Issue: Volume: 32 Issue: 12 (Dec. 2009)


Autodesk Puts Shine on Lustre

Product: Postproduction

Autodesk remained on a product rollout, continuing to launch 2010 versions of its software with Lustre 2010 digital color-grading software. As with its other new releases, this offering is focused on increasing value to the customer. This is being done through a  broader set of creative tools and a more efficient workflow, with improved support for open platforms and cross-product data formats, such as RED and Avid DNxHD.

The 2010 release of Lustre gives artists greater control over final color and lighting effects for both stereoscopic and standard television and film projects. Lustre is available in stand-alone turnkey configurations, as well as a software-only companion when installed on the same platform as Smoke and Flame software. The release offers four times more secondary grading power than Lustre 2009, with 48 layers and unlimited shapes per layer. A new Degrain tool enables users to degrain entire shots as well as defined areas, while a new Grade Bin provides large view of grades and associated metadata.

Lustre 2010 also sports workflow enhancements, such as improved interoperability with Flame and Smoke, support for MXF with Avid DNxHD (import), and RED workflow with RSX file support and real-time 2k streaming of 4k R3D files.

In other news, Autodesk has upgraded the workflow and feature sets in the 2010 Extension 1 releases of its visual effects and finishing software: Flame, Inferno, Flare, Flint, and Smoke.

All the products are available now. Pricing varies according to system configuration. 

Graphics Add-in Board Market Rebounds

News: Graphics Boards

While a market rebound for graphics add-in boards (AIBs) didn’t occur in sync with the broader graphics hardware markets, it did eventually materialize in the third quarter, reports Jon Peddie Research (JPR). The market (along with most others) had suffered a major drop in Q4 2008. Volume flattened in the first quarter as drained-down inventories regained some lost weight, and Q2 2009 mercifully showed demand stabilizing and more evidence that the market had bottomed.

What was in store for Q3 this year? JPR had been expecting a bounce in the second half, with the first signs to be manifested in this year’s Q3. And to the relief of many, that’s how the story unfolded. The quarter saw 20.3 million graphics cards shipped, up 21.0 percent sequentially, a particularly robust number considering the two major vendors were on the tail end of product cycles. Even in the context of a year-over-year measure, the quarter’s 7.2 percent decline was significantly more moderate than JPR had seen in the previous quarters.

The market’s rebound was belated, as the broader market for graphics hardware had already seen its bounce. In Q2, overall shipments for graphics—including integrated graphics processors (IGPs)—rose, up 31 percent sequentially and an even more impressive 4 percent year-over-year. Yet AIB shipments in the same quarter were generally flat from the first quarter.

JPR attributed the dynamic to more hesitant buyers with tighter wallets in the second quarter. As frugal buyers cautiously made their way back to the marketplace, they tended to opt more for lower performance (but essentially free) IGPs over add-in boards. But thanks to improved consumer confidence, more AIBs left retail shelves (and PC assembly lines) in Q3.

A quiet before a coming storm, the third quarter proved to be a virtual stalemate in the Nvidia vs. AMD war, with the latter managing just a one-point gain in unit share. By contrast, the fourth quarter promises to be anything but quiet. AMD has a brand-new set of graphics cards ready for the holiday (and Windows 7) season. Its launch of the Evergreen (Radeon HD 5000 series) generation has equipped the company with strong offerings for the enthusiast and performance segments, ready to entice somewhat more optimistic consumers (see product announcement on pg. 7).

Nvidia, however, will have to get by this holiday season with previous-generation products, as it hustles to get products based on its ambitious Fermi generation ready for (what appears to be) the first quarter of 2010. The one potential snag for AMD is the broadly reported, less-than-stellar ramp of 40nm product coming out of TSMC. Nvidia is relying on 40nm as well, but should TSMC’s struggle with yield be limited to 4Q ’09 and not Q1 ’10, then it will be AMD that will primarily suffer, not Nvidia.

AMD Unveils Eyefinity, New Card

Product: Graphics Cards

AMD and its industry partners introduced ATI Eyefinity multi-display technology, a feature in the next-generation ATI Radeon family of DirectX 11-enabled graphics processors, the first of which was launched recently.

Eyefinity enables PCs to seamlessly connect up to six ultra-high-definition displays in a variety of portrait and landscape configurations, offering viewers near eye-definition resolutions. Eyefinity is powered by one AMD graphics card for up to 12 times 1080p high-definition resolution, which approaches optical clarity. Using this technology in a single PC, it is now possible to power displays with a combined theoretical resolution of 268 megapixels, roughly equivalent to the resolution of a 90-degree arc of what the human eye sees. ?(The average 19-inch LCD display has an image quality of only slightly more than a single megapixel.) AMD is working with leading display partner Samsung Electronics to introduce ultra-thin bezel monitors and compatible stands that easily can be tiled to create a more immersive and virtually seamless experience. ?

Hand-in-hand with this news, AMD released the ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series DirectX 11-compliant graphics cards, touted to be the most powerful processor created and the first to fully support DirectX 11, the new gaming and compute standard shipping with the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system. Boasting up to 2.72 teraflops of compute power, the ATI Radeon HD 5800 series effectively doubles the value consumers can expect from their graphics purchases, delivering twice the performance-per-dollar of previous generations of graphics products.

AMD has released two cards—the ATI Radeon HD 5870 and the ATI Radeon HD 5850, each with 1gb GDDR5 memory—that enable PC users to expand their computing with the just-released ATI Eyefinity multi-display technology. The 5870 costs $399, while the 5850 is priced at $299.

Vicon Presents Bonita

Product: Motion tracking

Vicon has rolled out Bonita, a small, affordable optical-capture camera for tracking and analyzing motion. Bonita is capable of capturing 240 frames per second, while being small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand. Vicon also launched Tracker, object-tracking software for 3D applications. Both offerings are ideal for those working in industrial engineering, robotics, human factors engineering, virtual engineering, and academia.

Vicon’s smallest optical-capture camera, Bonita is easy to set up and captures with positional accuracy down to one millimeter in a 4- by 4-meter volume. It connects to a PC with a standard Ethernet switch. A variable focal-length lens makes it flexible to use in various environments. Tracker, meanwhile, can be integrated with third-party applications and development environments, such as C++ (Windows 32/64, Linux), Labview, Virtools, and TrackD. With full support for Windows Vista, it can be used with the latest computers.

Bonita is priced at $30,000 for an eight-camera system, including the Tracker software.