IBC 2016: Boris FX acquires Sapphire from GenArts

IBC 2016: Boris FX acquires Sapphire from GenArts

Plug-in providers Boris FX have acquired GenArts’ Sapphire toolkit, effectively merging the two VFX companies into one all-conquering behemoth, or, as the press release puts it, “the powerhouse in post-production software industry,” which sounds almost as good. Here’s the rest: 

Boris FX, the leader in integrated VFX and workflow solutions for video and film, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire GenArts Inc., developers of premium special effects plug-ins. GenArts’ renowned flagship product, Sapphire, is a gold standard for high-end visual effects creation at leading film studios and broadcast facilities around the world.

Since 1996, Sapphire effects have been used in at least one of each year’s VFX Oscar-nominated films, and numerous award-winning television shows. Sapphire will continue to be developed and sold in its current form alongside flagship products Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) and mocha Pro, creating the industry’s most powerful complement to applications from Adobe, Apple, Avid, Autodesk, Blackmagic Design and others.

The acquisition is part of Boris FX founder Boris Yamnitsky’s aggressive growth strategy. Boris FX most recently acquired Imagineer Systems, the UK-based developer of mocha: Academy Award-winning planar tracking tools.

“We are excited to announce this strategic merger and welcome the Sapphire team to the Boris FX/Imagineer group,” says Yamnitsky. “This acquisition makes Boris FX uniquely positioned to serve editors and effects artists with the industry’s leading tools for motion graphics, broadcast design, visual effects, image restoration, motion tracking and finishing — all under one roof. Sapphire’s exceptional suite of creative plug-ins has been used to design many of the last decades’ most memorable film images. Sapphire perfectly complements BCC and mocha as essential tools for professional VFX and we look forward to serving Sapphire’s extremely accomplished users.”

“Equally impressive is the team behind the technology,” continues Yamnitsky. “Key GenArts staff from engineering, sales, marketing and support will join our Boston office to ensure the smoothest transition for customers. Our shared goal is to serve our combined customer base with useful new tools and the highest quality training and technical support.”

The Sapphire team agrees on the value the merger will bring to the industry. “I’m excited about what a combined Boris FX/Imagineer/GenArts company can create,” states Gary Oberbrunner, Chief Scientist and VP of Engineering at GenArts. “We are impressed with the collaborative integration of mocha technology in the recent BCC 10 release and look forward to exploring similar technology sharing and product improvement opportunities.”

Oberbrunner continues, “All of us share a passion for innovation, quality and creativity. Combining resources and knowledge, and working with our amazing customers, will enable us not just to continue the pace of innovation we’ve had separately, but to move even faster, creating entirely new effects, tools and combinations to delight our users.” Oberbrunner will now join the Boris FX senior management team as Chief Technical Officer for the combined group.

Longtime users of Continuum Complete and Sapphire are now sharing positive first impressions of the announcement:

Seth Buncher, Senior Finishing Editor at NYC’s Post Factory, recently completed the color grading and finishing on ESPN’s acclaimed mini-series O.J.: Made in America. According to Buncher, “BCC and Sapphire have been part of my finishing tools for over 10 years. I use Sapphire to create unique looks and BCC’s image restoration tools to help salvage and fix problematic footage. Both packages are essential to my finishing workflow on Avid Symphony and DaVinci Resolve, so learning that my favorite plug-in developers are joining forces is exciting news. I look forward to more BCC/Sapphire/mocha developments in the future.”

Yuhei Ogawa, longtime Sapphire user and current editor at Trailer Park in Hollywood, is thrilled at the announcement and all future collaborative possibilities. “Boris, Imagineer and GenArts joining forces is a colossal move for the post-production industry. Here at Trailer Park, we use all three products on a regular basis and they are a big part of our success. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this new plug-in powerhouse.”

Attendees visiting the IBC tradeshow in Amsterdam will have the opportunity to meet with teams from both GenArts and Boris FX and preview the latest new products and technology for professional post-production. Boris FX/Imagineer can be found at Booth 7.K29 and GenArts at Booth 7.J05.

For more on the latest IBC releases, take a look at our roundup post, give us a call on 03332 409 306, email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com or pop your details in the form below. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Expansion pack brings new features to Autodesk 2014

Expansion pack brings new features to Autodesk 2014

It’s a good day to be an Autodesk user. Not only have the 3D giants revealed new features for their M&E range, they’ve also dropped the price of Entertainment Creation Suites and announced that you can upgrade to the Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate for 20% less. 

Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Mudbox get new extensions for subscription customers

Not content with rolling out service packs left, right and centre, Autodesk are introducing new features to their core VFX and 3D applications. Highlights include the addition of Python scripting to 3ds Max, and 3ds Max users with an Autodesk Subscription can also log in to the Autodesk App Exchange to download a separate update that adds stereo camera viewing functionality.

Maya users should brace themselves for the arrival of Xgen, the program Disney and Pixar developed to make their award-winning range of animated hair, fur and feathers. Autodesk have had Xgen on an exclusive licence for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve seen it take centre stage in one of their biggest applications, and we could not be more excited.

Mudbox has received a refresh of its retopology toolkit, so you should find it easier to force topologically symmetrical results or to mix topological symmetry with spatial asymmetry. There’s also a new caliper tool that enables you to measure the distance between two points on a model or along a curve.

To be able to access these new features you’ll need an Autodesk Subscription. If you’re not a subscriber already, you can get in touch with our team over at Autodesk@Jigsaw24.com for advice on how to go about adding Subscriptions to your existing licences.

Want to know more about your Autodesk options? Give the team a call on 03332 409 306 or email Autodesk@Jigsaw24.com to find out more. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

 

Video: Using Maxon CINEMA 4D with Unity 3D

Video: Using Maxon CINEMA 4D with Unity 3D

If you saw the latest version of Unity at SIGGRAPH and are now wondering how to fit into your current games development or 3D modelling pipeline, Maxon have at lease part of the answer. They’ve put together this video demonstrating the workflow between their flagship kit, CINEMA 4D Prime, and Unity 3D. 

Want to know more about what you can do with CINEMA 4D R15? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Are you using the right hardware for your Autodesk software?

Whether you’re sculpting in Mudbox, animating characters in Maya, whipping up pre-visualisations in 3ds Max or drafting like billy-o in AutoCAD LT, some of the basics of what makes a good Autodesk workstation stay the same (stock up on RAM and pack in as many cores as possible), but with so many different software suites and qualified components out there, it can be difficult to work out which workstation is best for you. To help make things easier, here are our top tips for choosing Mac and PC workstations for your Autodesk software of choice… 

For AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT for Mac users

We have good news: virtually any Mac will run AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, from the beefiest of Mac Pros (ideal for handling big models quickly) to the smallest Mac mini (great for setting up freelancers with temporary desks, or if you want to take your setup with you to meet a client, as it’ll plug into any keyboard and display).

We know that a lot of users are sticking to their ageing Mac Pros in order to keep using NVIDIA Quadro 4000 or Quadro K5000 cards due to their higher fidelity, but the latest models have a huge amount to offer. With powerful 12-core CPUs on offer, the latest Mac Pro can help you create and navigate simulations far faster. The fact that the usual lumbering hard drive has been replaced by a fast, agile SSD means you’ll also be able to work with huge models far more efficiently.

If you’re really itching to customise your workstation, we’ll say it again: you can never have enough RAM. Get in touch with our team to find out how easy it is to pack your Mac with some extra memory.

For 3ds Max users

Autodesk 3ds Max 2014

If you’re working in a field like games development, odds are you’re using 3ds Max or a 3ds Max-based Entertainment Creation Suite (if you’re not, you might want to drop us a line…). You’ll want plenty of processing power, so we’d recommend opting for a 16-core HP Z820 for maximum responsiveness, although a high-spec Z620 will do the trick if you’re budget-conscious. While the new Mac Pros look promising, we’re still waiting for Autodesk to qualify a configuration, so if you need an interim Mac workstation go for a 27” Quad-core i7 3.4Ghz iMac with at least 8GB of RAM – preferably more.

If you invested in iMac before the latest Mac Pro was announced and are wincing at the cost of replacing them, remember that you can use the iMac screen as a second display and harness the internals as part of your rendering setup, meaning that artists can continue working on their Mac Pro while their iMac takes care of rendering work, rather than sitting and watching the progress bar.

When it comes to graphics, you need to bear in mind that Autodesk recently rewrote 3ds Max’s viewport engine, moving it over to DirectX from OpenGL. This means you’ll get faster performance for your money using gaming cards than you will using traditionally professional cards – which is great news for your wallet, and means you can design your work on the same card your end user will be playing it on.

One good choice for working with Autodesk software is NVIDIA’s 6GB GeForce GTX Titan, as it has the kind of stamina you usually only see in pro cards and so is least likely to melt under constant use. However, it’s not qualified yet and is also pretty expensive, so you might want to opt for Autodesk’s qualified card, the lower-spec 4GB GeForce GTX 680, which delivers a surprising amount of power for such an affordable card.

