How much time does it take for large studios to render a big production?

I don't know much about animations or rendering, but I cannot figure out how things work.

Let's take this article as an example about Cars 2 and Pixar's rendering farm (I know it's 2011, but I'll be happy to be enlightened about both how it worked and how it works now).

One of the keys to Pixar's ability to do what it does is the giant, powerful render farm located in its main headquarters building here. This is serious computing power, and on "Cars 2," it required an average of 11.5 hours to render each frame.

Those are not the first figures that I can find, there are other examples, but the time seems pretty big to me, considering the following (and maybe it's here that I am mistaken):

A film lasts about 90 minutes, with a framerate about 25fps, which taking 11.5 hours average per frame would give a theoretical rendering time of more than 4000 years. And it's not considering 4K, stereo 3D...

What am I missing? Can someone explain how things work and how it's done in a simple way?

  • Are you solely talking about the virtual animation found in Pixar movies? Keep in mind they can render frames on multiple computers May 7, 2016 at 12:42
  • This question does not seem to be on topic for graphic design ( help center) . Nevertheless, unless they employ time travelling or parallel universes, an explanation is that the quote is incomplete and a per factor is omitted. If this is per 'render blade' (whatever that is), then "today, the render farm features 12,500 cores on Dell render blades" makes it fit inside 3 months.
    – Jongware
    May 7, 2016 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


Let us asume the numbers on the article you quoted are acurate.

11.5 hours average per frame, per cpu. Your 4000 years is on one cpu. If you have 12,500 cpus it is a simple division. 4000 / 12,500 = .32 years. Like 3 and a half months.

But that would be just raw time. Assuming all magicly apeared ready to render.

  • 1
    I just used the numbers on the article.
    – Rafael
    Jun 3, 2016 at 21:21
  • Well so as stated @RadLexus this must be per cpu which is not set and would otherwise be impossible.
    – d6bels
    Jun 6, 2016 at 13:47

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