Tag Archives: GPU

AMD offering FireRender plug-in for 3ds Max

AMD, makers of the line of FirePro graphics cards and engines, has released a free software–based rendering plug-in, the FireRender for Autodesk 3ds Max, which is designed for content creators with 4K workflows and who are looking for photorealistic rendering. FireRender for Max offers physically accurate raytracing and comes with an extensive material library.

AMD FireRender is built on OpenCL 1.2, which means it can run on any hardware. It also provides a CPU backend, which means that FireRender can run on GPU, CPU, CPU+GPU, or a variety of combinations of multiple CPUs and GPUs. Within the FireRender, integrated materials are editable in the 3ds Max Material Slate Editor as nodes. There is also Active Shade Viewport Integration, which means you can work with FireRender in realtime and see your changes as you make them. Physically Correct materials and lighting help with true design decisions via global illumination — including caustics. Emissive and Photometric Lighting, as well as lights from HDRI environments, enable artists to blend a scene in with its surroundings.

AMD says to keep an eye out for other upcoming free software plug-ins for other animation software, including Autodesk Maya and Rhino.


In other AMD news, at the NAB show last month, the company introduced the AMD FirePro W9100 32GB workstation graphics card designed for large asset workflows with creative applications. It will be available in Q2 of this year. The FirePro W9100 16GB is currently available.

Raytracing today and in the future

By Jon Peddie

More papers, patents and PhDs have been written and awarded on ray tracing than any other computer graphic technique.

Ray tracing is a subset of the rendering market. The rendering market is a subset of software for larger markets, including media and entertainment (M&E), architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), computer-aided design (CAD), scientific, entertainment content creation and simulation-visualization. Not all users who have rendering capabilities in their products use it. At the same time there are products that have been developed solely as rendering tools and there are products that include 3D modeling, animation and rendering capabilities, and they may be used primarily for rendering, primarily for modeling or primarily for animation.

Because ray tracing is so important, and at the same time computationally burdensome, individuals and organizations have spent years and millions of dollars trying to speed things up. A typical ray traced scene on an old-fashioned HD screen can tax a CPU so heavily the image can only be upgraded maybe every second or two — certainly not the 33ms needed for realtime rendering.

GPUs can’t help much because one of the characteristics of ray tracing is it has no memory and every frame is a new frame, so the computational load is immutable. Also, the branching that occurs in raytracing defeats the power of a GPU’s SIMD architecture.

Material Libraries Critical
Prior to 2015, all ray tracer engines came with their own materials libraries. Cataloging the characteristics of all the types of materials in the world is beyond the resources of any company’s ability to develop and support. And the lack of standards has held back any cooperative development in the industry. However, a few companies have agreed to work together and share their libraries.

I believe we will see an opening up of libraries and the ability of various ray tracing engines to be able to avail themselves of a much larger library of materials. Nvidia is developing a standard-like capability they are calling the Material Definition Language — (MDL) and using it to allow various libraries to work with a wide range of ray tracing engines.

Rendering Becomes a Function of Price
In the near future, I expect to see 3D rendering become a capability offered as an online service. While it’s not altogether clear how this will affect the market, I think it will boost the use of ray tracing and lower the cost to an as-needed basis. It also offers the promise of being able to apply huge quantities of processing power limited only by the amount of money the user is willing to pay. Ray tracing will resolve to time (to render a scene) divided by cost.

That will continue to bring down the time to generate a ray traced frame for an animation for example, but it probably won’t get us to realtime ray tracing at 4K or beyond.

Shortcuts and Semiconductors
Work continues on finding clever ways to short circuit the computational load by using intelligent algorithms to look at the scene and deterministically allocate what objects will be seen, and which surfaces need to be considered.

Hybrid techniques are being improved and evolved where only certain portions of a scene are ray traced. Objects in the distance for example don’t need to be ray traced and flat, dull colored objects don’t need it.

Chaos Group says the use of variance-based adaptive sampling on this model of Christmas cookies from Autodesk 3ds Max provided a better final image in record time. (Source: Chaos Group)

Semiconductors are being developed to specifically accelerate ray tracing. Imagination Technologies, the company that designs Apple’s iPhone and iPad GPU, has a specific ray tracing engine that, when combined with the advance techniques just described can render an HD scene with partial ray traced elements several times a second. Siliconarts is a startup in Korea that has developed a ray tracing accelerator and I have seen demonstrations of it generating images at 30fps. And Nvidia is working ways to make a standard GPU more ray-tracing friendly.

All these ideas and developments will come together in the very near future and we will begin to realize realtime ray tracing.

Market Size
It is impossible to know how many users there are of ray tracing programs because the major 3D modeling and CAD programs, both commercial and free (e.g., Autodesk, Blender, etc.) have built-in ray tracing engines, as well as the ability to use pluggable add-on software programs for ray tracing.

