On Saturday, May 14, we did something historic: we produced what may be the largest photo ever made of a sporting event, and we got it online in the shortest amount of time!
The event? One that is viewed by around 500 million people worldwide: The FA Cup Final. This 20-gigapixel image, made from 1147 individual photos taken over 45 minutes, shows 90 thousand people with extreme clarity. The image was shot, stitched, uploaded, and published all in under twenty-four hours.
I am not usually one to brag about my achievements, but this is something I am really proud of. It’s the kind of job that is the result of years of practice and hard work. Images like this usually take days or weeks – not hours – to get online.
The star of the show that really made this possible was the Fujitsu Celsius R670 workstation kindly loaned to us by Fujitsu. I might be able to work quickly, but a thousand images is a lot; 20 gigapixels is a lot; a job like this, to be done really quickly, needs a very powerful computer that can handle this scale of data.
To give you a better idea of the hardware involved, the machine has 12 cores (2x 6-core processors) – this was key for processing large quantities of raw files, and of warping large numbers of images simultaneously, which drastically reduced the processing times of some tasks.
The RAM? 192 gigabytes of RAM — this is the maximum RAM, as far as I am aware, available in any desktop computer. To put it into perspective, the biggest Mac Pro that you can get has “only” 64GB of ram. That’s one third of the capacity!
Disk space? Two solid state disks (SSD) in RAID 0 as the scratch disk, and two enterprise-grade, 15,000RPM SAS hard disks in RAID 0 as the temporary storage. These extremely fast disks kept any delays to a minimum, in cases where data did not fit into the RAM.
It is a great feeling working with such a fast machine, and especially knowing that all of the resources of such a machine are being utilized. On an exciting project such as the shooting of 90,000 people in Wembley Stadium, the result is extremely satisfying.
Thanks to Fujitsu for making it all possible!