Issue: Volume 34 Issue 9: (Dec/Jan 2012)


The Foundry Introduces Katana 1.0

The Foundry recently released Katana 1.0, a look development and lighting tool, replacing the conventional CG pipeline with a flexible recipe-based asset workflow. In tandem with this release, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a Lucasfilm Company, has purchased a site license. Currently in use for upcoming productions, ILM made this investment to boost their production pipeline across its ILM and Lucasfilm companies. As a Katana site license holder, ILM will deploy the software both in its San Francisco and Singapore studios.

Katana is specifically designed to address the needs of a highly scalable asset-based workflow to: allow updating of assets once shots are already in progress; share lighting setups, such as edits and overrides, between shots and sequences; and allow use of multiple renderers and specifying dependencies between render passes; allow shot-specific modification of assets to become part of the lighting “recipe” for shots, to avoid having to deal with large numbers of shot-specific asset variants. Furthermore, Katana is built from the ground up with the needs of modern productions in mind. Extensive APIs mean it integrates with current pipelines, shader libraries, and workflow tools, while its collaborative nature allows it to scale to meet the needs of the most demanding productions.

The main attraction of The Foundry’s Katana stems from the flexibility of the product, as it has the ability to produce incredibly complicated shots while allowing artists to retain control. Katana is backed by The Foundry, a provider of high-end visual effects tools, and has been production-proven on over 20 shows since 2004 at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Dell Takes a Terabyte from Mobile Workstation Storage

Dell’s Precision M6600 and M4600 mobile workstations, which launched in May, are now available with 512gb (SATA3) Mobility Solid State Drives. The M6600 is also offering the Nvidia Quadro 5010M mobile professional graphics GPU with 4gb of dedicated GDDR5 memory.

The Dell Precision M6600 and M4600 are the first mobile workstations to offer 512gb SATA3 Mobility SSDs, giving users 500mb/sec read and 300mb/sec write times. With the M6600 offering two full storage slots with up to two 512gb SSDs and one mini-card slot with up to 128gb, workstation users can experience more than a terabyte of solid-state storage in a mobile workstation. The 512gb SSD and Nvidia 5010M are available with pricing starting at $1120 and $1640, respectively.

Dassault Looks to the Cloud

Dassault Systèmes (DS) recently announced a cloud-based partnership with’s Web Services arm that will enable clients to use its 3D design and manufacturing software remotely over the cloud. PLM and 3D software are traditionally memory-intensive, but by partnering with Amazon Web Services, DS will be able to offer clients a preconfigured environment to remotely run 3D and PLM software without having to buy expensive hardware.

 DS is leveraging multiple AWS services to power its Version 6 software platform, providing high performance and highly available resources via the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for discrete compute environments. This expands the geographic reach of DS customers, regardless of their physical location. Customers now easily access design content, while DS can store volumes of design data without having to support an extensive array of legacy platforms.

In other news, DS has made its new online Version 6 platform—offered as a subscription model—available over the cloud. Also, DS announced its strategic investment in Outscale, a start-up providing next-gen SaaS for leveraging dynamic public cloud resources allocation. Lastly, the firm has updated its Version 6 software to V6R2012, delivering an open, collaborative platform by broadening the value of digital assets into new solutions such as immersive retail store experiences and global production system planning.

Q3 Graphics Shipments Up

According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), the industry’s research and consulting firm for graphics and multimedia, the estimated graphics chip shipments and suppliers’ market share for Q3 2011 is up 16.7% over last quarter and 18.4% over last year. Intel led the quarter with 36.5% growth, with Nvidia at 30% growth. Shipments during the third quarter of 2011 did (finally) behave according to past years with regard to seasonality, and were higher on a year-to-year comparison for the quarter. 2011 is still an unusual year for the PC and graphics suppliers, however, as businesses take their own path to recovery.

