Big Buck Bunny: An Open Source Success Story

bigbuckbunnyNo, this article has absolutely nothing to do with buckyballs. Instead, it involves how one group was able to pull together an international group of artists and developers, make a movie and distribute it for free. Hollywood, are you listening?

As a follow-on to the widely acclaimed project Orange, the Blender Foundation, proprietors of the widely used open source 3D animation application, began work on a second open movie project. Aptly named project Peach, the goal was to develop a freely distributable, yet funny 3D animated movie [short]. The result was Big Buck Bunny.

Computer generated animated films have become all the rage lately. My media closet is full of titles ranging from Shrek to Madagascar. Anyone with young ones in the household knows all too well the scene I’m trying to convey. Interestingly enough, much of the humor in these films are directed specifically at an adult audience. Finally, parents can actually enjoy watching the same films as their kiddos. [Sorry Dora, you've been overruled].

Why do we, the HPC industry, care about animated furry animals? These animated furry animals require an immense number of computational cycles to render each cuddly frame. Not to mention the physics attributed to creating realistic natural effects such as water, fur and grass. Unfortunately, as we all know in HPC, cycles cost dollars. These are dollars that many grassroots/open source efforts do not have access to.

How did they do it? Sun Microsystems to the rescue. Sun’s Network.com volunteered themselves as the prime rendering sponsor. With the strike of a key, the animators now had access to countless cpu resources to get their precious frames rendered into sweet 1080p. After it was all said and done, project Peach consumed over fifty thousand cpu-hours of compute time on Network.com. This roughly equates to 1024 cores rendering frames for over two straight days.

The best part of this story is the distribution. Sun volunteered to host the electronic distribution of the film as well as the entire studio database of assets and files used to make the movie. This means that everyone will have access to the models and scripts used to make the film as well as the final film itself.

For those interested in watching Big Buck Bunny, its available in a variety of media formats via several download options. I’ve personally downloaded the full 1920×1080 version and was quite pleased by the quality of the video and the humor.

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