Down on the Render Farm
Facility brings high power computing to animation projects
Kapioʻlani student Jared Matsushige demonstrates render farm capabilities to Vivian Aiona, center, wife of the lieutenant governor, and Mōkapu Elementary teacher Colette Young-Pohlman at Leeward Community College
The tower of blinking lights, black and gray boxes and a seemingly endless length of twisted wires may not look like much, but what it will and has already helped students create is visually amazing. Thanks to a generous donation of equipment and a training and support partnership with Honolulu-based software company PipelineFX, makers of Qube!(tm) software, the Academy for Creative Media recently unveiled its new animation render farm. Housed at Leeward Community College, the rack of multiple networked servers controlled by special management software will boost productivity for Hawaiʻi students designing animation projects.
The animation render farm, which ACM Director Chris Lee has dubbed "The Whopper" in reference to the computer in the movie War Games, is a bank of more than 50 computers. All that computing power is applied to the necessary but time-consuming task of converting the modeling and animation data input by an artist into actual animated images. It’s a process used to make movies such as Finding Nemo and the special effects for Superman Returns. What would normally take an individual computer 24 hours to process can be accomplished by the animation render farm in a mere fraction of the time.
"The animation render farm takes away the grunt work, takes information inputted by the students through the Internet, and processes it in about an hour," Lee says. "Media and storytelling is not limited to film, and our students’ work, as well as that of students at all levels of the educational pipeline around the state, will transform the economy."
In addition to ACM students at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, students studying animation and digital media production at Leeward, Kapiʻolani, Honolulu and Hawaiʻi Community Colleges, and even students in Waiʻanae High School’s Seariders Productions program have access to the animation render farm, and they are using it to create extraordinary animated images and short films, Lee says. He and project donors, which include the James and Abigail Campbell Foundation, Ko ʻOlina Foundation and Hollywood director Roland Emmerich, would like to see the render farm eventually used by students at all public and private schools statewide.
"We’d like to make Hawaiʻi a model of a distributed media system," Lee says.
Kapiʻolani toothbrush tales gaining attention
Toilet Story, a 3D computer animated short created by Kapiʻolani Community College Instructor Sharon Sussman’s practicum class, was a semi-finalist in Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Student Competition. Practicum is one of the final classes in Kapiʻolani’s New Media Arts Animation degree program.
Toilet Story follows Toothbrush, Floss and their bathroom friends as they discover that being a toothbrush isn’t that bad. The short was written by Isaac Finkbeiner, who directed it along with Jared Matsushige, MyAnh Lu and Troy Hieda. Kalani Pokipala provided sound design.
First screened at the Louis Vuitton Hawaiʻi International Film Festival, the short was also shown at San Diego’s Art of Digital Show and International Digital Media and Art Association Convention. The resulting media attention has created new interest—among healthcare instructors who would like to use it in the classroom.