Issue: Volume 34 Issue 7: (Aug/Sept 2011)

Spotlight


JPR: Graphics, PC Shipments Both On the Rise

According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), 2011 is shaping up to be an anomalous year for the industry, as businessestake their own path to recovery. To this end, JPR found that estimated graphics chip shipments and suppliers’market share for the second quarter of 2011 did not behave according to past years with regard to seasonality, and was higher on a year-to-year comparison for the quarter.

Typically, the second quarter of the year is a slower business quarter in the graphics industry (and in the PC industry as a whole). This year, Q2 did not conform to the normal seasonal cycle. Instead, sales were up significantly compared to previous years. The growth in Q2 comes as a welcome change, if not a bit worrying—Is it inventory building for back-to-school and the oliday season, or channelstuffing?

JPR’s forecast for the coming years has been modified since the last report, and is less ggressive for both desktops and notebooks, as tablets have changed the nature of the PC market. The findings include desktops, notebooks (and netbooks), and PC-based commercial (POS) and industrial/scientific and embedded; it does not include handhelds (such as mobile phones), x86 servers, or ARM-based tablets (for instance, iPad and Android-based tablets), smartbooks,or servers.

The Quarter in General

In Q2, Intel celebrated its sixth quarter of embedded processor graphics CPU (EPG, a multi-chip design that combined a graphics processor and CPU in the same package) shipments, and enjoyed a 21 percent average growth in desktops and notebooks.

AMD and Nvidia lost in overall market share, while Intel grew compared to last quarter. Year to year this quarter, Intel had tremendous market-share growth (14.7 percent), AMD had a loss of 14.2 percent, and Nvidia slipped 18.4 percent in the overall market partially due to the company withdrawing from the integrated segments.

The second-quarter change in total shipments from last quarter increased 6.3 percent, significantly above the 10-year average of 3.5 percent, and raising concerns about an inventory buildup. Netbooks contributed to notebook growth a bit, however, and iPads and Android tablets have probably cannibalized some netbook sales.

More than 84 million PCs shipped worldwide in the quarter,an increase of 2.4 percent compared to the first quarter (based on an average of reports from Dataquest, IDC, and HSI), causing speculation that the 6.3 percent upswing in graphics could be an inventory buildup and have a negative impact on the next two quarters.

AMD’s HPU quarter-to-quarter growth has been extraordinary at an average of 80 percent for desktops and notebooks, and Intel’s EPG growth was significant at an average of 41 percent. This is a clear showing of the industry’s affirmation of the value of CPUs with embedded graphics and is in line with our forecasts, claims JPR. The major, and logical, impact is on older IGPs, and some on low-end add-in boards (AIBS).Graphics chips (GPUs) and chips with graphics (IGPs, HPUs, and EPGs) are a leading indicator for the PC market.At least one, and often two, GPUs are present in every PC shipped. It can take the form of a discrete chip, a GPU integrated in the chipset, or one embedded in the CPU. The average GPU per PC has grown from 115 percent in 2001 to almost 160 percent.

Since the crash of 2009, combined with the introduction and influence of ARM-based tablets, the PC market has deviated from historical trends. Until the segment for tablets is clearly defined, the fluctuations in the market data are likely to continue. The disruptions probably won’t settle down for a while as tablets find their place in the market and agreement
can be reached on whether to include them in the PC market analysis.

Market shares shifted for the big three, and put pressure on the smaller three, and they showed a decrease in shipments.

Intel continues to be the overall market share leader in the quarter, elevated by Core i5 EPG CPUs, Sandy Bridge, and Pineview Atom sales for netbooks. AMD gained market share quarter to quarter, and Nvidia lost share. Nvidia is exiting the integrated graphics segments and shifting focus to discrete GPUs. The company showed significant discrete market share gain (30 percent quarter to quarter) due to, they say, strong connect with new Intel Sandy Bridge notebooks. Ironically Nvidia enjoyed some serendipitous sales of IGPs in the period.AMD share dropped 7.3 points.

In summary, the market has increased year to year. Shipments increased to 140 million units, up 22 million units from this quarter last year. The full results are found in the Q2 2011 edition of Jon Peddie Research’s “Market Watch,” available in electronic and hard-copy editions for $995.

NewTek Shines with LightWave 10.1

NewTek recently rolled out LightWave 10.1, the latest version of its 3D content creation software. With advanced modeling and animation tools built to integrate into any production pipeline, LightWave 10.1 delivers new capabilities for 3D artists, such as an off-axis  stereoscopic camera rig option, an improved Viewport Preview Renderer (VPR), more powerful import and export capabilities with FBX, MDD, and integrated Autodesk Geometry Cache support, a new Skin material node, and more.

