The HPC Innovation Excellence Award recognizes noteworthy achievements by users of high performance computing technologies. The programme's main goals are to showcase return on investment (ROI) and scientific success stories involving HPC; to help other users better understand the benefits of adopting HPC and justify HPC investments, especially for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs); to demonstrate the value of HPC to funding bodies and politicians; and to expand public support for increased HPC investments.
"IDC research has shown that HPC can accelerate innovation cycles greatly and in many cases can generate return on investment. The ROI programme aims to collect a large set of success stories across many research disciplines, industries, and application areas", stated Earl C. Joseph, Ph.D., IDC's programme vice president for High-Performance Computing (HPC) and executive director of the HPC User Forum. "The winners achieved clear success in applying HPC to greatly improve business ROI, scientific advancement, and/or engineering successes. Many of the achievements also directly benefit society."
Over thirty 2016 Innovation Excellence Award finalists were drawn from a broad pool of public and private sector organisations that have applied advanced supercomputing to realize breakthroughs of major scientific, economic, or artistic importance, often while saving millions (and even billions) of dollars. The HPC User Forum steering committee served as the initial judging panel for the awards.
The HPC Innovation Excellence Award winners 2016 are:
1. Frozen: Software engineers used advanced mathematics and physics, with assistance from mathematics researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (and 4,000 computers), to design breathtaking, believable scenes.
2. Tangled: This film employed a unique artistic style by blending features of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and traditional animation, while using non-photorealistic rendering to create the impression of a painting. Disney developed unique techniques and tools to makes the computer "as pliable as the pencil" to create the ultimate (and most expensive) 3D movie of all time.
3. Big Hero 6: Walt Disney Animation Studios created new software, called Denizen, to create over 700 distinctive characters. Another, called Bonzai, was used to create the city's 250,000 trees, and a new rendering tool, called Hyperion, offered new illumination possibilities. Disney had to assemble a new supercomputing cluster just to handle Hyperion's intense processing demands, which consisted of over 2,300 Linux workstations in four data centers, backed by a central storage system with capacity of five petabytes.
1. How to Train Your Dragon 2: Over the five years before the film's release, DreamWorks Animation overhauled its production workflow and animation software. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was the first DreamWorks Animation film that used "scalable multi-core processing", developed together with Hewlett-Packard. This "next revolution in filmmaking" enabled artists for the first time to work on rich complex images in real time, instead of waiting eight hours to see the results the next day. Programmes named Premo and Torch allowed unique subtlety, improving facial animation and enabling "the sensation of skin moving over muscle instead of masses moving together".
2. Kung Fu Panda: The computer animation used in this film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had applied before. They found help through the Department of Energy's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) programme - the company was awarded a grant to refine and test its redesigned software on the leadership-class supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The prototype software was successfully tested and immediately put to use. Knowledge gained from the INCITE grant informed an entirely new rendering architecture and has become essential in creating all of DreamWorks' animated films. But the biggest win was the raw speed at which those responsible for the film's lighting could get back frames. Iterations were sped up by an order of magnitude - a tenfold savings in total processing time. An iteration that once took hours was now accomplished in mere seconds.
3. Kung Fu Panda 2: Building on what was learned during the making of Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2 is the first DreamWorks Animation film to use dynamic, physics-based crowd characters, such as the wolves. Intensive computational graphics require seven million render hours to produce 14,000 frames.
4. Monsters vs. Aliens: It took approximately 45.6 million computing hours to make this film, more than eight times as many as the original Shrek. Several hundred Hewlett-Packard workstations were used, along with a "render farm" of HP ProLiant blade servers with over 9,000 server processor cores to process the animation sequence. Animators used 120 terabytes (TB) of data to complete the film. They used 6 TB for an explosion scene. Since Monsters vs. Aliens, all feature films released by DreamWorks Animation are produced in a stereoscopic 3D format, using Intel's InTru3D technology.