Monsters vs. Aliens: 100 Terabytes, 1,000 years of rendering, and HP

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The boys and I saw Monsters vs. Aliens this weekend. They loved it, I enjoyed it, and I was astonished at the visual quality of what used to be the hard stuff in computer animation: realistic water and human skin. Unbelievable.

Late last week HP issued a press release detailing how they had worked with DreamWorks Animation to supply the infrastructure needed to create the film

HP logoHP technology aided DreamWorks Animation in utilizing the largest number of moving cameras on any of its films to date. The company was able to take creative elements in “Monsters vs. Aliens” to new levels by using several hundred HP xw8600 Workstations plus the largest and most powerful “render farm” – a grouping of HP ProLiant blade servers that quickly work in concert to process the animation sequence – ever used by DreamWorks Animation.

True, this is more of a “scale out” datacenter type of solution that a machine you’d use to simulate fluid flow, but that’s still got to be a lot of nodes in one place, on one network.

Fun fact: M v. A required 40 million hours of rendering time, 8x over what it took to render Shrek.

“DreamWorks Animation is constantly pushing the limits of creativity to bring the best visual realities to audiences around the world,” said Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, Personal Systems Group, HP. “HP thrives on working with customers like DreamWorks Animation, who continually impel us to bring them the next breakthroughs in technology.”

  • Render the nearly 100 terabytes of disk storage.
  • Render more than 30 sequences in the movie that would have taken more than 1,000 years to render on a single workstation.

More movie/geek fun fusion in the release.


  1. There’s also a good article up on the Making of “Bob”. Apparently an IsoSurface-type rendering wasn’t enough, so they developed a code to instead render him as an animated water-container…