LC Hotline: 2-4531

From offsite: (925) 422-4531



8am–12pm, 1–4:45pm
B453 R1103 | Q-clearance area




The blockbuster high-resolution movie player was designed to display very large images and movies on cluster displays. It has standard movie playback features such as play, pause, and single step. It supports interactive panning and zooming with the mouse, adjustable frame rate, and movies of unlimited length. Blockbuster can take a movie with high resolution and many frames (e.g., 4000 x 3000 pixels and 10,000 frames) and play this efficiently on a display cluster. The movie may not fit into main memory so blockbuster effectively breaks an image into blocks for efficient display. The supported movie format is SM (streaming movie), developed by LLNL. SM supports tiled images, multiple level of detail, and several types of intra-frame image compression. Blockbuster is scriptable.

Blockbuster can be driven by sidecar, a utility to enable remote control of blockbuster for ease of use on powerwalls, where the blockbuster GUI is often impractical or difficult to use. Sidecar also allows scripting a set of "movie cues" for helping with planned presentations.

Blockbuster is complemented by smtools, a set of command line tools for creating and converting between streaming movie files and other types of graphics images.


Machines and Versions

See LC graphics software page.


/usr/local/bin/blockbuster and /usr/local/bin/sidecar


blockbuster was designed for cluster displays running the DMX X server, although it is usually now run without DMX, as modern video cards have reached the point where a single Nvidia Quadroplex will drive the whole wall, RAID is fast enough to read the bytes from disk, and multicore CPUs can handle sufficent workload to enable 20 FPS or more on a full-size powerwall movie if compressed.

blockbuster can use either Xlib or OpenGL to render movie frames, with OpenGL as the preferred renderer. Therefore, it is recommended that a hardware-accelerated implementation of OpenGL be installed.


To run blockbuster, type blockbuster. Use the -help option to find out about the available command-line arguments. Full usage information is available from this tutorial. Man pages for the smtools utilities  are available. On the LC machines, type "use asciviz" to add the smtools man path to your MANPATH. Further documentation is available specific to Livermore Computing and the smtools.

Related Content

  • Blockbuster User's Manual
  • Sidecar User's Manual
  • Streaming Movie (sm) tools


Help is available from the LC Hotline at (925)422-4531.

Refer to the Blockbuster User's Manual for more information.


The latest version of Blockbuster is available for download at github, along with instructions for how to install blockbuster on your desktop machine or viz cluster.