CGarchitect SIGGRAPH 2010 in Los Angeles Review
by Jeff Mottle
After one of the lowest turnouts in SIGGRAPH history in New Orleans last year with only 11,000 attendees, the annual computer graphics conference made its way back to familiar territory in Los Angeles. At 22,549 attendees, overall attendance made it back to its ten year average, but the number of exhibitors this year reached only 160, the second lowest number since 2000. It's clear that the economy, budgets and a shift in how our industry markets, is taking its toll on event exhibition floors. That having been said many of the large players in our industry made it out to LA and the remainder of this review will cover some of the new announcements that were made at SIGGRAPH as well as well as few other tidbits of information I picked up in my regular myriad of private meetings.
SIGGRAPH 2010 Showfloor - Chaos Group Booth
One of the more interesting parts of SIGGRAPH I always find to be the Emerging Technologies section of the event. An area dedicated to new research and technologies being developed by Universities and private companies, one can spend a few hours interacting with everything from technologies that allow you to type in thin air to new cylindrical 3d display systems. While one could write an entire essay on all of the cool new toys on display, I found several that caught my eye as they could have direct uses in our own industry. The first I'll mention only because I am a color management geek and I love new color display technologies. Sharp has been advertising this new display on TV for a few months now, but it was great to be able to see it in person. In fact their slogan is "you have to see it, to see it". The new Aquos Quadpixel LCD technology adds the color yellow to the traditional RGB sub-pixel components. Using a loupe, you could see the 4 elements. The color was incredibly vibrant and definitely displayed a much larger gamut of colors than has ever been seen on LCD's previously.
New Sharp Quattron Pixel - Image Courtesy Aquos-World.com
Sharp Quattron Gamut - Image Courtesy Aquos-World.com
The next technology, while currently costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, was one of the more interesting and applicable uses of several popular technologies I've seen in quite some time. Combining viewpoint tracking, stereographic rendering and multi-touch technology, Immersion has developed as part of the EU's V-City initiative, a collaborative tabletop interface to interact with 3d city environments. While wearing a pair of stereo glasses, whose location is tracked in real-time using traditional motion tracking sensors, you can move around a tabletop display while having the 3d perspective adjust as though you were looking at a real physical model. Using multi-touch technology similar to what many are used to on the iPhone, you can rotate, zoom and manipulate the model as well. More interesting however is the fact that their multi-view support allows two users to view different viewpoints of the model at the same time from the same 3d mockup. If this technology develops further, I can see this being a truly innovative approach to discussing architectural designs. I am not a big fan of stereography in architecture, as I've yet to see a useful implementation that adds anything but a novel wow factor, but this new multi-touch system however has revived my faith in stereo 3d.
A new technology "Lumino" being developed at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany is experimenting with the use of glass fiber bundles to enable stacking and tracking of markers on a Microsoft Surface display for augmented reality. The use of markers on a 3d display enabling interaction with a 3d model is not new, and we've covered this in previous articles from Autodesk University, however, what makes this development interesting is that it allows markers to be stacked. Traditionally markers are detected by a special symbol on the bottom of the marker. Stacking of markers has never been possible before as the symbol would obviously be blocked. Lumino uses bundles of glass fibers within the marker to transmit the symbol from stacked blocks to table. This allows for an even greater level of interaction and I could see this technology being used to both physically and virtually to explore design concepts.
The last technology with uses in our industry is called GShow. Also a table based display system, GShow through the use of a special IR lamp allows you to "shine" the lamp onto the display to reveal a more detailed information. In the demo I saw, they had Google Maps showing, and the lamp allowed you to magnify a region of interest. The most intriguing application was with the use of a tablet PC, also with a special IR sensor attached. By moving the tablet display around the table top display, as though it were a viewport into another world, you could see the 3d model view of Google earth. This might sound a bit confusing, so just watch the video below.
This really has nothing to do with architectural visualization, but I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the screening of eight minutes of Tron Legacy at SIGGRPAH, which was followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with several members of the production crew, including director Joseph Kosinski. Many of you know that Joe is an architectural graduate from Columbia University and an alumni from the field of architectural visualization. As no photography was allowed at the event I have nothing to show here, but I hope the film does exceedingly well, if only for Joe, who's signature approach to most of his work, could be seen all over the short glimpse we were given into his directorial debut.
More about the GPU
The advancements in GPU rendering and heterogeneous computing is something I've been following closely for the last year and it's something I personally feel is going to have a dramatic impact on our industry as the technologies develop. This year I caught the latest demo of V-Ray GPU as well as advancements with iray, including an NVIDIA technology demo showing iray integrated inside of 3ds Max, iray in Bunkspeed's Shot and an interesting panel discussion at the Jon Peddie Research luncheon about the future of heterogeneous computing. The technology is evolving quickly and I anticipate it will not be but a few years before most everyone will be touched by its effects.
