The studio behind animated movies such as Despicable Me tells BBC that it is a “huge challenge” to make animation in 4K and HFR. Despicable Me 2 alone required 680 terabytes of memory in traditional HD.
4K animation is a huge challenge
You would think that computer-animated graphics could easily scale to 4K resolution. But four times the pixels are hard to do for animation studios, explains Bruno Mahe, technical head at Illumination Mac Guff, the studio behind Despicable Me, Lorax and upcoming Minions.
Today, animated films are created in HD and 24 frames per second. Other movies released in 4K in cinemas also use computer-animated CGI in HD, even though the real camera footage is in 4K.
When studios work on animation on the PC character and environment details are created with the intent of rendering it in HD. This process has to be even more meticulous when 4K resolution comes into the picture. The biggest challenge, however, lies in the process of rendering the animated movie. Or in other words convert the graphics on the PC screen into moving images.
Studios use large server farms to render animated movies. As an example Despicable Me 2 required around 20,000 computers and 680 terabytes of memory for the HD version. Studios could potentially use much faster flash memory to speed up the process, but it is still too expensive.
Bruno Mahe says that to studios will have to increase the resolution by a factor of 2.5 if they want to make animated movies in both 4K and 48 frames per second – also called HFR. How to solve this challenge is still an open question.
- "The economics just do not support it," he says to BBC and continues; "You cannot just make your render farm 2.5 times bigger. You need to be much smarter than that."