Taming Render Times at Pixar: CPU & GPU, Brave and Beyond

Wednesday, 28 November 13:15-17:00 | Peridot 201

Despite the exponential growth of computing performance and steady march of algorithmic improvements over the years, the images produced by feature animated film studios like Pixar still take as long as ever to render. You can bet every minute saved is spent by artists to create ever more detailed and stunning imagery, but even these savings can’t match demands of modern graphics quality and techniques by themselves. Learn the behind the scenes tales and techniques of the engineers and artists at Pixar who labor to bring even the most detailed and complex imagery into the realm of computability, and measure their success in cpu time, fps, disk space, and RAM. These “Render Speed” and “Global Tech” Technical Directors are the unsung heroes who don’t add any pixels to final frames themselves, but make it so those pixels can be added by artists with as much efficiency as possible, to facilitate creative iteration and met deadlines. This course will explain some of the challenges faced, and techniques developed for render optimization at Pixar both offline and interactive, for CPU and GPU, with the hopes that they can help other Technical Directors as they fight their own rendering battles.


The topic of this course is render optimization, both film and interactive. So, anyone who’s ever been frustrated by long render times or slow frames rates, and tried to do something about it, will find something in this course for them.

Paul Kanyuk, Pixar Animation Studios
Laurence Emms, Pixar Animation Studios

Paul Kanyuk is a Lead Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios with credits on Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Cars 2, and Brave. His specialty is crowd simulation, shading, and rendering, and he is responsible for the procedural animation and rendering of numerous crowd spectacles, including the hordes of rats in Ratatouille, the deluge of falling passengers in Wall-E, and the vicious pack of talking dogs in Up. Paul earned his BSE in Digital Media Design at the University of Pennsylvania and teaches courses in RenderMan and Crowd Simulation at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He is also an avid musician and plays bass guitar in the bay area rock band, Halcrow

Laurence Emms is a Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios in the Global Technology department with an upcoming credit on Monsters University. His specialty is GPU rendering and computation and performance optimization. He has worked on several production tools for generating and visualizing hair, volumetric and GI point cloud data. Laurence earned his MS Computer Science (specialization in Real World Computing) from Stanford University and his BSc (Hons) in Computer Games Technology from the University of Abertay, Dundee.