back to article Getting animated about a 6,000 core Soho supercomputer

London's Soho has become a thriving media rendering and animation centre, with creative media professionals using the latest model IT gear in shiny studios between buildings full of 'models' selling the oldest professional services of all. Framestore is one of these new companies bolstering Soho's image. It did the post- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    All that kit, and they still created something that didn't look or move much like a polar.

    Don't even get me started on the armour.

    One of the most destroyed books->film of all time.

    The chap that drew this should have been in charge.

    Down with the Authority!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worldwide perspective

    "installing its own dark fibre 10Gbit/s network"

    Dark fibre is exactly that - the laying of fibreoptic cable. You can use various types of equipment to make use of this, which will then yield various levels of bandwidth; however, "dark fibre" has only capability - it has no bandwidth.

    An interesting article, however, some research of the wider picture would have been interesting... for example, similar capabilities now in Bangalore (Tata Elxsi) with much lower costs... some perspective of how the solution offerings are different / compete and the world market would have been nice...

  3. Smudger

    @Worldwide perspective

    You misunderstand the terminology of dark fibre.

    Typically, owning (or leasing) dark fibre means that you own or lease the entire capacity of the fibre; you are responsible for "lighting it up" with your terminal equipment and you have complete use of and control over the entire bandwidth of the link. You get to decide what protocols are used and you can leave the links idle or max them out 24/7.

    This, as opposed to renting bandwidth (guaranteed or not) on a virtual link on somebody else's network, where they provide the terminal equipment, etc and you may share the link with other customer's data and you may pay a variable rate according to your bandwidth utilisation profile.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Dell vs. HP

    "They're the people who can react the quickest. We ordered 1,000 cores and they delivered it five days later. HP just can't react as quickly."

    While I've never been a big fan of Dell, this observation is right on the money. When our company decided to replace our aging IBM & Dell laptops, (thousands of them to give you some scale) HP was initially chosen for the vendor, possibly because the board got free laptops from them or some other such 'political' motivation. HP repeatably failed to deliver on time, "lost" part of our order, shipped machines with no rhyme or reason, and their customer service sucked. You'd think they'd try a little harder with a million-dollar acct. Eventually we switched back to Dell in mid-stream. (the similar-specced Dells were cheaper too) Dell's customer service has come a long way. These days they're actually helpful, prompt, and will actually listen to your problem instead of reading from a script and/or raking you over the coals if you deviate from what they think you should do to troubleshoot an issue. Reliability-wise they've been pretty much on par with each other, though we did seem to get a bad batch of Seagate 80 GB drives, as we've had several failures in less than a year. The Dells seem a little more willing to work with our antiquated projectors in conference rooms as well and the screens are better IMHO, though I think the HP styling is sleeker. Personally I would have chosen Lenovo.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder how many periods of slack there are in the schedule of work for the render farms, with that number of processors they could lease the computational power to the UK Meteorological Office and use it for Climate Change modelling! But alas, wouldn't be much use for weather forecasting with the lack of consistent availability.

  6. frymaster

    Dell for business

    Totally agree for this. I'm willing to concede that their consumer tech support may suck donkey balls (I don't have, and would never personally buy, a Dell) but for business they are top rate. Typical support conversation "You say the laptop drive is broken? OK. You want to keep it so you can securely dispose of it? OK. I'll send out a replacement."

    Their stuff is more expensive, but you get laptops that are easier to support from a hardware POV (a lot easier to get to the HDD, for example), and decent support. It's a more economical use of my time if I know I can get someone out to replace a laptop keyboard, for example. At home the equation is different (my time counts as "free" then) and my statutory rights are enough

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    6,000 cores of blather

    "eight object storage servers using HP processors which control the bulk storage"

    What exactly is an HP processor?

    This article reads like a hardware requisition written up by a CTO. What are they running on the HP's exactly? What was the Lustre rollout like? And how did they push 10Gbps over unlit fiber? John Lettice is rolling over in his hammock.

  8. Dex


    Will it run Crysis on it's highest settings.....THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW!!

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Of course...

    ...HP can't react quickly, what do you expect? First they have to order and assemble millions of boxes, then fill them with peanuts/bulgarian airbags/whatnot, then find lorries (in the thousands) to cart the boxes to the site, then reassemble the kit... It'll take years! Get real!

    Mine's the XXX-large one with the extra pockets and hood and inner lining and...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give it ten years

    and the average desktop will be running a similar capability.

  11. Bryce Prewitt
    Thumb Down

    Lotsa paid advertisements

    being passed off as journalism here lately.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Titles suck

    I shudder to think what would happen if they had ordered 1000 cores from HP. I assume some cataclysmic event on the Day After Tomorrow scale.

