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How does HPC work?

Making sense of the numbers

Take something like processing a home movie and adding 3D effects. Of course, you have to have the skill to be able to use this software, but even if you do, you generally have to wait around for the computer to do its work. It’s telling that when filmmakers set out to make a movie consisting of large amounts of CGI – computer graphics imagery – they turn to supercomputers. A single frame from the film Avatar, which was wholly produced using computer graphics techniques, could take an incredible 30–50 hours to render on a standard desktop PC – imagine how long it would take to make the whole film this way, when there are 24 frames per second. Using supercomputer clusters incorporating 1000 processing units, this time is cut down to three-and-a-half minutes per frame. Using more processors means it takes less time.

There are even on-demand supercomputers specifically designed for generating 3D graphics, such as renderfarm.fi. Computer graphics are one of the areas of human industry that continues to drive supercomputer development.