At SIGGRAPH NVIDIA launched the Fermi chip in its Quadro product line. Aimed firmly at the GPU compute and rendering crowd, the Quadro 4000, Quadro 5000 and Quadro 6000 are the fastest cards available on the market today. The Quadro 6000 boasts 6GB of GDDR5 RAM and 448 CUDA Cores. The 4000 and 5000 respectively have 2GB and 2.5 GB of GDDR5 RAM and 256 and 552 CUDA cores. The large increase in RAM in the top end offering is noteworthy as GPU rendering requires that the entire scene, including textures, be loaded completely into the cards RAM. The, new Fermi architecture and increased RAM comes at a price though. Currently the MSRP of the Quadro 6000 card is $4,999 USD. The 5000 and 4000 series cards are priced at a $2249 and $1199 respectively. Those of you running mobile workstations can get the Quadro 5000M integrated into Dell and HP desktop replacements, although at a slightly lower spec than its workstation counterpart with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM and 320 CUDA cores.
NVDIA also showed a technology demo with iray integrated into 3ds Max, so it should not be long before we see iray finally integrated into 3ds Max. Michael Kaplan, VP of Strategic development at mental images, gave me a personal demo of the new integration and sent me several screenshots of the demo interface.
One of the things I learned about iray this year is how it uses the GPU and CPU. Originally I had thought that iray could use either the GPU or CPU, but not both at the same time. Michael showed me how iray is able to use both, while adaptively pushing work to each based on which is able to take on more work and which is the most efficient. This allows you to effectively max out over time all of your available processors. This means that having a monster CPU workstation is not going to go to waste when using iray.
Two companies also debuted their GPU cloud rendering services this year. PEER 1 Hosting and Penguin Computing both offer Reality server support, which opens the door for on demand GPU rendering services for those who either don't want to, or cannot afford to build their own GPU rendering farm.
While still very much in prototype stage, I was shown an implementation of cloud based rendering directly in 3ds Max. I was told that as the technology develops it is conceivable that users could simply enter in the URL for a cloud rendering farm and submit their scene directly to that cloud from within the application. In the prototype demo I saw, Iray simply submitted all of scene information to the cloud and pushes the result back to a webpage to preview. If you need to make scene changes and resubmit, only the data that has changed is pushed back up to the cloud, rather than your entire model file and assets. This is a far cry from the workflows that many are used to with traditional CPU render farms now. In the coming year I anticipate CGarchitect will be able to start testing render times with several GPU rendering applications. Stay Tuned.
Bunkspeed Shot, the reinvention of HyperShot, was also shown at the NVDIA booth boasting a new iray backend. Bunkspeed SHOT™ enables you to import 3D data, apply accurate materials and lighting, and create stunning images in minutes not hours. With support for many popular data formats this could prove to be a fantastic addition to a design discussions, especially when coupled with Sharp's new display technology.
Rendering from Bunkspeed Shot using the new iray Rendering Engine.
Rendering from Bunkspeed Shot using the new iray Rendering Engine.
V-Ray 2.0 and V-Ray RT GPU
Finally, Chaos Group held its annual end user event this year on the last day of SIGGRAPH. Peter, Vlado and Rusko demonstrated all of their products including a sneak peak at V-Ray 2.0, V-Ray for Maya, V-Ray RT in Maya, V-Ray RT CPU/GPU, Pdplayer and their just released product Phoenix. Those of you who were not able to attend, CGarchitect recorded the entire presentation broken into their respective demos here: http://shop.cgarchitect.com/siggraph-2010-chaos-group-end-user-event-demos.html
With all of this talk of GPU rendering, I thought I would share a counterpoint from a respected member of the 3d community, Brad Peebler, president and co-founder at Luxology. At a press dinner hosted by the makers of Modo, Brad eloquently presented a call for action from the community to carefully evaluate the benefits of GPU technology before jumping on the GPU and Cloud computing rendering bandwagon. While he openly admitted it will certainly play a future in the industry, and they too are investigating the GPU for Modo, he cautioned that the technology is not there yet. Luxology commissioned an outside Modo artist to compare the current Modo renderer to an currently available GPU renderer. In almost every case Modo came out on top in both rendering speed or quality. While it might sound like a fishy marketing tactic, Brad invited anyone to do their own test with their datasets to see if they obtain different results.
CGA party at Seven Grand
After a long hiatus, CGarchitect hosted another industry gathering at SIGGRAPH at the Seven Grand Whisky bar. If you did not make it out this year, check out some of the photos of the event on our forums HERE
A few attendees of the CGarchitect SIGGRAPH gathering. (Tay Othman, Andrew Plumer, Garth Hammet, Evert Vandenburg, Jeff Mottle, Padhia Avocado, Larry Kleinkemper, John Petersen) Front to Back, Left to Right
Chaos Booth / CGschool class
With one of the most prime locations on the SIGGRAPH exhibition floor Chaos Group hosted a packed booth for most of the show. Featuring industry expert speakers throughout the show, including, CGschool's and 3DATS's Brian Smith. CGschool also hosted its first live SIGGRAPH training event in cooperation with Chaos Group.
Next year SIGGRAPH will host its first event outside of the US in Vancouver, Canada. A city with a large VFX and gaming industry and the second home for many Hollywood studios, it will be interesting to see how attendance fairs. As a Canadian myself I hope it does do well and that all of you will be able to make it to the home country of CGarchitect. For more information on SIGGRAPH 2011, click here: http://www.siggraph.org/s2011/
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