  13. Rodolfo
    Paris Hilton

    Which PR company wrote that for you?

    So the movie is shit but hey they used a LOT OF TECHNOLOGY in it.

    Slow day eh?

  14. Andrew Moore

    The end result...

    The movie looked good but the story sucked.

  15. Mike Flugennock

    Good thing they didn't go with HP...

    ...if for no other reason than that after the new gear shipped, Framestore wouldn't have anyplace to get rid of the goddamn' huge-assed boxes that HP shipped it in.

    In related news, critics in the States have panned this pictures as "beautiful, but boring".

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh, contrast...

    "The voice cast includes Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver and Robbie Coltrane..."

    Non-Pixar CG movie strategy: Make shit movie; compensate with big name actors who can't do voice anyway. Pick oh-so-novel plot, like a little French (or some such) mouse with a rapier. Quelle chance!

    Pixar CG movie strategy: Screw the big name actors. In fact, screw the dialog entirely if necessary. Make a movie about something nobody could even conceive of, and make it *absolutely fucking fantastic*.

    In the first case, you need Reg articles which rehash quotes from CNN stories from a month ago to promote it. In the second case, you just need to release the movie.

  17. darrin allen

    supercomputers for animation

    This was a great story to read

  18. Chris C

    PR tat minus the spellcheck

    All that technology, all that money, all that power consumption... for a movie that in all likelihood will look like shit compared to old-school animation drawn by hand. Don't get me wrong, CGI can be good for some things, but a full-CGI movie is (in my individual opinion) not as entertaining as either live-action or drawn animation (or both -- it still amazes me that "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" was done without a single computer).

    And just what exactly are "HP stirage server processors"? Come on Reg, is it too much to ask that you run your articles through a spell-checker at least? Bad grammar is bad enough, but there's no excuse for an IT journal to have common words misspelled in its articles.

    And yeah, it did sound like this article was nothing more than a PR piece.

    I miss Ashlee...

  19. Chris C

    re: supercomputers for animation

    Your title says it all, really. Nowadays we need 6000-core supercomputers, 150TB of storage, and probably over 4440 KWH (4.4 Megawatt-hours) per day* for animation. 50 years ago we needed a guy with a pencil and a stack of paper.

    * 4440KWH guess -- 750 systems (6000 cores / 8 cores per system) at 240 watts per system plus 400 drives (150TB using 500GB drives in a 6-data, 2-parity configuration) at 12.5 watts per drive for 24 hours per day. This doesn't take into consideration things such as air con, switches and other external equipment, loss due to AC/DC conversion, etc.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    1000 servers

    No one actually buys 1000 servers and expects them to ship out in five days. What he probably meant to say was "Dell came in and bought the business by cutting the price to next to nothing." Dell do that alot with these sorts of procurements because they have absolutely no clue how to put the solution together. None.

    These customers do not understand what real value is. Rumour has it that storage was an absolute nightmare to set up and get running. If that's true it surely can't be for any other reason that the fact they bought crap storage to run a crap filesystem.

  21. ShaggyDoggy

    Just what we need

    ... another fucking CGI movie

  22. Anonymous Coward

    HP stirage

    HP stirage server processors. Yup, figures, given the way their staff are treated. Lots of stirage at performance review time.

    IMHO, an office of happy contented staff, most waiting for their acceptance of another vendors job offer, contemplating early retirement, or career change.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Another Dell fanboi article

    How much did Dell pay for this "journalism"?

    And good luck running RAID6 on 3DXor ..........

    Re: AC - maybe they didn't have the skills to manage / configure the storage for the filesystem and vice versa. Certainly, the requirement for a huge number of boxes in a very small time smacks of a lack of any real IT management.

  24. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: David Wiernicki

    I have to agree - whilst the technology in these projects are amazing, the stories are getting pretty mediocre. I was very unimpressed with "The Golden Compass", a very forgettable movie, and in no way comparable to "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" or even the "Aladin" cartoon movie. In fact, the other week I enjoyed watching "Lilo and Stitch" with the kids (about the twentieth time) much more than "The Golden Compass", and the kids did too.

    I watched a documentary on "Bladerunner" the other day and was surprised when they said none of the effects were computer animated but used models and stop-motion photography tricks. For some reason, I'd assumed the super-slick effects had to be in some way computer generated. Maybe Hollywood needs to concentrate more on stories than technology. Having said that, I am fascinated by the tech behind it all, and would be interested in knowing more about the solution. Did Dell, HP or Infortrends release any whitepapers on it as I can't find any on the web?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Chris C

    Nowadays we need a 50-ton jet, vast amounts of infrastructure, and tens of thousands of gallons of fuel to get across the country. 150 years ago we needed a covered wagon and a horse.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Both me and my housemate bought 24" Dell monitors from the Dell website, they came with a 5 year warranty and when the DVI input on my mates went a bit wonky, he phoned Dell who sent a bloke round in a van to drop off the replacement a day later, no questions asked, now that's service.

