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Gridiron Unveils After Effects Accelerator Plugin

An interview with Gridiron CEO Steve Forde By Frank Moldstad

Steve Forde, CEO of Gridiron Software
Gridiron Software, which made its name with a grid computing product for After Effects called X-Factor, now turns to the desktop with an Adobe After Effects accelerator plugin called Nucleo. Designed to harness the power of multiple CPUs and multicore chip designs, Nucleo promises impressive gains in After Effects rendering and preview speeds.

When it is installed, the plugin starts automatically and does its work without any user action required. Available for both the Macintosh and PC versions of After Effects, Nucleo will be downloadable from Gridirons web site  beginning Dec. 9 for $149.

Recently we had the chance to talk with Steve Forde, Gridirons CEO, about what Nucleo is and how it works. He also hinted that Gridiron is preparing two additional ?Mac-Centric DVD post-oriented products that will be available at NAB this spring. Heres what he had to say.


What is Nucleo?

Nucleo,  as opposed to our other product X-Factor, is designed to work specifically on a single workstation that has more than one processor. So, either with dual procs in the traditional sense or the new multicore strategies that are coming up from AMD, Intel and IBM.

Can you use Nucleo and X-Factor in the same system if its connected to a network?

Yes, you can. So, literally the differentiation between Nucleo and X Factor is that ones for using the network of computers and the other, Nucleo, is specifically just for your workstation.

One of the key things is theres a pretty big disconnect between the software industry and the hardware industry when it comes to digital content creation. And across the board, for that matter, youve got companies like Adobe, Microsoft and Apple saying that the hardware industry and the software industry have to have a conversation., I wont say the new strategies are the end of Moores Law, in terms of the faster processors coming out every 18 months ?

No, you can never say that ?

You can never say that, but its taken a bit of an interesting turn from the perspective that individual processor speeds s arent necessarily getting any faster, and the addition of more processors under the same piece of silicon is kind of the new strategy for all the primary chip manufacturers. So that presents a very non-trivial issue for software developers providing applications like Adobe After Effects. How does it take advantage of all that processing power? And its not just the application itself, how do all the third-party plug-ins take advantage of all that processing power? At the end of the day, theres been a free lunch so to speak in the software industry. You know, I keep writing my application serial, its going to do very well its got the best way of doing effects and so on, and I rely on the CPUs just to get faster which will then make my application faster.

How are things changing for developers?

The change is now that developers have to look at it from the perspective of running everything in parallel. Nucleo comes and basically provides that free lunch again. It just installs as an Adobe After Effects plugin, you just drop it into the plugin folder. The nice thing is, as opposed to X-Factor in terms of a grid you dont have to worry about networking, you dont have to worry about replicating all your fonts and plugins and your storage of your data. If the softwares installed, it works. If its on there, After Effects runs as it always runs, and theres very minimal change to workflow.

What are the speed gains?

This is just a sample of a benchmark in terms of the kinds of numbers were seeing --  all these projects and the numbers themselves will be available for download from us. So, using a very common effect like TrapCode within After Effects, if you were to run this little sample composition that we had the folks at TrapCode make for us, the render-out of a Shine project would take 43 seconds on a single Pentium 4 with hyperthreading. If you were to take the same clock speed on a dual Pentium 4 with hyperthreading, its the same time, 43 seconds. If I was to do this on a dual CPU Apple G5, it would take 51 seconds, but if I put that on one of Apples new Quads and run the same project, its going to take 51 seconds. So you can kind of see the serial nature of things.

Nucleo comes along and basically fully optimizes and uses the CPU available to it. So in the case of a Quad, weve been running routines here with a dual CPU dual-core AMD Opteron system, and weve taken that same 43 seconds now down to 11 seconds. So, you start to see a very dramatic performance increase with no additional investment in hardware. And especially in 2006, youre going to be in a scenario where any computer you buy is pretty much going to be a dual core. In fact, there was just an article that came out today about some of the Yonah chips that are coming out from Intel for laptops starting in 2006. Pretty much every computer you buy is going to be a dual-core CPU machine.

Basically, on average in a dual system, Nucleo can give you a 40 percent decrease in the time it takes to render or preview your project. In a Quad scenario, were seeing average numbers between 60 and 70 percent, depending on the project. That represents a tremendous benefit for folks working under a deadline. 

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Related Keywords:Gridiron Software, Nucleo, After Effects, rendering, preview, accelerator, plugin, multicore

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