Making high-performance computing available to SMEs for animation

New innovators: Rendicity

It took 29 hours per frame to turn the Sully character from Monsters University into the image viewers saw of him on screen. This process of converting a 3D model into a 2D image is called rendering and it requires phenomenal computing power and a lot of time. Even with massive supercomputers at its disposal, it took Pixar 100 million hours to render the whole movie.

Follow this line of thought and it’s obvious the animation industry would be very interested in someone who could simplify the process. So too would other companies that need big, secure computing power at reasonable cost. Examples are architectural practices designing skyscrapers and the designers of Formula 1 cars.

Cue academics Theo Lynn and Philip Healy of Cork-based company Rendicity, which launched its game-changing image-rendering service on the market in August. Both Healy and Lynn are cloud-computing experts and theirs is one of the first companies to adopt the public cloud service for use in "bursting" compute-intensive workloads. "Rendering is critical in a number of deadline-driven industries", explains Lynn. "That said it is also compute-intensive, time-consuming, hard to predict and prone to failure."

Those involved in 3D animation modelling or CAD typically need high-performance computing (HPC). But access is complex, as it requires specialised ICT infrastructure and support staff. HPC has historically been used by companies with big budgets and people who know what they’re doing. Many SMEs would benefit from being able to use HPC but the cost and skill levels have excluded them – until now.


“Our service provides end-users of compute-intensive applications with access to the power of big computers on a pay-per-use basis while hiding the complexity of what’s making it all happen,” says Healy, the company’s founder and chief technical officer.

“Our service is more secure, lower cost, more convenient and doesn’t require the deep IT knowledge of existing HPC/HPC in the cloud solutions. It’s an on-demand, drag-and-drop solution and offers users access to a range of public cloud service providers. This provides near-infinite state-of-the-art computing power at real-time industry pricing using a utility billing model. This access will be attractive to SMEs but also to existing high-volume users who often hit capacity issues, especially when deadlines are looming.”

What sets Rendicity apart in its niche is that it offers customers a choice of different public cloud service providers including Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. “This means we don’t have any partnership conflicts,” Lynn says. “Second, we don’t just do animation, we provided support for a variety of use cases in other sectors including computer-aided engineering, electronic chip design and mechanical design. Third, in contrast to other outsourced providers, Rendicity is very secure and scalable.”

Rendicity has been in the making for three years. Philip Healy is a career academic who has spent the last 14 years as a researcher in UCC specialising in distributed and cloud computing. Theo Lynn is an associate professor at DCU business school and principal investigator at the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce. He was involved in the formation of a number of software companies prior to joining DCU in 2007.

Way forward

Rendicity currently employs two people but efforts are under way to raise €1 million and this will help fund the creation of about 15 jobs in 2016. Investment to date is in the order of €200,000 with support coming from

Enterprise Ireland

, the 30/60 Partnership and the DCU Ryan Academy. Rendicity has just completed the Academy’s Propeller Venture Accelerator programme for entrepreneurs and won its coveted company of the year award for 2015. Rendicity’s potential customers are global and its initial target are specialist animation and VFX studios and very large architectural firms worldwide.