Wednesday, July 01, 2009

ILM's IMAX Challenges

A new article from Studio Daily (via Tformers) covers the challenge Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) had in building robots for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. For example, Devastator is comprised of 52,632 parts with 12 million polygons, the biggest model ever created by ILM. For the first movie they were talking about the complexity of Optimus Prime's 10,000 parts. The result of this, other decisions, and IMAX requirements resulted in Transformers 2 maxing out to 83% of ILM's render farms capacity with all of ILM's other projects squeezed into the remaining 17%. From there the article gets very technical and shows the huge amount of effort that ILM poured into the movie to create the awesome effects we enjoyed. A section below, full article here.
“Their visual effects covered some portions of the frame,” Smith says of Dark Knight. “But we were dealing with robots everywhere covering up everything. When we compared the resolution we were scanning and putting onscreen to 35mm film at 2K, we decided 4K looked great. Plus we knew painting clean frames and color grading would be more difficult above 4K. When you hear 2K to 4K it might sound like double, but the render times are six times bigger and the memory requirements are six times bigger in IMAX. Across the board, it turned out to be six times bigger.”

During the height of production, ILM dedicated 80 percent of its total rendering capacity to Transformers 2, one time even hitting 83 percent. “We broke all the ILM records,” Smith says. “Everyone else squeezed into 17 percent.” How much is that? ILM’s render farm has 5700 core processors, the newest of which are dual processor and quad cores (eight cores per blade), with up to 32 GB of memory per blade. In addition, the render farm can access the 2000 core processors in the artists’ workstations, which ups the total core processors to 7700. As for data storage, the studio’s data center currently has 500 TB online. Transformers 2 sucked up 154 TB, more than seven times the 20 TB needed for 2007’s Transformers.

The switch to 4K resolution for the IMAX sequences had an impact beyond rendering. “Everything is bigger with IMAX,” Smith says. “When we were rolling out the IMAX sequences, we had more model resolution and detail, and we had a huge wave of machine upgrades all the way through paint and compositing. We switched to [The Foundry’s] Nuke to make handling the comps easier.”


  1. WOW, thank you again to all the ILM people for the great visuals that was worth sitting through all the other stuff 3 times now:)


    Moderator, I thought this would be a great article for you to post here. It talks about the plot issues we have discussed in the past. Sorry for th e off topic post.

  3. This has nothing to do with ILM, but I want to know if anyone has found the new TV spot yet! I know there's at least one I saw, I think on MTV, and I really want to find it. It shows Optimus shooting his arm cannon in slow motion and then, instead of cutting off like most TV spots, it shows Megatron being hit and crashing out the back of the building, almost crushing bumblebee. If anyone can find it, please, post the link here...thanks!

    - Hardwired Productions


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