We try to keep our farm at a set level during productions since it’s very costly and sometimes near impossible for us to add any significant capacity later on,” said del Rosario. “Thanks to PipelineFX, we never had to scale up our workstations or licenses. We could respond with what we had.”
PipelineFX’s Qube! is render farm software technology Architosh has written about many times in the past. It centrally consists of control software that runs on a server and client software that runs on client workstations and mobile computers. The clients submit render jobs up to the system which distributes the render workloads to networked computers on the farm. A mobile iOS app helps render farm admins keep an eye on all that is happening with the render farm production.