The potentially available market vs. the totally available market (TAM).

Also, not all users make use of ray tracing on a regular basis— some use it every day, others maybe occasionally or once a project. Furthermore, some users will use multiple ray tracing programs in a project, depending upon their materials library, user interface, specific functional requirements or pipeline functionality.

Free vs. Commercial
A great deal of the raytracing software available on the market is the result of university projects. Some of the developers of such programs have formed companies, others have chosen to stay in academia or work as independent programmers.

The number of new suppliers has not slowed down indicating a continued demand for ray tracing

The non-commercial developers continue to offer their ray tracing rendering software as an open source and for free — and continue to support it, either individually or as part of a group.

Raytracing Engine Suppliers
The market for ray tracing is entering into a new phase. This is partially due to improved and readily available low-cost processors (thank you, Moore’s law), but more importantly it is because of the demand and need for accurate virtual prototyping and improved workflows.

Rendering in the cloud using GPUs (Source OneRender).

As with any market, there is a 20/80 rule, where 20 percent of the suppliers represent 80 percent of the market. The ray tracing market may be even more unbalanced. There would appear to be too many suppliers in the market despite failures and merger and acquisition activities. At the same time many competing suppliers have been able to successfully coexist by offering features customized for their most important customers.

Ray tracing is to manufacturing what a storyboard is to film — the ability to visualize the product before it’s built. Movies couldn’t be made today with the quality they have without ray tracing. Think of how good the characters in Cars looked — that imagery made it possible for you to suspend disbelief and get into the story. It used to be: “Ray tracing — Who needs it?” Today it’s: “Ray tracing? Who doesn’t use it?”

Our Main Image: An example of different materials being applied to the same object (Source Nvidia)

Dr. Jon Peddie is president of Jon Peddie Research, which just completed an in-depth market study on the ray tracing market. He is the former president of Siggraph Pioneers and  serves on advisory boards of several companies. In 2015, he was given the Life Time Achievement award from the CAAD society. His most recent book is “The History of Visual Magic in Computers.”

Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference: Part III

Entrepreneurs, self-driving cars and more

By Fred Ruckel

Welcome to the final installment of my Nvidia GPU Technology Conference experience. If you have read Part I and Part II, I’m confident you will enjoy this wrap-up — from a one-on-one meeting with one of Nvidia’s top dogs to a “shark tank” full of entrepreneurs to my take on the status of self-driving cars. Thanks for following along and feel free to email if you have any questions about my story.

Going One on One
I had the pleasure sitting down with Nvidia marketing manager Greg Estes, along with Gail Laguna, their PR expert in media and entertainment. They allowed me to pick their brains about Continue reading

Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference: Part II

By Fred Ruckel

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference in San Jose. I spent five days sitting in on conferences, demos, and in a handful of one-on-one meetings. If the Part I of my story had you interested in the new world of GPU technology, take a dive into this installment and learn what other cool things Nvidia has created to enhance your workflow.

Advanced Rendering Solutions
We consider rendering to be the final output of an animation. While that’s true, there’s a lot
more to rendering than just the final animated result. We could jump straight to the previz Continue reading

Nvidia GPU Technology Conference 2015: Part I

By Fred Ruckel

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Nvidia GPU Technology Conference 2015 in San Jose, California, a.k.a. Silicon Valley. This was not a conference for the faint of heart; it was an in-depth look at where the development of GPU technology is heading and what strides it had made over the last year. In short, it was the biggest geek fest I have ever known, and I mean that as a compliment. The cast of The Big Bang Theory would have fit right in.

While some look at “geek” as having a negative connotation, in the world of technology geeks Continue reading

Quick Chat: AMD’s Raja Koduri

By Randi Altman

In a new semi-regular column here at postPerspective, we are asking tool makers how they ensure they are providing gear targeting your needs.

Today’s deadlines call for fast turnarounds due to tighter deadlines, making fast graphics cards even more important tools of the trade. In this installment, we chatted up AMD’s corporate VP of visual computing, Raja Koduri, as he was gearing up for NAB 2014.

It seems like the industry is really embracing OpenCL. Can you talk about the benefits?
Continue reading

Ted Schilowitz tackles supercomputing that targets M&E

By Randi Altman

As history shows, when Ted Schilowitz finds a product he believes in, he’s all in.

Shortly after his retirement last year from Red Digital Cinema, where he had been the public face of the company since its inception, Schilowitz began talks with Silverdraft, a company known for its on-set services truck housing a supercomputer for post production needs, including rendering.

He was impressed with the technology and what it offered, but knew the strategy of the company needed to focus more on what he calls “the flattening out of the entertainment Continue reading