The SE3D Animation Showcase (pronounced ‘seed') gave 11 groups of animators the opportunity to create their own 3D short, Hollywood grade, animated films using the experimental rendering service developed at HP Laboratories.
The project from HP Laboratories, in partnership with Alias and the Watershed Media Centre, used the animation industry to test the practical benefits of utility computing.
Six HP Laboratories research projects, from Bristol and Palo Alto, were integrated to create a near-product quality utility service
SE3D was planned to offer 11 entrants access to the rendering service for five months. At its peak, the service was used by 15 animators for 10 months
SE3D's computing resources were in a utility data centre at HP Laboratories Palo Alto, California, some 5,000 miles away from Bristol. The resources were managed remotely from HP Labs Bristol – pointing to a future where computing power and applications will be available on tap like the gas or electricity utilities
Around 115 dual-processor ProLiant servers and two terabytes of storage interconnected with gigabit Ethernet formed the substantial resources for use by the service and the animators
Almost half a million CPU hours were ‘sold' to render nearly half-a-million frames of animation
The total number of frames rendered by the utility service added up to nearly six hours of animation, equivalent to three to four full-length feature films
All the rendering was done by the animators connecting to the utility rendering service through a standard domestic-grade broadband link
Service availability of more than 99%
Three of the entrants produced film resolution (HD, high-definition) animations, which are five to six times larger than the PAL TV frames produced by everyone else. HD production is consequently more demanding in terms of computation and storage requirements for content producers. This is a barrier for companies wishing to make the transition from standard- to high-definition production. Our users' experiences are a demonstration that remote services could offer the solution to this problem
The animation groups had access to significant amounts of computing and rendering power through the HP utility rendering service – more akin to the resources available to major studios such as DreamWorks and Disney. It would be extremely difficult for the animators – all small- and medium-sized enterprises – to acquire such computing resources without the cost-effective flexibility of pay-as-you-use utility computing
One rendering service was available for each entrant. The scale of supporting so many services simultaneously on an experimental platform meant that the system was designed to be highly automated – to automatically manage failure recovery, for instance
Defended against more than a million attempts to break in to the service, including 16,000 Code Red and Nimda worm attacks