Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Can I Help to Render Shrek 3?

Like many people, I enjoy donating my spare CPU cycles to volunteer projects like SETI@Home, Grid.org, Folding@Home, and others. As satisfying as it is to watch radio signals being analyzed on my screensaver, I often wonder why nobody is doing commercial, consumer-oriented distributed computing. The idea really struck me this week as Shrek 2 was released. The amount of computing power required to render a movie like that is staggering. They've got rooms full of CPU's, and it takes hours to render a tiny clip of the film. But why spend all that time and money on rendering farms when there are millions of fans who'd jump at the opportunity to help render a real movie? All we'd be asking the movie studios for is a free movie pass once in awhile, and we'll give you 24/7 access to a mostly unused high-performance processor. Multiply that by millions of computers, and just imagine the rendering opportunities for Shrek 3! If that isn't a sweet enough deal, the movie companies could use the screensaver for advertising upcoming movies. If I happen to be rendering Shrek, I might actually see the detail being drawn in on my screensaver. Of course, I'd still be motivated to see the whole film, because my computer alone would only be able to render a few seconds at a time.