    Nothings gone wrong with my one yet but i almost want it to just so i can experience some good customer service for a change.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Who ordered the kick in the bollocks for HP?

    can I be the one to put the boot firmly where it belongs? - not that they really care, it's the same old story "Rraahah rah rah we don't care" -......-" oh shit, where have all our customers gone?! only the film industry are ordering new boxes?"

    All that computing and it'll still be a crap storyline

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    re: supercomputers for animation

    "50 years ago it was 1 guy and a pencil"

    Yeah, movies are computer generated nowadays because we ran out of guys with pencils. Only of course it wasn't "1 guy with a pencil" it was hundreds of guys with boards, pens and ink and paint and cels and a whole metric ton of cheap overseas exploitative labour to in-between all the hero animation. The past was so much simpler and makes such an insightful comment on contemporary life; if you massively simplify it, eh.

    "Just what we need ... another cgi movie."

    Does anyone *need* movies at all ? Does this article *need* another pointless comment ?

  29. Ed

    RE: re: supercomputers for animation


  30. Murray-Mint

    Makes me want to buy Dell

    Not sure why, but now I want to Buy Dell for everything. Incredible unbiased journalism from el reg.

  31. Mr B

    Hi Tech - Low Storyline

    If the storyline is not that good that may be because they concentrated on techy issues rather than on the business.

    So many KWatts, so many cores to only have rodent fur & human hair look like a rigid carapace: no undulation no fluffy effect ... disappointing !!!

    I wonder what 278 qualified cartoonists can achieve in the same time?

  32. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Yes, yes, all very interesting I'm sure

    But how many mice were involved?

  33. Michael

    @Ah Contrast

    (Pixar CG movie strategy: Screw the big name actors. In fact, screw the dialog entirely if necessary. Make a movie about something nobody could even conceive of, and make it *absolutely fucking fantastic*.)

    ...Err hangon a sec?! --> Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Sigorney Weaver, Owen Wilson, Paul Newman RIP, Tony Shaloub, Michael Keaton, Peter O'toole, John Goodman, Billy Crystal......... Not big names??????

    Bring on Cars 2 - Why Pixar rule - cause they put 4 yrs or more of development into a movie and not just everyone else!

  34. Peter Duce

    @Chris C

    You just made my lady's day mate.

    She worked on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", specifically Jessica's eyes and lips. As you say all done by hand.

    Aaannnddd - coincidentally I just had one of the original acetates, that she kept, framed for her for Xmas.

    Small world.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Another Dell vs. HP comment

    Dell actually was the second fastest company out of three. After the engineers passed their choices to the manager the manager then decide to order with Dell even when Budweiser was able to deliver 1000 crates in under two days! Knowing that his engineers would start a huge party if he had order with Budweiser he decided to be smart and chose to order with Dell instead. HP came in on third place.

    Actually, I do not care for either companies. However, I do find it funny what someone, who needs to order 1000 computers, names as the reason for his decision. It was not the price, it was not the hardware, it is his impatience! It is like another episode of "The IT Crowd".

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting Article

    To create believable photo realistic CG and animation sequences the artists at these places work at 4k resolution (4096X1714pixels), each uncompressed frame weighing in at tens of megabytes. Cinematic productions run at 24fps so storage, IO and bandwidth requirements for a production environment where there are upwards of 300 animators working concurrently is nearly unparralled.

    Isilon also do some neat large storage arrays that are used in movie production and beyond.

    The most impressive piece of kit i saw at one of these places was a 4k projector - capable of lifting work in progress frame sequences from storage and displaying these in real time.

    These days its still the norm to shoot on 35mm film and to then scan to digital frames - from a data manipulation perspective things get really interesting with the introduction of 4k digital film cameras...

    The boffin cause thats what these folks are... :)

  37. Anonymous Coward

    "50 years ago it was 1 guy and a pencil"


    Instead of purple haze on the guitar today Hendrix would be doing ACID on his laptop...

  38. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse


    That for all of the advances and leaps forward in technologies we read about on the Reg, when it comes down to it, it all comes down to who can deliver and service quickest, rather than who can talk up their hardware the most. Still, thats' gotta be one seriously pissed off HP salesman eh?

    Proof then... if needed, that the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

    Personally, I've run into HP on more than one occasion - and from several different areas of their business; and not one of them has been a particularly positive experience.

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