NVIDIA Helps the Crowds Samba in Blue Sky Studios’ “Rio” as the Animated Hit Comes in First at the Box Office


In the new animated feature “Rio” from Blue Sky Studios, a cast of characters comes to life in stereoscopic 3D, driven by NVIDIA® Quadro® professional graphics solutions. The film has experienced the biggest debut of any movie in 2011 thus far, coming in number one at the box office with a $40 million opening weekend.

Rio” stars a computer generated Macaw named Blu, who ends up at the heart of a wild adventure in Rio de Janeiro with a cast of street-smart friends and foes. The animated feature was produced in stereoscopic 3D, and Blue Sky Studios introduced a host of new tools into their pipeline which benefit from the speed and flexibility of Quadro graphics processing units (GPUs).

“After attending the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference, I learned how other production studios were leveraging the capabilities of the NVIDIA Quadro GPU,” said Hugo Ayala, Blue Sky Studios Senior Research Associate. “With that knowledge, we immediately set out to integrate advanced parallel processing capabilities into our workflow at Blue Sky.”

“Rio” was animated and produced in stereoscopic 3D, so reviewing image sequences required massive computing power. Ayala ported Blue Skys’ in-house viewing application, called “Roll,” to the GPU, allowing Blue Sky artists to preview their renders in stereo.

With the GPU optimization of “Roll,” Blue Sky artists not only saved time, but also reduced the amount of storage required to view frames, since the need to process, down-res, create and store stereo pairs for viewing had been eliminated. “Without Quadro, it would have been impossible for us to review full film resolution HDR images in stereo in real time,” continued Ayala.

Crowds of CG characters are featured throughout the film to populate backgrounds and fill the stadium of the “Sambadrome,” in a scene recreating Rio de Janeiro’s famed Carnival. To create these crowd sequences, the Blue Sky team modeled sixteen different body types and several other character variations that were then mixed and matched.

“With Quadro support, when we had a sequence with tens, hundreds, even thousands of characters, the colors of clothes and other features could be thoroughly art directed without having to wait for a render to see what the clothing distribution would look like across a large crowd,” explained Ayala. “We were able to turn around up to a dozen crowd shots in a day—something that in the past would have taken several weeks to achieve.”

“NVIDIA promotes a collaborative exchange of ideas within the professional animation and visual effects community through our annual GPU Technology Conference, and it’s rewarding to see how that’s paid off with Blue Sky,” said Dominick Spina, digital film technology manager, NVIDIA. “It’s amazing to see how far Blue Sky has advanced with their GPU integration, and how much time the studio has saved by porting a few of their tools to run on Quadro.”

“Rio” was completed in less than two years with a team that grew to 300 artists at its peak. For future animated film projects, Blue Sky is looking to further integrate GPU-optimizations into its pipeline. “Our rendering process involves extensive ray tracing and we’re eager to explore how we might be able to leverage sparse voxel technology and port it to NVIDIA CUDA™ to run on a dedicated Quadro GPU render farm,” concluded Ayala.

“Rio” opened in theaters on April 15, 2011, and is the sixth feature film from Blue Sky Studios, a wholly owned unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment, and best known for producing the “Ice Age” animated film franchise.