The third quarter of the year is usually the growth quarter, and was this year, which is a positive sign looking forward. The growth in Q3 comes as a welcome change—but is it inventory building for the holiday season?

This quarter, Intel celebrated its seventh quarter of embedded processor graphics CPU (EPG, a multi-chip design that combines a graphics processor and CPU in the same package) shipments, and had a very strong double-digit growth in desktops and notebooks. AMD lost in overall market share, while Intel gained more compared to last quarter, and Nvidia declined due to its exiting from the integrated segments.

Year to year this quarter, Intel market share increased (9.5%), AMD broke even, and Nvidia slipped (-23%) in the overall market partially due to the company withdrawing from the integrated segments. However, Nvidia gained 10.9% in the desktop discrete area.

The quarter’s change in total shipments from last quarter increased 16.7%, above the 10-year average of 13.9%. AMD’s HPU quarter-to-quarter growth has been extraordinary at an average of 58.4% for desktop and notebook, and Intel’s EPG growth was significant at an average of 23.6%. This is a clear showing of the industry’s affirmation of the value of CPUs with embedded graphics and is in line with JPR’s forecasts. The major, and logical, impact is on older IGPs, and some on low-end, low-cost add-in boards (AIBS). Almost 92 million PCs shipped worldwide this quarter, an increase of 8.8% compared to last quarter (based on an average of reports from Dataquest, IDC, and HSI).

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 a GPU embedded in the CPU. The average has grown from 115% (in 2001) to almost 160% GPUs per PC. Discrete graphics processing unit (GPU) chips and other chips with graphics are a leading indicator for the PC market.

Market shares shifted for the big three and put pressure on the smaller three, and most showed a decrease in market share as indicated in the chart on this page. Intel continues to be the overall market share leader, elevated by Core i5 EPG CPUs, Sandy Bridge, and Pineview Atom sales for netbooks. AMD lost 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% quarter to quarter). Nvidia credits strong connect with new Intel Sandy Bridge notebooks. Ironically, Nvidia enjoyed some serendipitous sales of IGPs in Q3 due to some older AMD CPU sales in Asia.

AMD’s overall graphics market share dropped 0.3% from last quarter, even though the company’s HPU-class Fusion APU processors are selling very well.

The Foundry Unveils Ocula 3.0

The Foundry has rolled out Ocula 3.0, a significant upgrade to its stereo plug-in tool set for the Nuke compositing system. Ocular, used in production on groundbreaking live-action stereo projects including Avatar and Tron: Legacy, provides artists with a set of Nuke tools that assist with the integration of elements and help correct common stereo 3D defects.

Ocular 3.0, the biggest upgrade of the product to date, brings new tools to help fix mis-focused camera pairs and retime in stereo, as well as a range of workflow tweaks and improvements to speed up day-to-day Ocula work. The new version is priced starting at $5400.

Boxx Goes Xtreme

Boxx Technologies has released the 3DBoxx 3970 Xtreme, pitched by the company as “the world’s fastest workstation for Autodesk Revit, SolidWorks, and other frequency-bound software applications.”

The 3970 XT—priced at just over $2900—features a performance-enhanced, second-generation (overclocked) Intel Core i7 processor, along with Intel Smart Response Technology, which enables quick access to media files and accelerated performance overall. Both technologies, currently unavailable in mass-produced workstations, enable the system to automatically learn which files users access frequently and copies them from the hard-disk drive to the solid-state drives (SSDs). So the next time these files are requested, the system loads them from the SSDs rather than the slower hard drive, for faster booting, faster application loading, and accelerated performance.

Panasonic Launches 3D-Ready Pro Plasma

Panasonic revealed the TH-65VX300U, the newest addition to its family of HD professional plasma displays. The 65-inch display’s color reproduction approaches digital cinema standards, while the display’s ultra-high-speed drive technology achieves clear and extremely detailed 3D video as well as enhances 2D content. The advanced drive provides smoother gradation, which is double the smoothness of conventional models, resulting in richer gradation expression in a dark area of the screen.

