GDC 2013: Activision Shows Off Real-Time Character Rendering Technology With Realistic Faces

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2013 - 11:54 PM |
Tagged: next generation character rendering, GDC 13, gaming, Activision, 3D rendering

Activision recently showed off its Next-Generation Character Rendering technology, which is a new method for rendering realistic and high-quality 3D faces. The technology has been in the works for some time now, and is now at a point where faces are extremely detailed down to pores, freckles, wrinkles, and eye lashes.

Lauren_Activision Tech Demo at GDC 2013.jpg

In addition to Lauren, Activision also showed off its own take on the face used in NVIDIA's Ira FaceWorks tech demo. Except instead of the NVIDIA rendering, the face was done using Activision's own Next-Generation Character Rendering technology. A method that is allegedly more efficient and "completely different" than the one used for Ira. In a video showing off the technology (embedded below), the Activision method produces some impressive 3D renders in real time, but when talking appear to be a bit creepy-looking and unnatural. Perhaps Activision and NVIDIA should find a way to combine the emotional improvements of Ira with the graphical prowess of NGCR (and while we are making a wish list, I might as well add TressFX support... heh).

Jonas.jpg

The high resolution faces are not quite ready for the next Call of Duty, but the research team has managed to get models to render at 180 FPS on a PC running a single GTX 680 graphics card. That is not enough to implement the technology in a game, where there are multiple models, the environment, physics, AI, and all manner of other calculations to deal with and present at acceptable frame rates, but it is nice to see this kind of future-looking work being done now. Perhaps in a few graphics card generations the hardware will catch up to the face rendering technology that Activision (and others) are working on, which will be rather satisfying to see. It is amazing how far the graphics world has come since I got into PC gaming with Wolfenstein 3D, to say the least!

The team behind Activision's Next-Generation Character Rendering technology includes:

Team Member Role
Javier Von Der Pahlen Director of Research and Development
Etienne Donvoye Technical Director
Bernardo Antoniazzi Technical Art Director
Zbyněk Kysela Modeler and Texture Artist
Mike Eheler Programming and Support
Jorge Jimenez Real-Time Graphics Research and Development

Jorge Jimenez has posted several more screenshots of the GDC tech demo on his blog that are worth checking out if you are interested in the new rendering tech.

Source: HEXUS

GDC 2013: AMD Reveals Radeon Sky Specifications

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 31, 2013 - 12:06 AM |
Tagged: GDC 13, sky 900, sky 700, sky 500, RapidFire, radeon sky, GCN, cloud gaming, amd

Earlier this week, AMD announced a new series of Radeon-branded cards–called Radeon Sky–aimed at the cloud gaming market. At the time, details on the cards was scarce apart from the fact that the cards would use latency-reduction "secret sauce" tech called RapidFire, and the highest-end model would be the Radeon Sky 900. Thankfully, gamers will not have to wait until AFDS after all, as AMD has posted additional information and specifications to its website. At this point, pricing and the underlying details of RapidFire are the only aspects still unknown.

AMD Radeon Sky Lineup_AMD Slide.jpg

According to the AMD site, the company will release three Radeon Sky cards later this year, called Sky 500, Sky 700, and Sky 900. All three cards are passively cooled with aluminum fin heatsinks and are based on AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. At the high end is the Sky 900, which is a dual Tahiti graphics card clocked at 825 MHz. The Sky 900 features 1,792 stream processors per GPU for a total of 3,584. The card further features 3GB of GDDR5 RAM per GPU on a 384-bit interface for a total GPU bandwidth of 480GB/s. AMD claims this dual slot card draws up to 300W while under load. In many respects the Sky 900 is the Radeon-equivalent to the company's professional FirePro S10,000 graphics card. It has similar hardware specifications (including the 5.91TFLOPS of single precision performance potential), but a higher TDP. It is also $3,599, though whether AMD will price the gaming-oriented Sky 900 similarly is unknown.

The Sky 700 steps down to a single-GPU graphics card. This card features a single Tahiti GPU clocked at 900 MHz with 1792 stream processors and 6GB of GDDR5. The graphics card memory uses a 384-bit memory interface for a total memory bandwidth of 264GB/s. Although also a dual slot card like the Sky 900, the cooler is smaller and it draws only 225W under load.

Finally, the Sky 500 represents the low end of the company's cloud gaming hardware lineup. It is the Radeon Sky equivalent to the company's consumer-grade Radeon HD 7870. The Sky 500 features a single Pitcairn GPU clocked at 950 MHz with 1280 stream processors, 4GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit memory bus, and a rated 150W power draw under load. It further features 154GB/s of memory bandwidth and is a single slot graphics card.