For Maya and Mudbox

For areas like graphics or post-production work, we’d typically recommend Autodesk Maya or a Maya-centric Entertainment Creation Suite (Autodesk’s Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate gets you Maya, 3ds Max, Motionbuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and Sketchbook Designer, so it’s a good option if you want to make sure you’re covered for every eventuality). The main difference between Maya and an application like 3ds Max is that you really need a NVIDIA Quadro card to get the best possible graphics performance. The Quadro drivers are optimised for Maya, and going for something like the ultra-powerful Quadro K5000 or the K2000 if you’re kitting out an assist station will give you the smoothest, most accurate viewport performance.

While we’re still waiting to hear how Autodesk plan to handle the dual GPU potential of the 2013 Mac Pro, if you need a Mac in an interim then your only real option is the top spec 3.4GHz i7 iMac, with 8 or 16GB of RAM depending on the size of project you think you’ll need to handle (this can always be repurposed as a combined second display and a render node if you decide to upgrade to a Mac Pro further down the line). For PC workstations, we’d recommend going no lower than an HP Z620 (ideally a Z820) with as many cores and as much RAM as you can pack in, as both will help you complete projects in the fastest possible time.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Autodesk@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

NVIDIA’s Quadro K6000 GPU unveiled at SIGGRAPH 2013

NVIDIA’s Quadro K6000 GPU unveiled at SIGGRAPH 2013

NVIDIA have once again proceeded to steal everyone’s thunder at SIGGRAPH 2013 by releasing the Quadro K6000 GPU, apparently “the fastest and most capable GPU ever built”, as well as a new line of GPUs designed specifically for mobile workstations. Read on for the full press release, or take a look at the official NVIDIA Quadro K6000 spec sheet

ANAHEIM, Calif.— SIGGRAPH — July 23, 2013— NVIDIA today unveiled the visual computing industry’s new flagship technology – the NVIDIA Quadro K6000 GPU, the fastest and most capable GPU ever built.

NVIDIA today also launched a new line of professional graphics GPUs for mobile workstations, delivering the highest levels of performance and graphics memory ever available on mobile platforms.

The Quadro K6000 GPU delivers five-times higher compute performance and nearly double the graphics capability of its predecessor, the NVIDIA Quadro 6000 GPU, and features the world’s largest and fastest graphics memory.

Combining breakthrough performance and advanced capabilities in a power-efficient design, the Quadro K6000 GPU enables leading organisations such as Pixar, Nissan, Apache Corporation and the Weather Channel’s WSI division to tackle visualisation and analysis workloads of unprecedented size and scope.

Animation and Visual Effects – Pixar

“The Kepler features are key to our next generation of real-time lighting and geometry handling. We were thrilled to get an early look at the K6000. The added memory and other features allow our artists to see much more of the final scene in a real-time, interactive form, and allow many more artistic iterations.” – Guido Quaroni, Pixar vice president of Software R&D

Product Styling – Nissan

“With Quadro K6000’s 12 GB of memory, I am now able to load nearly complete vehicle models into RTT Deltagen and have stunning photorealism almost instantly. Instead of spending significant time simplifying the models to fit into previous hardware, we can now spend more time reviewing and iterating designs up front which helps avoid costly changes to tooling.” – Dennis Malone, associate engineer, Nissan North America

Energy Exploration – Apache

“Compared to the Quadro K5000, the Quadro K6000 tripled the performance when running jobs on Terraspark’s InsightEarth application. With jobs running in mere minutes, we can run more simulations and get better insight into where to drill. In this business, drilling in the wrong place is a multi-million dollar mistake, and the Quadro K6000 gives us the edge to make better decisions.” – Klaas Koster, manager, seismic interpretation, Apache Corporation

Unprecedented Performance

The Quadro K6000 GPU is based on the NVIDIA Kepler™ architecture – the world’s fastest, most efficient GPU architecture. Key performance features and capabilities include:

– 12GB ultra-fast GDDR5 graphics memory lets designers and animators model and render characters and scenes at unprecedented scale, complexity and richness

– 2,880 streaming multiprocessor (SMX) cores deliver faster visualisation and compute horsepower than previous-generation products

– Supports four simultaneous displays and up to 4k resolution with DisplayPort™ 1.2

– Ultra-low latency video I/O and support for large-scale visualisations

“The NVIDIA Quadro K6000 GPU is the highest performance, most capable GPU ever created for the professional graphics market,” said Ed Ellett, senior vice president, Professional Solutions Group at NVIDIA. “It will significantly change the game for animators, digital designers and engineers, enabling them to make the impossible possible.”

