by Tony Kontzer

With all the examples of NVIDIA’s GPU technology enabling a range of 3D video applications, it’s no surprise that Walt Disney Animation Studios is finding that GPU-powered computing is bringing new efficiencies to the art of 3D computer-generated animation.

During a presentation Wednesday at the GPU Technology Conference, David Adler, principal software engineer for Disney Animation, said GPUs are bringing some important incremental benefits to the rendering process.

For instance, rather than the fake shadows the studio’s old process yielded, the injection of GPUs has  enabled early renderings of animation sequences to show shadowing consistent with what a powerful program such as Renderman yields. It also helps the studio establish consistent lighting during these early stages, providing the animation team with a clearer picture of where light and dark areas of the picture will be.

“(The addition of GPUs) lets us make the big decisions early, when it’s less expensive to make a change,” Adler said.

This despite the fact that Disney has only scratched the surface of what its GPU-powered environment can do, hence it has plans for future enhancements. Some examples of what Adler would like do: he’d like to refine prototype workflow capabilities so the system can be used on feature-length pictures; improve cache management; and enable more image-based lighting. Adler also knows the studio can’t depend solely on GPU technology, which is why he’d also like to perform some CPU-side optimizations.