With the continued growth of the stereoscopic 3D film,television, and gaming markets, artists need powerful tools to help streamline stereoscopic content creation. To this end LightWave 10.1 offers access to all major stereo camera rigs—parallel, toe-in, and off-axis—allowing artists to correct for toe-in distortion in the animation pipeline dynamically. Other enhancements include interactive OpenGL off-axis adjustment of the right and left camera planes, user-friendly click-and-drag convergence point adjustment in the viewport, and the ability to disable the anaglyph representation of the stereo camera in OpenGL. Also in LightWave 10.1, the interocular and convergence point both can be animated dynamically over time to track stereo changes within a shot.

Using the LightWave VPR, artists can directly interact and easily adjust lights, textures, volumetrics, and more within the viewport. They can also use the VPR to view updates to deliver realistic environmental walk-throughs quickly and perform virtual location scouts. LightWave 10.1 extends the functionality of the VPR with the support of clip maps in the VPR render, the addition of object and distance dissolve, and improved nodal shaders, like the new Skin material node that works with the VPR. The Skin material node uses a proprietary subsurface shading model for a simple “connect-and-go” way to create realistic-looking skin.

LightWave 10.1, with integrated Autodesk geometry cache support, gives artists the ability to include or exclude models, morphs, animations, cameras, and lights upon export. Additional workflow features in LightWave 10.1 offer the ability to import joints as LightWave bones for greater compatibility with other programs; multi-threaded mesh evaluation optimization and SubD mesh-freezing acceleration; linear color-space workflow improvements, including new support for .ICC. ICM monitor profiles; and more. Additional LightWave 10.1 features include: virtual studio tools supporting InterSense’s Virtual Camera Tracking System (VCAM) and 3Dconnexion’s SpaceNavigator 3D mouse; FiberFX hair and fur shader VPR support; and more.

LightWave 10.1 is available as a free download to current LightWave 10 users. An upgrade price from earlier versions of the software is set at $695; a full license for LightWave 10.1 costs $1495.

The Foundry Updates Nuke

To keep up with its expanding customer base, The Foundry is offering Version 6.3 of its compositing system, which addresses all VFX industries, including commercial work. The new 3D particle system, planar tracking, presets, audio scratch, track, and speed improvements save time on short-form projects, while redesigned spline and grid warpers and a brand-new de-noise algorithm aid common compositing tasks.

Available on Mac, Linux, and Windows, Nuke 6 is priced at $3800, while NukeX is priced at $6600. Current users can access the upgrades free of charge during their subscription term.

The Foundry also updated Mari 1.3, its creative paint and texture tool, to Version 2. Now users can bridge Mari and Nuke for an intuitive workflow, giving Nuke artists dedicated 3D paint tools that make digital environment and projection work more efficient and final composited scenes more believable. Mari 1.3 is available on Linux and Windows for $1980.

In other news, The Foundry took the wraps off Katana, an environment for preparing 3D assets for rendering in which artists can define and control the look and lighting of their imagery, especially with large datasets. Katana, now in alpha release, operates non-destructively using a rules-based approach, allowing modeling, look development, animation, and lighting teams to work in parallel.

Perceptive Pixel Launches Display

Perceptive has unveiled what it says is the first professional multi-touch desktop display, a high-resolution, optically bonded, projected capacitive 27-inch LCD display.

The performance and form factor of this new offering make it appropriate for professional users in fields such as geointelligence, DCC, CAD, energy exploration, medical imaging, and other visualization- intensive sectors, enabling them to work directly on the screen to access and manipulate complex data.

True multi-touch at this scale and fidelity was previously technically impossible. While projected capacitive technology is widely used in smaller handhelds and slates, it is notoriously difficult to deploy at large display sizes or if the sensor glass is placed close to a display due to electrostatic interference from the LCD panel itself. To achieve 24-inch plus diagonals, manufacturers typically distance the sensor glass far from the display, and the resulting parallax makes the device unusable for serious applications.

Perceptive Pixel says it has optically bonded the sensor glass to the display, thereby resolving the parallax issue while achieving an improved touch performance with a response time of less than 1 msec. The in-plane switching panel offers color accuracy and 3560x1440 resolution for the desktop display.

In other news, the company released at SIGGRAPH 2011 an 82-inch true multi-touch, projected capacitive LCD display, assumed to be the largest optically bonded, flat-panel, pro-cap display
in the world.

Featuring a slim profile (which measures just six inches in depth), the new 1920x1080 full-HD resolution wall display is particularly suited for use in creative, collaborative environments, such as design reviews, concept pitches,storyboarding, and brainstorming sessions, among others.

Maxon Rolls Out Cinema 4D R13

Maxon has unveiled Cinema 4D Release 13, the next generation of its 3D motion graphics, visual effects, painting, and rendering software application. With all-new character tools, integrated
stereographic capabilities, streamlined multi-artist collaboration, and physical rendering, R13 builds on the company’s 25-year legacy of enabling digital content creators to produce engaging
content quickly and easily for a variety of industries.

