How Pixar Uses GPUs to Give Their Artists What They Need Most – Time to Play

Why should I care? / October 3, 2014

imgresNemo. Monsters Inc. The Incredibles.

When we watch Pixar’s entrancing movies, characters and plots seem to fly across the screen at the speed of a small child’s imagination. But until just a few years ago, roughing out the scenes in these stories was a painstaking process, taking hours, even days. But not any longer.

Now, digital animators and lighting artists can push and pull characters in real time, tweaking their expressions and the environment they move through in thousands of subtle ways.

“It’s important for us to create an environment that will be playful, where the animator can reach in and make changes in real time, and that’s enabled by the NVIDIA GPUs that we use,” Pixar engineering lead Dirk Van Gelder told a crowd of more than 2,500 at our annual GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California.

Why is a company that makes movies appearing at a GPU conference? Because that movie company used to be in the GPU business, sort of, Van Gelder explained. Pixar’s first products were computers that helped power digital animation. As graphics technology advanced, Pixar abandoned that business to take up digital storytelling. Along the way, it adopted SGI’s systems, and, then moved to PCs equipped with NVIDIA’s graphics cards.

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