New Mobile Workstation GPUs

NVIDIA today also revealed a new flagship professional graphics GPU for workstation notebooks, the NVIDIA Quadro K5100M GPU. Delivering the highest levels of performance and graphics memory available on notebook platforms, the Quadro K5100M anchors a new line of workstation notebook graphics that includes the Quadro K4100M, K3100M, K2100M, K1100M, K610M, and K510M GPUs.

Quadro GPUs are designed, built and tested by NVIDIA to provide the superb reliability, compatibility and dependability that professionals require.  They are certified and recommended by more than 150 leading software application providers worldwide.

Availability

The NVIDIA Quadro K6000 will be available beginning this fall from HP, Dell, Lenovo and other  major workstation providers; from systems integrators, including BOXX Technologies and Supermicro; and from authorised distribution partners, including PNY Technologies in North America and Europe, ELSA and Ryoyo in Japan, and Leadtek in Asia Pacific.

The new Quadro mobile workstation graphics product line will also be available beginning this fall from major mobile workstation OEMs.

Want to know more about the latest from NVIDIA? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow us on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Jigsaw24 Benchmarks: NVIDIA’s Quadro K5000 vs Quadro 4000

Jigsaw24 Benchmarks: NVIDIA’s Quadro K5000 vs Quadro 4000

Now that the Quadro K5000 for Mac has finally shipped, we wanted put it through its paces. Our friends at NVIDIA kindly agreed to lend us one to test, so we broke out our Mac Pro, upgraded it to OS X 10.8.3 to get the latest GPU drivers (you’ll need to do this too if you want to use the card) and cracked on.

The test

We decided to test the K5000 against the Quadro 4000, as these two cards represent the only professional grade NVIDIA GPUs available for the Mac Pro, so we thought it would be a nice illustration of how the GPU power available to the Mac Pro has progressed. We were hoping that the K5000 would be faster across the board, as on paper it’s a far more powerful card.

We chose a range of tests designed to represent a cross-section of the GPU-centric media and entertainment workflows the K5000 has the potential to accelerate. All of our benchmarks were run on a clean copy of OS X 10.8.3 and repeated three times – we’re quoting the average score below.

Davinci Resolve 9

Firstly we tested Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 9.1.1. Resolve is a colour grading application that makes heavy use of CUDA acceleration for both transcoding and colour grading.  Our (relatively simple) test involved transcoding a 2K DPX sequence into a 1920 x 1080 ProRes 422 Proxy file. So as not to cause a bottleneck that would skew the cards’ performance downward, the files were read/written to very fast storage.

Here the Quadro 4000 averaged 37fps transcoding speed and the K5000 averaged 53fps, which means that the K5000 offers roughly 40% more performance than the Quadro 4000 for this workflow. As almost all of Resolve is CUDA accelerated, this performance gain should translate to an overall increase in speed across DaVinci Resolve.

Adobe After Effects CS6

The next test used Adobe After Effects CS6. AE CS6 includes a new ray traced render engine, which is fully CUDA accelerated. This render engine allows very realistic rendering of things like shadows, reflections and glossy materials, and we planned to time how long it took each card to render a test scene setup.

The K5000 managed the render in 10 minutes and 5 seconds with the Quadro 4000 clocking 18 minutes and 3 seconds, making the K5000 almost twice as fast as the Quadro 4000 – again, a great upgrade for this workflow.

OpenGL benchmarks

Finally we wanted to gauge the general OpenGL performance of the cards to get an idea of how they would perform in 3D Applications such as Maxon CINEMA 4D and Autodesk Maya.

We used a benchmark called FurMark, which tests a card’s ability to draw complex 3D images on to the screen. Higher performance in this benchmark indicates that the card will be able to handle more complex geometry inside the viewport in apps like Maya or C4D, meaning a smoother editing experience with complex scenes.

The Quadro 4000 managed 24 frames per second and the K5000 managed 54 FPS. (To give some perspective we also ran this test on the Radeon 5770 that shipped with our Mac Pro and it scored 31 FPS.) Again, this indicates that the K5000 is over twice as powerful as the Quadro 4000 when it comes to manipulating geometry in the viewport of a 3D application.

The conclusion

Much as we love it, the Quadro 4000 is getting a little long in the tooth and the K5000 looks to be a solid upgrade performance-wise. The Quadro K5000 is in fact the most powerful officially supported CUDA GPU available for a Mac Pro – and as CUDA will not run on the Radeon cards that most Mac Pros ship with, it’s an essential upgrade for anyone who needs CUDA acceleration in their application.

The K5000 also offers significantly better OpenGL performance than the Radeon cards that ship with Mac Pros as standard, so is a solid upgrade for anyone doing complex 3D modelling or animation.

Buy your NVIDIA K5000 for Mac now

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Adobe Creative Week 2012: Our design team’s thoughts

Adobe Creative Week 2012: Our design team’s thoughts

Our design team spend most of their waking hours toiling over Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Dreamweaver, so we thought it would be a good idea for us to check in with some of Adobe Creative Week 2012’s online seminars and see what other creatives were up to.

With the UK economy still idling in recession, big themes up for discussion were how creativity could help push growth, the decline of print, constrained budgets and changing skill sets. Adobe also showcased their new Touch apps for Apple’s iPad, Creative Cloud and Creative Suite 6. Here’s Liana, Ed and Paul’s thoughts on the week’s hotly contested debates…

Day 1: Creative Industry Overview

The overarching question to kick off Creative Week was ‘Can creativity help drive the UK out of recession?’, and the results showed the viewers had a pretty sunny outlook, 88% of them voting ‘Yes’. One of the themes touched on was creativity in education, and whether we were failing the younger generation by not giving art and creative subjects enough credibility.

Designer Liana Jackson wasn’t so sure it was such a big hindrance: “While gaining basic skills in maths and science is necessary, I’ve never felt like I wasn’t able to pursue a career in design because art wasn’t ‘credible’. I suppose it can be seen more as a hobby than an actual job, and I think more people are trying to get into creative roles now, and earning money doing jobs for people because they ‘kind of know’ what they’re doing. This can lead to a lot of pants design out there and a lot of qualified designers out of a job.”

With the rising use of mobile devices in the classroom (Adobe showed an interesting case study from Ravensbourne College), students are getting far more collaborative and diverse design skills. Whether this new crop of creativity can provide the stimulus the UK needs for economic growth remains to be seen.

Adobe Touch apps and Creative Cloud

Throughout Creative Week, Adobe evangelists were showcasing their latest products with in-depth video tutorials, which are all handily uploaded to the Adobe Creative Week site to watch back at your leisure. Of particular interest to our iPad expert Ed Reisner were the new Adobe Touch apps and Creative Cloud, as presented by Rufus Deuchler (Senior Worldwide Design Evangelist at Adobe Systems – @rufusd on Twitter).

“While Apple have been pushing their cloud services for a while, it’s great that you can now ‘work in the cloud’ with Adobe,” he said. “Creative Cloud also lets you download and manage desktop apps like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign or the Touch tablet apps such as Kuler and Proto, a bit like Apple’s App Store. Interestingly, you can also download an app for a specific time period. This would be useful if you’ve taken on a contractor for a month or two, and only need a Photoshop licence for that time.”

Ed also thought Adobe’s six Touch apps – Photoshop, Kuler, Proto, Collage, Ideas and Debut – would be really useful for designers on the move: “Each of the Touch apps is designed specifically for multitouch use, and as they integrate with Creative Cloud, will let you work on initial concepts and save them while you’re out of the office.

“Photoshop Touch gives you control of some basic Photoshop commands, but also lets you add comments so you can collaboratively review ideas with colleagues and clients. The Ideas app is great for sketching out concepts, letting you draw intuitively with touch gestures as vector paths, ready to scale up in Illustrator when you’re back at your desktop computer. Of all Adobe’s Touch apps, the most interesting is probably Proto, which integrates with Dreamweaver to let you create basic websites on the fly. You can be with a client and sketch out ideas on your iPad as you’re talking, using multitouch gestures to put in headers, tabs and more.”

Day 2: Design and Publishing

The decline of print media is no big news, so it was heartening to see that 69% of people surveyed on Day 2 thought that print could survive the digital revolution. Jeremy Leslie from the magCulture blog said that having both print and digital “gives us the option to pick and choose the right solution for the project in hand”, while Future Publishing’s digital Editor-in-Chief Mike Goldsmith enthused that “digital technology gives you permission to fail”, as it’s so much easier to rectify mistakes and make amends.

“Digital media can reach people far quicker than print, and with platforms like Twitter, it’s changed how we read and consume content,” said Liana. “But they reminded viewers that the challenge is still engaging that person to want to follow a link and read on.

“Design, like fashion, is also cyclical, and Adobe brought up the good example of InDesign’s first introduction, and people moving over from Quark. Everyone learned to use new tools like drop shadow, but then it became so ubiquitous that it fell out of favour, only to come back when it started being seen as different and original again,” she added.

Tutorials for Day 2 focused on Adobe’s big three apps for design and publishing – Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator – as well as newcomer Muse, which lets you do WYSIWYG web design without lines and lines of code. Check out the videos on the Adobe Creative Week site.

We’ve been using Creative Suite 6 for a while now, and our videographer Tom has also put together his own handy tutorials for Photoshop’s Content-Aware and text extrusion tools, and Image Trace in Illustrator, which you can see over at our YouTube channel.

Day 3: Film and video

‘Do smaller budgets make for more original ideas?’ Last year, the BBC spent 13% less on TV, and ITV spent 21% less (2011 compared to 2010), yet revenue went up for both. Pressure and expectation from above to do more with fewer resources and less technology can force creatives to think differently, seemed to be the reasoning.

One new avenue which has helped is social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter which, former BBC social media expert Marc Goodchild reckons, “brings producers closer to their audience”.

Liana agreed that social media is now a key part of creativity: “As Marc said, YouTube allows you to test your work and fine tune it before the final cut, decreasing risk and making it as good as it can be. It’s also great for talent scouts and HR managers looking to hire people. Pilots used to be secretive and for a specialised audience, but now they’re expected to be seen by lots of people, thus giving more constructive feedback.

“The panellists also discussed how Twitter is now a valid source of openly eavesdropping – people aren’t afraid to give their opinion because they aren’t talking to your face. There are also enough people to get a rounded, calculated result, from a different range of expertise and backgrounds.”

Day 4: Web and mobile

Cross-disciplinary skills are all well and good, but the fourth day of Creative Week asked – ‘Should you be a Jack of all trades instead of a master of one?’. A very talented 64% said designers should be skilled in newer processes like app design in addition to traditional skills.

With the ways people consume media changing, and clients wanting to be at the forefront of that change, keeping up to date with technology has never been so important. Just as a coder needs a basic grasp of design, designers should have an understanding of coding, they said.

Adobe demoed a great new resource – The Expressive Web – showcasing CSS3, HTML5 and content aware pages. As Ed mentioned above, there’s also the new Touch app Proto. Proto lets you create a website wireframe directly on your tablet device, preview in on the tablet and then export it out to the Creative Cloud where you can then start fleshing the website out in Dreamweaver.

Day 5: Photography and Imaging

The last day’s topic was bound to cause a bit of controversy – ‘Is digital imaging all tech and no talent?’. Any designer worth their salt knows that software is a brilliant addition to photography, but it can’t make a great photo on its own, and an overwhelming 70% agreed that ‘No’, you need talent too.

It was said that Photoshop gives you the opportunity to experiment using techniques and ideas without massive costs – for example award-winning photographer Timothy Allen (BBC’s Human Planet) argued that it was much more cost-effective to use the Tilt-shift feature in Photoshop than it was to buy new lenses to shoot with to achieve the same effect.

Senior designer Paul Shillabeer thought the rise of ‘iPhoneography’ and photo-sharing sites was having a very real effect on the industry. “More amateurs and professionals are using apps and iPhones to create imagery,” he said. “This movement is getting bigger and is very accessible to all levels of photographer from pros to casual snappers. Erin Moroney [of the UK Young Photographers’ Alliance] also noted that photo stock libraries are finding it hard to compete and cannot command the high price tags they used to because people are sourcing images from so many other sources – a very similar image to what a client’s looking for could easily be found on Flickr.”

– A good taster of the current state of the design and media industries, Adobe’s Creative Week 2012 managed to wrap up all the big questions about the changing face of digital creativity. If you missed any of the debates and tutorials, you can catch up on demand here.

You can find out more about Adobe Creative Suite 6 and our full range of design tools at our site, or by calling our team on 03332 409 306 or emailing CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

NVIDIA’s 3D Vision glasses

NVIDIA’s 3D Vision glasses

We recently managed to get our hands on a couple of pairs of these glasses and the associated hardware to use in our demonstrations at BVE. Having wanted to see them for quite some time, I was excited about seeing them in action.

Seeing an image in 3D on the screen requires each one of your eyes to see a slightly different image, there are several different ways to achieve this. Most systems use passive glasses; these take the form of either the coloured anaglyph glasses (which require no special display technology) or clear polarised glasses (requiring a matching polarised display).

Regardless of the technology used, the theory is the same: the glasses and display work together to ensure that your left eye only sees the left image and your right eye only sees the right image. Your brain does the rest, fusing these two separate images into a 3D picture.

The NVIDIA glasses work on the same theory but achieve it in a slightly different way. They are based on active technology and are powered by a small battery. The glasses work wirelessly, although they are charged over USB. Each lens of the glasses contains a liquid crystal display similar to those used in old calculators and this display changes the lens from black to clear at a rate of 60 HZ (60 times a second). While this is happening, the display flicks from the left image to the right image at a rate of 120 HZ. This is synced with the glasses via an infra red emitter to ensure that when the left image is being shown the right eye is blanked out and vice versa.

To make all of this work, you will need the following equipment:

  • The NVIDIA 3D Vision starter kit, containing a pair of glasses and the infra red sync emitter.
  • A compatible NVIDIA graphics card with a DIN connector for the sync emitter. A Quadro is needed for pro applications such as Maya. A Geforce is needed for Games.
  • A display that is capable of displaying an image at 120HZ – the Samsung SyncMaster range is a good place to start.
  • Software that is capable of using active stereo. In games, this is taken care of by the Nvidia driver. With regard to pro apps, any app that supports Quad Buffered OpenGL will work.

So, enough of the technical stuff – what are these glasses like to use? I was lucky enough to test them extensively, using them both for gaming and within Autodesk’s Maya. I was very impressed with them, I had expected to see some flickering of the picture as it switched from the left to right images but, with each eye being displayed at nearly 3 times the frame rate required for smooth viewing, the picture was extremely smooth. The glasses do make the screen appear a little dimmer but this can be fixed easily by turning up the brightness a little.

The experience of getting the glasses to work with my professional applications was a smooth one also, and just required enabling stereoscopic support in the NVIDIA control panel. It is even possible to display 3D output from two different programs at the same time.

In summary, these glasses are ideal if you want to preview and edit stereoscopic content in programs like Maya, or view stereoscopic movies. Imagine being able to show your 3D film or game in full colour progressive 3D, or showing off your product or building designs to clients in full 3D. With most major modelling packages including 3ds Max Design, Maya, CINEMA 4D and others at least able to create stereoscopic content even if you can’t directly edit in 3D, these glasses offer a great way to show your work in an immersive way. Content can be exported from this software and played back using Nvidias stereoscopic player and you can even use them for a bit of gaming after work!

If you’re not sure about the best way to create or view stereoscopic content, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com.

Network Rendering III: Third-party management software

Network Rendering III: Third-party management software

Last time, I looked at manufacturer-specific render farm management software. While this software can make a very good solution for many people, it doesn’t tell the full story. Many CG pipelines need to render images that have been created using software from several manufacturers. In order to effectively manage such pipelines, a third-party solution is needed that can queue and dispatch jobs to several software packages.

There are several packages that are capable of this and most of them act as remote program launchers with some kind of front-end queuing system. If you are planning on building a multi-package render farm, you will need a copy of each software package you intend to render along with all plug-ins installed on each of your render nodes. Licensing for this varies between software packages, and most manufacturers offer a number of render-node licenses for free with each seat. Many render farm managers make use of the built-in network rendering functionality discussed in the last article. This helps them to get around any licensing issues and means you can avoid having to buy a fully licensed copy of your chosen software package(s) for each render node.

A few things to look for in a render farm manager are:

Queuing and priority – This should be present in any solution worth its salt – the more granular the better. On a large render farm, options to control queuing/priority on a per user basis can be very helpful. Some managers also have options for creating clusters of nodes that can then be assigned to a certain artist or department. This ensures that, on those nodes, the artist will always have priority.

Resource management – You may have a limited number of render node licenses for certain software packages or plug-ins. For example, you may have 20 render nodes but only 10 licenses for a certain plug-in. If your render manager tries to send frames using this plug-in to all 20 nodes, you may end up with certain elements not being rendered. Your chosen render manager needs to have some kind of method for managing these resources to avoid this happening.

Job dependence – Many render jobs will depend on other other elements being completed first. You may, for example, have a final scene that uses externally created textures. If you were to submit the rendering of both the final scene and the baking of the texture to your farm at the same time, it may try to start rendering the final scene before the texture is baked. You need some way of telling the manager not to start rendering the final scene before the texture is baked.

In-app submission – Most artists will prefer to submit jobs from within their applications rather than using a render manager’s GUI. If you are planning on letting artists submit their jobs directly to the render farm, rather than through a render wrangler station, then it is worth checking that your chosen solution has submission plug-ins for the software you are using.

The Future of Render Farms

Everyone seems to be talking about GPU-based computing at the moment and, with its large amount of relatively simple calculations, CG rendering could lend itself very well to technologies such as CUDA or OpenCL. There are already software packages, such as iray and StudioGPU, claiming tenfold speed increases when rendering on a GPU as opposed to the CPU. These packages are yet to be widely adopted but considering such speed increases, it is bound to filter down into the more mainstream packages as it matures. NVIDIA are already shipping Tesla GPU clusters consisting of several GPUs connected by high speed links. In the future, we may see render farms built (at least partially) out of these clusters instead of traditional CPU-based servers.

 
If you are planning on building a render farm and would like some advice on the options available, give me a call on 03332 409 309 or email us at sales@jigsaw24.com. Visit us on Facebook or Twitter (@Jigsaw24video)

Network Rendering II: Management Software

Network Rendering II: Management Software

Last time, I discussed the hardware requirements for a render farm and drew the conclusion that CPU power is still king for dedicated render machines. I will now take a look at some of the software management solutions that are available to manage all of that hardware.

Most popular rendering packages ship with a solution for managing network rendering. This section will look at some of those options:

NET Render – Maxon’s solution for rendering Cinema4D jobs across a network is NET Render. It will distribute the rendering of animations on a frame-by-frame basis or still images using the tiled camera. It can also be used to batch render multiple jobs from multiple machines. NET Render is available as a chargeable add-on to Cinema4D or is included with the XL (three client licenses) and Studio (unlimited client licenses) bundles.

NET Render will run on OS X, on Windows clients, or even a mixture of the two. It is relatively easy to set up and, because jobs are submitted through a web interface, they can theoretically be submitted from any internet connected computer. To submit a job to NET Render, you have to open the interface and upload not only your scene file, but any associated assets such as textures or externally referenced models one by one to the NET Render server. While this ensures that all of the assets are in the right place, it can become tedious if you have many assets.

ScreamerNet – This represents NewTek’s solution for network rendering with LightWave. It is capable of distributing the rendering of an animation by having each node in your farm render complete frames. ScreamerNet ships with LightWave for no extra cost and can batch render jobs but only from a single machine. It is compatible with Windows or Mac machines.

ScreamerNet requires shared folders to be set up on your network for it to work properly, which means it cannot work in mixed environments. All render nodes should be running the same operating system as the machine that created the scene files. ScreamerNet gives a good speed advantage but it can be difficult and confusing to set up.

Aerender – Also known as the After Effects Render Engine, this is Adobe’s command line renderer for After Effects and can be used to set up an After Effects render farm. The render engine is included with every After Effects license and can be used to render multiple jobs from multiple machines. There is no queuing system; jobs are rendered on a first-come, first-served basis. Setting this up requires a watch folder to be shared out over the network and the project, and all associated assets must be copied here before rendering. This watch folder can make setting up cross-platform render farms difficult, although it is possible.

Backburner – Autodesk’s solution for network rendering supports several Autodesk products, including 3ds Max, Maya, Smoke for Mac, and Cleaner. Backburner can render multiple jobs from multiple machines and includes a facility for queuing and managing these jobs. It can even render jobs submitted from several different supported applications, provided those applications are running under the same operating system.

Backburner is supported on Windows, OS X, and Linux, but all render nodes must have the same operating system as the submitting workstations; mixed environments are not supported. Backburner is powerful, fairly easy to set up and expandable.

Mental Ray Satellite – Another Autodesk technology that allows distributed rendering. Mental Ray Satellite is designed to allow several machines to lend their CPU power to a designated workstation. Renders are started as if processing locally, and networked workstations help out with producing the final image(s) – this is then displayed and saved on the creating workstation. Mental Ray Satellite works best when there is only a single workstation creating content on each set of render nodes. It is compatible with any Autodesk software, making use of Mental Ray, and will run on Windows, OS X or Linux. Different packages ship with differing numbers of Mental Ray Satellite licenses, ranging from three to eight machines. This number can be extended by purchasing standalone Mental Ray Licenses.

Next week, I will look at third party management software and make some predictions about the future of network rendering.

For more information about render farms or any of the products mentioned above, give me a call on 03332 409 309 or email sales@jigsaw24.com. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter (@Jigsaw24video).