The new version features an enhanced rendering engine for physically accurate rendering, efficient subsurface scattering for creating translucent materials, and anti-aliasing filters achieved with the Mitchell and Gauss  algorithms. A shared image sampler enables users to combine samplings of multiple effects, thereby saving valuable render time.

R13 also touts various stereoscopic capabilities, such as a stereo camera conversion function, (parallel, on-axis/offaxis, radial), a stereo previewer, as well as stereo rendering support. The offering also contains updated character tools that simplify the rigging process, and more.
Maxon offers four versions of Cinema 4D, each catering to the needs of 3D artists in different industries, so not every version will offer all the new features.Pricing is as follows: Cinema 4D Studio, $3695; Cinema 4D Broadcast, $1695;Cinema 4D Visualize, $2295; Cinema 4D Prime, $995. Upgrade pricing from R12 is available.

The Foundry Creates Storm

The Foundry has launched its RED Digital Cinema workflow product,Storm, which brings a focused and easy-to-adopt tool to digital camera workflows, offering a consistent and reliable way to review, organize, prepare, edit, conform, and deliver Raw RED media on a laptop or workstation on and near a set. Storm brings continuity to a user’s workflow, enabling the person—whether a DIT, data wrangler, cinematographer, editor, colorist, or director—to quickly and easily take RED media from camera, through editorial, and on to postproduction and delivery.

An intuitive, flexible UI makes it easy to customize and transition between layouts. Once the RED media is acquired, Storm lets users employ tags to identify and search for keyframes or clips, then create user-defined bins based on the tagged media. Users also can lower the resolution of the media for real-time playback on a laptop, to allow on-site verification of the data acquisition. Multi-track video and audio can be displayed and edited for comparing takes, establishing baselines, and verifying editorial content. Storm integrates with FCP, so that media can be edited and then re-conformed back in Storm to the user’s original RED media, maintaining the look, tags, and metadata references.

Storm is available for $375. It requires a MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, or iMac with at least 2gb RAM running OS X 10.6.4 or later. Storm is optimized for RED R3D footage and will use a RED Rocket card if one
is installed.

NaturalPoint Showcases Trio System

NaturalPoint has unveiled its new OptiTrack V120:Trio tracking system, which is self-contained and factory-calibrated for out-of-the-box tracking.Simple to use, the V120:Trio nevertheless offers the accuracy and flexibility of optical tracking technology. Designed for desktop-friendly mocap, the Trio lets users create and track custom marker arrangements and extract an object’s position and orientation for a full six degrees of freedom.

The system ships as a single plug-and-play package and offers the benefits of multi-camera tracking, such as enhanced accuracy, a wider field of view, and custom rigid-body tracking. Furthermore, the OptiTrack V120:Trio is compatible with the OptiTrack Insight VCS virtual camera
plug-in.

When using the system, the marker and rigid-body data is streamed in real time via VRPN, Trackd, or a custom NatNet plug-in, while the data is exported as a .C3D or .CSV file. Tracking, streaming, and saving is done through a custom-tailored release of Tracking Tools NaturalPoint’s realtime, 3D engineering-grade, rigid-body and marker-tracking application),
which ships with the Trio camera.

The V120:Trio carries a price tag of $2499. The system comes with a free license of  NaturalPoint’s Tracking Tools, the company’s motiontracking software (typically priced at $799).

DAZ 3D Releases Studio

DAZ 3D has rolled out DAZ Studio 4, the latest version of its character creation, art, and animation tool for generating versatile 3D human models using the new Genesis series of figures.
The Genesis series allows for virtually limitless figure variations that can be built from a common base. These variations can range in size and proportion while sharing a single joint system.

DAZ Studio 4 utilizes a new open file format that is lightweight and easily transferred. Key features include a new perjoint weight-map system, an auto-rigging capability, an auto-fit plug-in for clothes and hair, a smart content identifier to determine asset compatibility, and a content management service for locating assets. DAZ Studio 4 is free; the Auto-Fit plug-in is priced at $99.95.

Autodesk Offers Simulation CFD for Fluid Dynamics

Autodesk recently made available its new Autodesk Simulation CFD, which builds on computational fluid dynamics capabilities that the company gained as a result of the Blue Ridge Numerics acquisition, which occurred this past March.

The offering helps automate fluid flow and thermal simulation decision-making for designs, while eliminating costly physical prototyping cycles.

New integration with Autodesk Inventor Fusion software allows engineers to modify or simplify geometry quickly and easily from virtually any CAD system when running simulations. Automated fluid flow and thermal simulations provide a cost-effective and faster alternative to physical testing methods that often lack a complete picture of design performance.

Among the new features now available in the software are: one-click simulation for exploring flow and thermal design options, tools for avoiding repetition when creating a design study, and the ability to harness compute power on the user’s network.
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