  Sky 900 Sky 700 Sky 500
GPU(s) Dual Tahiti Single Tahiti Single Pitcairn
GPU Clockspeed 825 MHz 900 MHz 950 MHz
Stream Processors 3584 (1792 per GPU) 1792 1280
Memory 6GB GDDR5 (3GB per GPU) 6GB GDDR5 4GB GDDR5
Memory Bus 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 480GB/s 264GB/s 154GB/s
TDP 300W 225W 150W
Card Profile dual-slot dual-slot single-slot

Additionally, the Radeon Sky cards all employ a technology called RapidFire that allegedly reduces latency immensely. As Ryan mentioned on the latest PC Perspective Podcast, the Radeon Sky cards are able to stream up to six games. RapidFire is still a mystery, but the company has indicated that one aspect of RapidFire is the use of AMD's Video Encoding Engine (VCE) to encode the video stream on the GPU itself to reduce game latency. The Sky cards will output at 720p resolutions, and the Sky 700 can support either three games at 60 FPS or six games at 30 FPS.

In addition to working with cloud gaming companies Ubitus, G-Cluster, CiiNow, and Otoy, AMD has announced a partnership with VMWare and Citrix. AMD is reportedly working to allow VMWare ESX/ESXi and Citrix XenServer virtual machines to access the GPU hardware directly, which opens up the possibility of using Sky cards to run workstation applications or remote desktops with 3D support much like NVIDIA's VCA and GRID technology (which the company showed off at GTC last week). Personally, I think the Sky cards may be late to the party but is a step in the right direction. Even if cloud gaming doesn't take off, the cards could still be used to great success by enterprise customers if they are able to allow direct access to the full graphics card hardware from within virtual machines!

More information on the Radeon Sky cards can be found on the AMD website.

Source: AMD

GDC 13: Intel announces PixelSync and InstantAccess

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 27, 2013 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: Intel, GDC 13, GDC

GDC 2013 is where the industry comes together to talk about the technology itself. Intel was there, and of course the big blue just had to unveil developments to help them in the PC gaming space. Two new major rendering extensions and updated developer tools debut. And, if you are not a developer, encode your movies with handbrake quicker!

Intel-logo.svg_.png

First up is PixelSync, a DirectX extension for Intel HD Graphics. PixelSync is designed to be used with smoke, hair, and other effects which require blending translucent geometry. With this extension, objects do not need to be sorted before compositing.

Next up is InstantAccess. This DirectX extension allows CPU and integrated GPUs to access the same physical memory. What interests me most about InstantAccess is the ability for developers to write GPU-based applications which can quickly access the same memory as its CPU counterpart. Should the integrated GPU be visible alongside discrete GPUs, this could allow the integrated graphics to help offload GPGPU tasks such as physics while the CPU and discrete GPU handle the more important tasks.

Also updated is their Graphics Performance Analyzers toolset. If you are interested in performance optimization on your software, be sure to check those out.

And for the more general public... Handbrake is now set up to take advantage of Quick Sync Video. Given the popularity of Handbrake, this is quite a big deal for anyone wishing to transcode video using popular and free encoders.

Source: Intel

GDC 13: 17 Minute Battlefield 4 Trailer Released

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 27, 2013 - 12:25 AM |
Tagged: battlefield, battlefield 4, GDC, GDC 13

bf4_promo_image.jpg

Battlefield 4 is coming, that has been known with Medal of Honor: Warfighter's release and its promise of beta access, but the gameplay trailer is already here. Clocking in at just over 17 minutes, "Fishing in Baku" looks amazing from a technical standpoint.

The video has been embed below. A little not safe for work due to language and amputation.

Now that you finished gawking, we have gameplay to discuss. I cannot help but be disappointed with the campaign direction. Surely, the story was in planning prior to the release of Battlefield 3. Still, it seems to face the same generic-character problem which struck the last campaign.

In Battlefield 3, I really could not recognize many characters apart from the lead which made their deaths more confusing than upsetting. Normally when we claim a character is identifiable, we mean that we can relate to them. In this case, when I say the characters were not identifiable, I seriously mean that I probably could not pick them out in a police lineup.

Then again, the leaked promotional image for Battlefield 4 seems to show Blackburn at the helm. I guess there is some hope. Slim hope, which the trailer does not contribute to. I mean even the end narration capped how pointless the character interactions were. All this in spite of EA's proclaiming YouTube description of this being human, dramatic, and believable.

Oh well, it went boom good.