The TH-65VX300U is also equipped with multiple customizable functions for the postproduction experience, including a wide color gamut that can be selected from five setting types, an option to customize placement of RGB, and added adjustment menus. Furthermore, independent RGB On/Off functionality checks secondary colors or monochrome images, helping with individual color calibration. The display, priced at $6250, includes a waveform monitor to confirm the incoming signal.

AMD Fires Up FirePro V4900

AMD has launched the AMD FirePro V4900, which delivers unequalled performance for DCC and CAD professionals at an entry-level price point. By leveraging AMD’s most advanced graphics technology, including AMD Eyefinity2 technology, the AMD FirePro V4900 improves application performance. In fact, the AMD FirePro V4900 more than doubled the performance of competitive offerings in many CAD and DCC application tests.

The AMD FirePro V4900 is designed to exceed the needs of graphics professionals. The GPU’s 1gb of 128-bit GDDR5 RAM drives memory bandwidth to 64gb/sec, allowing rapid data access, while Microsoft DirectX11, OpenGL 4.2, and OpenCL support empowers users to render and manipulate models using the broadest range of tools and applications. Enhanced AMD Eyefinity and DisplayPort 1.2 technology enables six-screen multidisplay setups. The V4900 is available in select Dell and Fujitsu systems and HP workstations. As of November 1, it is being sold for $189 at select online resellers.

Imagineer, Boris FX Release Motion Tracking Bundle

Imagineer Systems has teamed up with Boris FX to launch the Motion Tracking for Editors bundle, a motion-tracking tool set bundle designed to work with Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Apple FCP 7, Motion, and Sony Vegas Pro.  

Available immediately for $299, the Motion Tracking for Editors bundle includes Imagineer Systems’ newest release of Mocha AE v2.6.1 and the Boris Continuum Motion Tracker Unit from Boris FX. Mocha AE is a stand-alone planar tracking and roto tool. The Boris Continuum Motion Tracker Unit delivers matchmove, corner pin, witness-protection face blurring, and wire remover capabilities. As a result of this collaboration, the new Motion Tracker for Editors bundle enables users to export tracking data from Mocha AE directly to Boris Continuum Complete, giving editors access to more visual effects capabilities within their host system.

Embedded Graphics Processors Killing off IGPs

According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), in 2011, with the full-scale production of scalar X86 CPUs with powerful multi-core, SIMD graphics processing elements, a true inflection point occurred in the PC and related industries. As a result, the ubiquitous and stalwart integrated graphics processor (IGP) is fading out of existence. For several reasons, many people believed (and some hoped) that the CPU and the GPU would never be integrated: GPUs are characterized by a high level of complexity, with power and cooling demands, and dramatically different memory management needs; GPU design cycles are faster than those of the CPU; the GPU has grown in complexity compared to the CPU, exceeding the transistor count, and matching or exceeding the die size of the CPU; and the x86 has steadily increased in complexity and power consumption, and become multi-core.

With four times the number of transistors possible in the same space as the previous manufacturing node, Moore’s Law seems unstoppable. With the move to 32nm, and now 28nm, the possibilities for integration of such complex and alien functionality is not only possible and feasible, but a reality.

Jon Peddie, president of JPR, notes a new trend impacting discrete GPUs due to the combination of devices being offered with integrated graphics (IGPs, EPGs,
and HPUs). “The integrated processors will impact GPU sales and change traditional sales patterns. The trend may even put the category in decline—at least so some believe,” he says, “but it’s not that simple. Nothing in the PC industry is.”

The EPG/HPU will revolutionize the PC and associated industries. The amount of computation capability available in the size, weight, and power consumption of systems with EPG/HPUs, coupled with the attractive prices they will carry, will upset the market dynamics like never before, and maybe not since the introduction of the PC. Further details are available in “The Market Dynamics Created by the Embedded Graphics Processors Study” from JPR.