Shaping the Light – Rendering with @Silverdraft

What do they grow on the render farm? Light and reflection, and images bright.

What do they grow on the render farm? Shadows and darkness, shades of the night.

Computer juggles the contrast and texture. Sparing the artist, a mechanized protector?

The Render Wrangler tends this farm. Your data is safe! No cause for alarm.


Old time animation was a super-intensive cell-by-cell process. Colossal amounts of artist’s time went into all of the tiny attendant details that went with the main image being conveyed: the intricate dance of light and shadow, reflection and hue, texture and contrast… crafting quality shading takes time – lots of time. The audience demands their entertainment and the beleaguered artists work fervently to accommodate them. Oh, what shall spare our artists from being worked until they drop?


2The devil is in the details, so they say, and with something that can become as computation- heavy as rendering, computational power is at the core of an effective render. Warm-up the graphic processing units – it’s time to jump into a shifting world of light and shadows! Getting all those pixels in just the right places takes quite a bit of computation; the alternative, of course, is the old-time frame-by-frame animation done painstakingly by hand in the studios of old. Technology saves us monumental amounts of time (and the hands and sanity of our artists) by supplying all the filler-detail.

For example, the Disney film “Big Hero Six” took a mind blowing 55,000 CPU cores (In four locations). They developed the program (which they3 named Hyperion) while the movie was being filmed. “It’s the analog to building a car while you’re driving it.” Said Andy Hendrickson, Disney’s Chief Technology Officer.

By way of contrast, the rendering of Pixar’s film “Cars 2” only used 12,500 CPU cores. Each frame of that movie took over 11 hours to render. Image how long it would have taken an artist to paint an identical image by hand, especially given that rendering time doesn’t even include producing the main focus of the picture – but only the attendant details. Speaking of Pixar, watch a few minutes of “Toy Story” just paying attention to the lighting effects, then watch a few minutes of “Monsters University” watching the same thing. You can see some of the improvements nearly 20 years of evolving and advancing rendering has attained.

The Devil
The Devil

What makes rendering so data-heavy is what it comprises. It considers the light and intensity of light from all sources and all those attendant angles including reflections, the degree of reflection, as well as the light passing

The Demon
The Demon

thru transparent or translucent surfaces. The shadows, too, have their own considerations. Texture and contrast also come into play. In addition, increasingly complex images have increasingly complex renderings, requiring hundreds of thousands or even millions of calculations. Once upon a time, it took a small dedicated server room to kick out the computational power you can find in a neat little product they have today.

Silverdraft has that neat little product called the ‘Devil’ that is just packed with cores – they have two varieties the Devil Tamed (336 cores) and Devil Unleashed (424 cores with hyper threading). It’s a big aid to a creative workflow in a deceptively small package.

Punch up the heat by adding several Demons for blazing fast I/O connectivity. With this product, you no longer require a dedicated server room. Graphic and render jobs love this supercomputing power. The Devil Unleashed has: an AMD W8000 GPU, 896 GB RAM, 7.2 TB SSD storage, and 24 AMD processors @ 2.5 GHz per processor, 2 Intel E5 processors @ 3 GHz per processor. Who said supercomputers had to be super big? Silverdraft manufactures solutions.

The Devil’s ‘little helper’ is the Silverdraft Demon and is aimed at visually intensive work, focusing on GPUs or CPUs or the ideal mix of both. The Demon comes in 4 different models: the DSPa, DSPi, DMPa, & DMPI, and they range from 6 to 16 cores with a  FirePro W8000 GPU, and storage capacity of dual 240gb ssd in raid 0 config. The DMPi version boasts 64 GB RAM and 32 threads (hyper threaded).


The devil is in optimal supercomputer configuration and Silverdraft’s Devil-Demon Strategy uses the ideal components from such heavy hitters as AMD, Intel, Micron, Nvidia, and Supermicro to provide the components for this fiendishly effective suite of products. Just how fast is this devil? Third. The third fastest in the world. What’s faster, you may ask? Japan’s Earth Simulator and Los Alamos National Laboratories ASCI Q; when last I checked, they weren’t renting either of those out for rendering or your other graphic needs! Considering its speed and computational power, this diabolical duo is surprisingly cheap. Powerful yet small… it’s amazing how many 0’s and 1’s Silverdraft crammed into these things.

About Silverdraft:

With offices in Boise, Idaho and at the Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles, California, Silverdraft meets head-on the dramatic changes taking place in modern film and television production, and today’s fast paced post-production. As filmmakers require greater immediacy, efficiency, convenience and creative voice, Silverdraft answers with technology that provides unparalleled speed, security and value in support of their creative endeavors. Beyond the power of the server, Silverdraft can custom design a processing unit to your specifications, supercharging your system in ways never thought possible… or affordable. With proprietary technology already operating at speeds that exceed current industry standards, our systems are built to answer the challenge of the new world, where the terms “cost conscious” and “creative flexibility” must find a way to walk hand in hand. The Silverdraft AViate supercomputer technology is a proprietary system that brings unprecedented data processing and information management within a manageable framework. Visit their website at:

Anthony Rogers is a freelance writer/author currently plying his trade within the broadcast, post-production and studio areas of the media world.He has contributed many articles to Broadcast Beat and appears in Broadcast Beat Magazine frequently.
Anthony Rogers
Latest posts by Anthony Rogers (see all)
Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource