8 kilos? that’s sweet. Stallion of TACC pushes 597 million pixels

If you thought 8K was high definition, the newly revamped Stallion tiled display system in this supercomputer lab invites you to think bigger—much bigger.

The massive screen claims a resolution of 46,080 x 12,960 pixels. In other words, this works out to only 600MP, or in TV marketing speaking 46K.

However, this isn’t some Jumbotron pitch or stage show. As you might expect, the Stallion is not a single panel, but instead an array of 18 Samsung 8K QLED TVs, each with a 65-inch screen arranged in a 6-by-3 grid measuring about 28 feet wide and 8 feet long.

Stallion’s upgraded data visualization system…Click to enlarge

The purpose of Stallion, which is based at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), is to visualize large scientific datasets. In a recent write-up, Jo Wozniak, the visualization specialist who works on Stallion, explained that the higher resolution and greater brightness will allow visualizers to pick out details that would otherwise have been missed without the greater range.

For example, one of the first applications of the updated array was the Cosmic Evolution Early Science Survey (CEERS), which used Stallion to visualize data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope. Another application for submitting high-resolution forms.

“Stallion is perfect for a hypothetical Angkor show, and our complete completion of the Cambodian city of Angkor around AD 1300,” explained Adam Clulow, professor of history at the University of Austin in Austin.

According to Paul Navratil, director of strategic technologies at TACC, the decision to use 8K panels was primarily a forward-looking measure. The updates come “at the beginning of a technical curve in 8K TVs, which will allow us to maintain a solid technology foundation.”

It probably doesn’t hurt that 8K TVs have become a lot less expensive in recent years. A quick search of BestBuy reveals models as low as $1,299, though it’s not clear which model of Samsung TACC TV Stallion uses.

In some ways, Stallion’s latest iteration is less complex than it has been in the past. The first generation of the Matrix 80 used a 30-inch screen by 16×5 widescreen configurations. But despite using more screens, it offered a lower resolution — 328 megapixels versus 597 — and was wired in a way that meant it could only be used as a single, monolithic display.

By comparison, the updated array is split into six individually addressable columns, and three screens long. They can be combined into one large panel, or divided into smaller groups, allowing multiple data sources to be displayed simultaneously.

While 18 high-resolution screens may be the star of the show, running data visualizations at this resolution requires quite a bit of computational power.

The Stallion is powered by a set of 36 6-core Sandy Bridge CPUs each with a matching Nvidia Quadro K5000 GPU for a total of 232 processor cores, 19TB of disk storage, 1.28TB of memory, and 74GB of GPU memory.

The visual data provided by the cluster is then distributed across the displays using software developed by TACC’s visualization team called DisplayCluster, MostPixelsEver: Cluster Edition. ®

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