Spotlight - Siggraph2006
Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 9 (Sept 2006)

Spotlight - Siggraph2006

Your resource for products, user applications, news, and market research  
SIGGRAPH 2006, held last month in Boston, drew a crowd of 20,000 attendees, who witnessed a number of new digital content creation product releases and demonstrations by a range of hardware and software vendors. In this issue, we are highlighting a number of those products in both the Spotlight section here and in the Products section.
Graphics Playing at the Quadro Plex
Nvidia, looking to establish new era of advanced visualization for the professional graphics market, introduced the Nvidia Quadro Plex 1000, the first dedicated visual computing system (VCS). Delivering an order-of-magnitude increase in productivity and capability for advanced visualization, the Quadro Plex offers advanced scalability in a desktop or dense 3U rack-mountable configuration for demanding professional applications such as those powering multiple streams of 4K HD video, 3D styling and design, scientific and medical visualization, oil and gas exploration, or visual simulation and training.
Featuring Nvidia SLI multi-GPU technology, the Quadro Plex is an external visual compute system delivering up to 20x in visual compute density compared to traditional GPU solutions, performance of up to 80 billion pixels/ sec and 7 billion vertices/sec, and resolutions as high as 148 megapixels on 16 synchronized digital output channels and eight HD SDI channels. The system scales from a single system to a cluster.
The Nvidia Quadro Plex 1000 is compatible with a certified set of x86 32- and 64-bit Intel and AMD processors running Windows and Linux operating systems (see for more details). The Quadro Plex, planned to be certified on all industry-leading applications, will ship this month starting at $17,500.    
Mova Intros Contour Reality Capture System
 Mova unveiled a so-called reality-capture system, whereby visual effects creators and game developers use digital cameras to accurately acquire and depict full-motion, photorealistic CG characters and other imagery. This new volumetic cinematography process promises to reduce production costs and give artists more control over VFX creation.
Contour uses two separate yet synchronized camera systems to simultaneously record visual and geometric information. The two data sets are then combined, resulting in a high-res 3D image. With this markerless, opticsbased process, every subtle detail of a human performance is recorded in real time, giving directors more creative control.
The acquired information can then be imported, modified, manipulated, or retargeted to other characters using a standard 3D animation package. Contour can also be used with marker-based motion-capture and keyframe animation systems. While marker- based mocap systems acquire realistic performances from skeletal captures, Contour acquires the intricacies of soft-tissue motion, such as pursing lips or billowing fabric, with a sub-millimeter precision at up to 120 fps, at a resolution of over 100,000 polygons per frame. Nvidia GPUs accelerate the capture of the 3D imagery.
The Contour service is available now; pricing is project-dependent.  
Dell Extends its Workstation Line with the 390
Dell recently extended the breadth of its workstation products with the Dell Precision 390 Workstation, which offers custom-built configurations, including Intel Core 2 Duo and Extreme processors, to deliver dramatic performance improvements for applications ranging from 3D entertainment to engineering design.
The Precision 390 can deliver improvements up to 63 percent in compute performance, up to 56 percent in application benchmarks, and up to 88 percent in graphics performance for CAD, architectural engineering, and digital content creation, versus the comparable Extreme Edition processor on the Dell Precision 3802.
The Precision 390 complements the recently announced Dell Precision 690 and 490 desktop workstations. In addition to the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors, the Dell Precision 390 Workstation features high-performance Open- GL graphics to manipulate high-resolution images and deliver dramatic performance improvements.
The workstation also incorporates an improved chassis that provides flexibility for deployment or redeployment. For example, customers can easily convert between a tower and desktop configuration and, because the chassis is rackmountable, it can be ideal for larger, networked deployments. Large front bezel vents and a new real-time thermal sensor help improve airflow to better manage system thermals. The real-time thermal sensor also helps improve fan efficiency.
The Dell Precision 390, certified on many of the workstation industry’s most demanding CAD, CAE, DCC, and other applications, is available today starting at $1050.  
The Power of Xeon in a 3DBoxx
Boxx Technologies, developer of high-performance workstations and render nodes for visual effects professionals, released the 3DBoxx 8300 Performance Series Workstation. The 8300 leverages the power of the new dual-core Intel Xeon 5100 Series processors running with the new 5000X chipset.
The 3DBoxx 8300 features a 133MHz front-side bus, 4MB of cache shared between two cores, 32GB of FB-DIMM ECC (cutting-edge memory technology), and powerful I/O to help VFX professionals enhance their work flow. The workstation also sports up to 3TB of local storage with a four-drive chassis; an eight- or 12-bay chassis is available for up to 9TB of local storage with 750GB drives.
The 8300 will replace the 3DBoxx 8200, until now a mainstay of the Boxx workstation lineup. The 3DBoxx 8300 is available now with base pricing starting at $2995.  
HP Debuts High-End xw9400 Workstation
Hewlett-Packard has expanded its professional workstation line with the release of the high-end HP xw9400. The xw9400 is positioned to meet the demanding computational and visualization needs of professionals in the 3D animation, video editing, design, and engineering markets. It features support for true dual PCI Express x16 graphics, an expandable workstation chassis, and a choice of Nvidia graphics options, including Nvidia SLI technology.
The HP xw9400 workstation takes advantage of the new AMD Opteron Series 2000 dual-core processors, designed to deliver more performance and require less power than other CPUs. The system boasts a HyperTransport bus capable of up to 12GB/ sec throughput, serial-attached SCSI (SAS), 667MHz DDR2 memory, and support for system memory of up to 64GB.
The HP xw9400 workstation is available now at a starting price of $2000.